We define a measure of ``complexity" of a braid which is natural with respect to both an algebraic and a geometric point of view. Algebraically, we modify the standard notion of the length of a braid by introducing generators , which are Garside-like half-twists involving strings through , and by counting powered generators as instead of simply . The geometrical complexity is some natural measure of the amount of distortion of the times punctured disk caused by a homeomorphism. Our main result is that the two notions of complexity are comparable. This gives rise to a new combinatorial model for the \Tei space of an times punctured sphere. We also show how to recover a braid from its curve diagram in polynomial time. The key r\^ole in the proofs is played by a technique introduced by Agol, Hass, and Thurston.