To Gi or Not to Gi, that is the question. This continues to be one of the most controversial and highly debated topics in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – Gi vs No Gi Jiu Jitsu. Experts will claim that grappling with the traditional Gi uniform will prove to be more beneficial for you in the long run. Other’s claim that the Gi is a bit old fashioned and that the No Gi variation of Jiu Jitsu is far more superior and more realistic to real life situations. So, you ask yourselves: should you train in Gi or No Gi? Which one’s better?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t that simple. It truly depends on what your goals are in your Jiu Jitsu journey. Today we take a look at the classic debate: Gi vs No Gi Jiu Jitsu. We explore some of the main differences and advantages between the two. And hopefully you can make your own conclusions to why you should train in Gi vs No Gi Jiu Jitsu. Let’s begin.
5 Differences Between Gi vs No Gi Jiu Jitsu
So, is there really that much of a difference between the two styles of Jiu Jitsu? They have similarities and differences. Although some of the techniques that you learned in a No Gi class may be applicable to a Gi session and vise versa. However, there are certainly distinct differences between the two styles of grappling in BJJ. Once the Gi comes off, it’s a totally different game you’re playing! Here are 5 main differences between Gi vs No Gi Jiu Jitu: Training Outfits, Grappling Techniques, Speed of Matches, Strategy, and Rules.
One of the more obvious differences between Gi and No Gi would be the type of clothing that you will be wearing.
For Gi Jiu Jitsu, practitioners wear a traditional Gi Kimono jacket and pants. The Gi is typically made up of sturdy thick weaves of cotton. Gi Jiu Jitsu requires a lot of pulling and tugging on each other’s uniforms. The thicker weaves and material allow for this type of abuse on the clothing.
In No Gi Jiu Jitsu, grapplers do not use the traditional Gi Kimonos. Some things that grapplers usually wear would be rash guards and grappling fight shorts. The great thing about No Gi is that since there are no Gi Kimonos involved, you aren’t restricted in your movements.
No Gi type grappling will be much more realistic to real-life situations, since you typically won’t be going up against someone wearing a Gi Kimono in the middle of a bar fight! However, since you aren’t restricted in your movements, No Gi matches are much faster in pace, wearing extra protection like mouth guards and ear guards might be worth looking into!
A major difference in the two styles is the techniques that you will be learning. Although you may sometimes learn some techniques that can be used in both types of grappling, there are plenty of techniques that you can’t use as much.
One prime example would be Gi specific techniques where grapplers utilize the Gi collars and sleeves to control their opponent’s movements to setup attacks. The Gi allows the attacker to grab on to the opponent’s clothing to perform sweeps, collar chokes, etc. This all goes away in No Gi.
With No Gi, grabbing the opponent’s clothing is not allowed. The only thing you can grip now are the opponent’s neck, wrists, elbows, hips, etc. This allows your opponents to slip out of positions much easier! Speed, strength, explosive athleticism all come into play when you are grappling with No Gi.
Speed of Matches
With No Gi, the pace of the match is much faster. Without the Gi, your opponents have nothing to grab onto. You are free to move from position to position without your opponent being able to slow you down with collar grips or grabbing hold of your pants.
With the Gi, its more of a slower pace and more of a strategic chess match. There are certainly much more submissions and sweeps involved, but the pace is much slower. You are able to take your time, going from position to position to set up your attacks.
Because of the difference in the type of pace and techniques available to you, grappling with both styles have different strategies involved.
With the Gi, you might play around with your lapel to trap your opponent’s arm. You might be using your opponent’s collar to choke him out. Or maybe you are simply using those previous moves to trap and setup your opponent for the next attack! These strategies would not apply for the No Gi variation.
No Gi is much more explosive. Since the pace is much faster, things like strength, endurance, explosiveness, and athleticism also come into play. Without the Gi in play, you might have to control the neck or their elbow to stop your opponent’s movement to setup your attacks.
No Gi players tend to go for guillotines, brabo chokes, and foot locks. Whereas Gi players might go for lapel and collar chokes. There are certainly many differences strategies, but there are also similarities. That same guillotine set up you do on a No Gi match may also be applicable to the Gi. You may just have to switch it up a bit!
Another major difference between Gi vs No Gi Jiu Jitsu is the rule set. One prime example would be heel hooks for instance. This move is allowed for higher level No Gi matchups. This move puts a dangerously strong pressure on the knee. Due to its difficulty in defending and the danger it poses on the knee joints, this move is not allowed in the Gi.
Depending on which tournament you choose to join, the rules may vary slightly. For the National American Grappling Association (NAGA), back mounts and mounted positions only count as 2 points whereas they count as 4 on the Gi. Things like “submission-attempts” also count as points for No Gi in a NAGA competition.
Rules typically vary tournament to tournament. Whether you join IBJJF, NAGA, or any other grappling tournament, make sure you read the rules as they can make a difference in your next match!
Benefits of Training Gi or No Gi
Now let’s talk pros and cons. Let's take a look at what type of advantages does training Gi vs No Gi Jiu Jitsu has over the other.
Gi Training Benefits
With the Gi, you have a ton of techniques to learn. From collar chokes, sleeve control, and lapel techniques, there are multiple weapons to use with the Gi. You can use your opponent’s Gi against them – not to mention your own!
Because of all the grip battles you have with your opponent, you tend to build some great strength in your hands and forearms.
Training in the Gi ideally helps you improve technique that much quicker. Due to its slower methodical movements, you learn many aspects of the game much better. You learn how to think strategically in a match and learn how to properly defend attacks without using all brute strength.
Also, the great thing about the Gi is that you learn just about all techniques – including ones you would learn specifically for No Gi. For that reason, Gi practitioners are able to switch to No Gi classes much easier than the other way around!
No Gi Training Benefits
With No Gi, the game changes up a bit. Since you have no Gi to grab onto, it becomes much harder to control your opponents. For that reason, you really do have to learn how to use your body’s natural weight to pin your opponents down!
Because there is less friction without the Gi, No Gi players have to adapt, truly learn the proper form and weight distribution to maintain dominant positions.
Also, you are forced to learn how to do stand ups much better. You become a much better wrestler, learning traditional Olympic wrestling take downs and pins!
A huge advantage too is that you become much more explosive with your movements and have a ton of stamina! Because of the faster pace in No Gi, you will naturally have much more speed and endurance than a Gi practitioner!
Since there are much more limited movements you are able to perform in No Gi as opposed to Gi, you are likely to master those attacks much more efficiently. Your offensive game will be that much deadlier as you master those set few skills.
Lastly, one of the reasons No Gi is so popular is that it is much more applicable to real life situations. It’s also much more popular to grapplers looking to do MMA.
Now we get back to the original thought at hand – to Gi, or not to Gi. Should you train Gi or No Gi? Which one should you do?
The truth is there is no right or wrong answer. Gi or No Gi – that all depends on you. It all depends on what you would like to accomplish to improve your grappling.
If you are someone who would like to improve your grappling so that you can step inside the Octagon, maybe you should focus on No Gi techniques.
If you are someone who would like to solely compete at world level IBJJF matches, maybe you should focus on Gi Jiu Jitsu only.
But the question becomes, why not both?
There are plenty of advantages one has over the other to be sure. One makes you a more explosive wrestler and the other a technical tactician of the arts. One improves your offensive game, and the other your defensive side. But at the end of the day, aren’t they just two sides of the same coin?
Why focus on one and not the other? If your overall goal is to be the complete grappler, that might be something to consider. Even top-level grapplers do both! They can prove to be mutually beneficial to each other
After all, variety of the spice of life. Mix it up and become a more versatile grappler! Train Gi, Train No Gi, or do both! At the end of the day, do what makes sense for you own journey. Train Hard! Roll Safe!