An Ancient Take On Gi Vs Nogi.

The ancient Greeks utilized training methods similar to our modern day no-gi and gi training.

The better a wrestler is at imposing and negating grips, the more effective they will be.  It is easier to make grips on a dry coarse surface.  Conversely it is harder to make grips on a smooth, slippery surface.  This reasoning led ancient Greek wrestlers to utilize oil and konis (a talc-like powder) as training tools to accelerate their progress.

Dusty.  The ancient Greeks did not wear Gis. Instead, they applied “konis” – a talc or coarse, sandy powder – to their bodies to remove slipperiness, and provide a more grippable, dry surface.  This made it difficult to escape from holds.  Training with konis, or “Dusty” training, was believed to improve ones ability to break grips.

Oily.  In a separate area of the palestra (wrestling school), wrestlers trained with expensive oil applied to the bodies – making them more difficult to grip.  This was believed to increase strength and trained the wrestler to become adept at imposing grips, even in the most unfavorable of conditions.

Ancient Text.  The following is an excerpt from an essay that was written by Lucian of Samosata in 170 c.e.  It is translated by Stephen Miller, from his book, Arête: Greek Sports from Ancient Sources. Stephen Miller writes, “The essay is set in Athens and purports to be a conversation between Solon, the Athenian lawgiver, and the Skythian Anacharsis who had come to Greece from his home on the Black Sea in quest of wisdom.”

Solon:  The mud and the konis, which seemed so ridiculous to you in the beginning, are put down for the following reasons.  First, so that they may fall safely on a soft surface rather than a hard one.  Next, they are necessarily slipperier when they are coated with sweat and mud.  Although you compared this to eels, it is neither useless nor ridiculous; it makes a considerable contribution to strength when they are slippery and one tries to hold on while the other tries to slip away.  And don’t think that it is easy to pick up a man who is sweaty and muddy and has on oil as well.  As I said earlier, all this is useful in war in the event that one has to pick up a wounded comrade and carry him out of the fight, or grab an enemy and bring him back to one’s own lines.  For such reasons we train them to the limits and set the most difficult tasks so that they can do the lesser ones with greater ease.

We believe that the konis is useful for the opposite purpose, to prevent a man from slipping away once caught.  Once they have been trained with the mud to hold on to what would get away because of its oiliness, they are taught to escape from the opponent’s hands when they are caught in a firm grip. In addition, the konis is thought to stop profuse sweating, to prolong strength, and to prevent harm to their bodies from the wind blowing on them when their pores are open. Finally, the konis rubs off the filth and makes the man cleaner.  I would like to take one of those white-skinned fellows who live in the shade and put him next to any athlete you might pick out of the Lykeion after I had washed off the mud and konis, and then find out which you would rather resemble.  I know that you would choose immediately, without even waiting to see what each could do, to be firm and hard rather than soft and like a marshmallow with thin blood withdrawing to the interior of the body.

 Conclusion.  Training in the oily mud and dry konis were thought to compliment each other, resulting in a grappler that is skilled in both imposing and negating grips.

What do you think?  Can the same be true for modern day Gi and No Gi training methods?

11 thoughts on “An Ancient Take On Gi Vs Nogi.

  1. Honestly, I respect both gi and no-gi grapplers, but I haven’t trained much no-gi because my goal is to become as good at gi grappling as possible. Not sure if that makes sense but it’s the path I’ve chosen.

    • i guess this answers the question

      from wiki-name:

      The Marshmallow plant, known in the scientific community as Althaea officinalis, is native to Africa.

      The first part of the scientific name, Althaea, comes from the Greek althein, meaning “to heal.” The second part, Officinalis, comes from Latin and means “used in medicine.” The Marsh Mallow plant was used as far back as 372 BCE to treat coughs or to act as a laxative.

      The roots can be boiled to produce a sticky white paste. The first Marshmallows were made with this paste, and the name stuck long after gelatin and starch replaced the Mallow root sap.

      The sticky paste from Marsh Mallow plants was used to make sweets in ancient Egypt, and was used to sweeten drinks in ancient Greece. The modern Marshmallow was first created in France in the mid-19th century by mixing the Mallow paste with egg whites and corn syrup. Eventually gelatin replaced the Mallow paste.

  2. Yes, Gi and No-Gi do complement each other. In fact, you can use the examples of oil and konis to illustrate the unique benefits of each. Just like training in oil, No-Gi gets slippery very fast, so it forces you to be so much tighter. Thus, your offense gets better.

    Similar to the konis, there are stronger grips in the GI. There’s also more offensive options and friction. So it forces to get better at defense.

    Clearly, doing both is the best path.

  3. i find it interesting that though they wanted to improve their grips and their ability to escape, they didn’t train in tunics or robes. why not?

  4. Pingback: Matwork! 2012 Judo Team Championships, No Gi Worlds, Sambo Worlds, Julie and the Deathly Surgeon - Unofficial Network

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