In a realm where the majority of mixed martial artists tend to steer clear of the gi, Demetrious Johnson, reigning as the ONE flyweight world champion, takes an entirely different stance.
Commonly referred to as ‘Mighty Mouse,’ Johnson has consistently voiced his affection for the traditional kimono, and his recent triumph at the 2023 World Master IBJFF Jiu-Jitsu Championships served as a vivid testament to his unwavering passion for ‘The Gentle Art.’
Johnson, although recognized for his achievements in combat sports without the gi, appears to have become infatuated with it, and the reasons behind this fondness are not difficult to discern. Indeed, the gi offers a distinct set of techniques that simply cannot be replicated in its absence.
Moreover, practitioners of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) who engage with the gi tend to develop a more profound appreciation for the sport’s technical intricacies. Their focus gravitates towards the nuances of grips, leverage, and the precise execution of techniques, as opposed to relying solely on sheer strength, speed, and athleticism.
While it is true that enthusiasts of the no-gi variant argue that it affords them a sense of freedom and closely mirrors real-life scenarios, Demetrious Johnson, now 37 years of age, has a particular rationale for his preference for gi training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
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In a candid revelation during a video shared by FloGrappling, he quipped, “No-gi, I’m essentially half-naked, sliding through guards, and it’s all about heel hooks, and I’m not willing to risk blowing out my ACL.” The underlying concern here is the heightened susceptibility to injury in the no-gi domain, primarily due to the prevalence of heel hook submissions. Johnson’s stance on this matter is not unfounded.
Indeed, injuries are an unfortunate and commonplace aspect of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, affecting practitioners in both the gi and no-gi realms. However, ‘DJ’ hits the nail on the head with his observations. The presence of the gi serves as a moderating factor, preventing opponents from escaping positions merely because they are slick with sweat.
Furthermore, the evolution of leg lock techniques has assumed a pivotal role in the no-gi landscape, a phenomenon that has been prominently witnessed in ONE Championship’s burgeoning submission grappling arena.
While Demetrious Johnson unequivocally gravitates towards the gi, there is an undeniable curiosity among fans and fellow practitioners about the prospect of witnessing him compete in the no-gi arena, particularly in the context of an all-grappling event hosted within the confines of the cage.
In a sport characterized by its inclusivity and the individuality of preferences, Demetrious Johnson’s unwavering embrace of the gi underscores the notion that martial arts are a highly personalized journey. Each fighter embarks on their own path, discovering facets of the discipline that resonate most profoundly with them. For Johnson, the gi has become an integral facet of his journey, enriching his skills and deepening his reverence for the artistry inherent in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.