John Danaher on the Importance of Training in a Gi for Beginners in BJJ

Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor John Danaher on teaching BJJ to beginners (excerpted and transcribed from the UFC Unfiltered podcast with Matt Serra and Jim Norton, episode 40):

“I would run all beginner’s classes in a gi. Let’s break down what changes when you put a gi on and you take one off. Really, only a few things change.

Mike Stewart Jr. and Ike Haertel practicing lapel chokes from side mount at a Relson Gracie seminar at Kogen Dojo. Photo by Mike Oswald Photography

First, the minute you put a gi on, the friction between the two athletes goes up astronomically. That immediately has a slowing down effect. You can no longer just squirm or pull out of techniques. You have to work systematically out of them. You are forced immediately to apply technique to escape from positions, rather than to rely on slipperiness or explosions, what have you. So that’s the first effect: friction.

The second effect is that it massively multiplies the number of effective grips that you can employ upon your opponent. So that means that you have to learn patience. You have to learn how to systematically break grips and generate movement after breaking grips. You can’t just move whenever you feel like it. So students tend to develop a good sense of patience and subtlety in movement which is lacking in people who train only without the jacket.

Of course, the third element is strangleholds. There are so many more strangles available with the gi on, and they are so much more effective that you develop good habits of always protecting your back and neck, which you obviously don’t see so much in pure no-gi training situations.

Those habits of defense and posture, those are enormously useful for athletes as they go higher and higher into the sport. They translate well into no-gi training as well. So, for that reason, I do believe it is very, very important for students to, especially early in their training, when the main habits of their game are set, it is very, very important for them to do some of their work in the gi.

That’s why, as I said before, if I had my own gym and there was a beginners program, it would be exclusively in the gi.“

Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

-Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body, Severna Park’s Holistic Chamber of Commerce, and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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