MMA in the Gi: Hidehiko Yoshida Lessons | My Favorite Fights | Luke Thomas

  • Published on:  4/16/2020
  • Hidehiko Yoshida is one of my favorite mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters, but not for normal reasons. He was an accomplished martial artist, winning the gold medal in judo at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, but his MMA career was not particularly distinguished. He started it much older and was a figure of national adoration for Japan, but he retired from professional MMA with a record of 9-8-1.

    What made him special was his use of the gi or kimono. In modern MMA, this is either outlawed or simply not used. MMA is essentially a no gi sport. For Yoshida, however, he competed in an organization (PRIDE) and time (the aughts) where experimentation was tolerated. He made use of his gi to slow opponents down, score gi-specific submissions, wipe sweat mid-round and sundry other uses.

    Other fighters wore gis as well. Makoto Takimoto famously wore a gi during his career. The sport of combat sambo uses a gi-like jacket called a kurtka as part of routine competition. There's also something called sport ju-jutsu that combines traditional use of the gi with MMA gloves in a more open-ended rule set.

    The reality is, however, the use of the gi in MMA never caught on. Most media and fans probably think that for the best or don't pay much mind, but I consider it a missed opportunity. I wouldn't want gi MMA to replace what we have, but as an occasional complement, it'd offer welcome differentiation and potential advancement in gi tactics. For now, Yoshida's clever use remains the best example of what was possible. Let's revisit some of the highlights.

    I'll examine Yoshida's fights with Don Frye, Kiyoshi Tamura, Mark Hunt, Wanderlei Silva, Tank Abbott and Yosuke Nishijima.

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