Congratulations Eric VollmerOn earning your Blue Belt!
I had an interesting conversation with one of my students in law enforcement the other day. In all of our classes we encourage students to ask questions. Because our Gracie Combatives classes focus entirely on real world or street self-defense, the number one question is “What if they try to punch you from here?” We love these types of questions as it helps to deepen all the student’s understanding of our techniques and philosophy. However, this student saved their question until after class. The seriousness with which they asked led me to believe that they felt that it was such a fundamental question that it might be seen as challenging the instructor or even the entire style if they asked in front of the class. In fact, it was presented not as a question, but more as statement of fact.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to wear a gi.”
Far from being insulted, I relish the opportunity to answer these questions! In fact, rather than share it with only one person, I thought this would be a good opportunity to discuss it with all of you.
Me: “Interesting. Which of our Combatives techniques do we grab the gi?”
Student: Thinking…. “None.”
I can see now that the student realized there may be more to their question than they thought, but that they have not come to full understanding yet.
Me: “When we do Fight Simulation Drills, which student is allowed to grab the gi?”
Student: “The bad guy.”
Me: “So who’s gaining the advantage by wearing the gis?”
Student: “The bad guy?”
Yes. Our Gracie Combatives techniques are 100% focused on street self-defense. We don’t train for weight classes or competition, we train for the worst case scenario. What if the bad guy is bigger, stronger, and more athletic than you? For this reason, the techniques intentionally don’t use any gi grabs. Of course you won’t be wearing a gi on the street, and you should not train to depend on one in your self-defense training. A gi is very tough material, however, and can give the bad guy a very powerful grip, and opens up more opportunities for gi dependent techniques for them. This FORCES you to have better technique and not rely on your strength to complete the technique. It also forces you to improve your defense, as it’s a significant advantage for the bad guy. This is the opposite of what happens if you are training sport techniques, so I’ll say it again:
Wearing a gi forces me to improve my defense.
And self-defense is the focus of our Jiu-Jitsu training. The criticism can often be heard as “You don’t wear gis on the street!” And this is 100% correct. That’s why our Gracie Combatives techniques only allow the gi to “hurt” us, or make it more difficult, rather than help us.
Of course, this is only true if you are really training for self-defense. There are many good reasons to wear a gi. It makes everyone uniform. It looks clean and crisp. It’s cleaner and healthier. But most importantly, good defense.
Keep in mind that this conversation applies to our Gracie Combatives classes. When a student earns their Blue Belt and joins our Master Cycle classes they begin learning more sport techniques as well. Our Master Cycle classes incorporate gi, no gi, and boxing gloves in our sparring. Other schools may do things differently because they have a different philosophy, or focus on sport over self-defense, or for many other reasons. This is totally legitimate. We can have the street vs. sport discussion another day. To each his own and enjoy your training!