Should Older Grapplers Train with the Gi?

Q: Hi, Stephan,

I believe it was Erik Paulson who said that older grapplers should focus on gi based grappling compared to no-gi since it was a slower and less explosive game.

I’ve been keeping this in mind as I look for clubs to train at. I’m getting up there in age and the plan is to continue into my forties and so forth. Would you agree that this is the wiser approach?

Thanks again,

A: Hi Bob,

First of all, if Erik said something like that, take his advice!  That man’s a freaking genius!

My own perspective is this: when it comes to training without injury as an older grappler a lot depends on the school, your instructor and how crazy your training partners are.

If you’re trying to hang with a bunch of testosterone-soaked, steroid-amplified, MMA-wannabes then you’re gonna get hurt, plain and simple.

On the other hand, if you’ve got a bunch of respectful, careful training partners then you CAN train no-gi without too much risk.

In general it’s the head instructor who sets the tone.  The club will have a very different flavor depending on the example the instructor sets on the mats, and what kind of behavior he tolerates and/or encourages among his students.

Now, as a very general rule, people who train with the gi tend to be a little more analytical and move a little less explosively in sparring than those who train no-gi. There are a million exceptions of course, but it’s amazing how often this ends up being the case.

Two pieces of parting advice for you:

1, Read these articles about training in grappling as you get older, and

2, Go and check out a lot of schools and see if that whole gi vs. no-gi thing applies in your area. Listen to your gut on this one.

Good luck with your training

Stephan Kesting

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