A very common debate in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community is to Gi or not to Gi, and there seems to be a greater importance placed on Gi training. Some even suggest that those who train strictly in a Jiu Jitsu Gi can do better at No Gi than those who strictly train in that form of BJJ, and that Gi has more grips and that offers more options. Whilst we see the great importance and value of Gi training as a tool, there are very critical reasons to train No Gi also.
So, What are Some Differences Between Gi and No Gi?
The first and most obvious difference is the clothing. Gi: A Cotton Gi or ‘kimono’ has been worn in Martial Arts in Japan as a uniform for over a hundred years. Made of heavy, thick cotton, a Gi has a thicker collar, reinforced drawstring trousers, and a coloured cotton belt that denotes rank. No Gi: The uniform for No Gi is usually made up of elasticated clothing that is designed for stretching and BJJ techniques – a rash guard top, which is crucial to help prevent mat burns and help with sweat transfer; and grappling/fight shorts, that don’t slide off easily and allow for a great range of motion.
Competition rules are also different, and not just for what is allowed to be worn during matches. One key difference is that in Gi matches, clothing can be held, within reason, but in No Gi, clothing is not allowed to be held at all. Another relates to which techniques can be used in one form over the other; the use of the most effective leglock, the heel hook, for example, is allowed in No Gi competitions like ADCC, but is banned by IBJJF.
Is Gi Training More Important?
Since BJJ’s evolution from it’s Jujutsu roots, the practitioners continued to wear the Kimono, as the techniques developed whilst wearing it, allowed smaller, weaker individuals to best defend themselves from larger, stronger opponents. This is likely to be why there are more Gi gyms and classes available, as it is seen as a good option for men, women and children of all sizes. Most also still believe that because there are more options in Gi training, like additional holds, stalls, sweeps and submissions, that they are more prepared for defending themselves in a street fight situation, even though it is the Gi itself that helps with defensive skills, thanks to the increase in friction (especially when wet with sweat), and grips being harder to break. Is this reason enough not to take up No Gi?
The Case For No Gi Training
Let’s consider the Gi itself first. Does training in a Jiu Jitsu GI prepare you more for a real-life attack situation because of the original reason the Kimono was used in training? We don’t believe so, as there has been so much change to street clothing since the Kimono was worn in Japan between feudal times and the late 1800s, that some, like Eddie Bravo, consider the Gi unrealistic now for self-defence situations.
Whilst we love Gi training and what we can utilise whilst having a roll on the mat, we believe that an over-reliance on what the Gi offers, can also lead to loss of focus on developing and executing quality technique.
No Gi affords us less friction, which allows for a faster match, and whilst there are fewer (and weaker) ways to control, grip and stranglehold an opponent, in No Gi, we can take full advantage of the few good grips we have, and can develop stronger offensive skills and better positioning.
In addition, spending more time on learning and perfecting the Gi techniques, like collar chokes, won’t enable you to develop the same level of understanding of clinch techniques, such as overhooks and underhooks, and grips like the wrist and elbow grip, that are such a crucial part of grappling.
If you’re interested in crossing over in to MMA, No Gi is essential, as Gi techniques don’t all relate to No Gi, except escapes and guard pass prevention. No Gi crucially helps to prepare for fighting against an opponent with a non-BJJ wrestling style that may be encountered in an MMA match.
Indeed, No Gi is considerably slipperier than Gi training at first, and can require more speed and athleticism, but it is more fun because it is more physically comfortable, and opening up the submission game and attacking the whole body can be very freeing.
The more you train No Gi, the better you’ll be able to naturally find grips that are available, and will develop tighter submissions, e.g. arm and leg locks, because it is slipperier; this will therefore firm up your Gi training.
Is Gi training better for beginners? Not really, they will benefit from both forms, as Gi offers learning defensive principles. E.g. neck defence.
Whilst tempting to focus only on one form of BJJ, doing so will prevent you from exploring the benefits of No Gi training, like developing a really tight lower body game, as without it, you will be left at a big disadvantage when facing an opponent who does. It would be a shame not to incorporate No Gi training, as you will miss out on learning from those who specialise in it, and who can offer you an even more well-rounded game. That is, of course, unless you intend solely to compete in one form and aren’t bothered about using it for self-defence.
John Danaher, respected world-renowned BJJ Instructor, sums it up nicely: “BJJ is about controlling the movements of the opponent’s body, not the clothing. The Gi is useful for building defensive skills, and No Gi is useful for building offensive skills”. So, we believe both are just as important.
Would you consider including No Gi in your training now?