Starting Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) can feel like you open the door to a new world.

But every new BJJ student faces the question: Should you go for gi or no-gi? Or maybe mix it up and try both?

If these terms sound alien to you, hang tight. I tried both, no Gi and Gi. Personally, I prefer No-Gi BJJ.

In this guide, I want to talk about my experience and give you clarity on each style.

By the end, you’ll have a better sense of what aligns with your preferences. Let’s dive into our guide on Gi vs No Gi Jiu Jitsu.

Is Gi Or No Gi Better For Self-Defense?

The world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is divided into two main camps regarding self-defense:

Gi and No Gi.

Each has its proponents, and the debate over which is better for real-life situations has been ongoing. Let’s examine their efficacy in self-defense scenarios.

Gi Jiu Jitsu and Self Defense

Gi Jiu Jitsu is rooted in traditional martial arts, with its lineage tracing back to Japanese martial arts.

Training in a Gi has many advantages:

  1. Mimics Real-Life Clothing Scenarios: While it’s unlikely that an attacker on the street will be wearing a gi, they might be wearing a jacket, shirt, or some form of clothing. Learning gi techniques can provide an understanding of manipulating these materials to one’s advantage.
  2. Enhances Technical Skills: The gi’s friction can slow things down, allowing the BJJ student to focus on perfecting their techniques and understanding the leverage points.
  3. Diverse Techniques: The gi offers many grips and submissions, from collar chokes to sleeve-based controls. These techniques can be valuable in scenarios where one can get a solid grip on an opponent’s clothing.

No Gi Jiu Jitsu and Self Defense

No Gi Jiu Jitsu, on the other hand, brings a different set of tools to the self-defense table:

  1. Speed and Fluidity: No gi training is often faster-paced. This helps in self-defense situations, where speed and adaptability are crucial.
  2. Realism: No-gi techniques can be seen as more universally applicable without the reliance on clothing. The techniques remain largely consistent whether an opponent is shirtless on the beach or wearing a winter coat.
  3. Focus on Underhooks and Overhooks: No gi emphasizes clinching techniques, which is important in self-defense scenarios.

Is Gi or No-Gi More Effective?

Some argue that gi jiu jitsu offers a better skill set for self-defense.

They believe the technical prowess honed in gi classes equips them better for street confrontations. If you can defend yourself while wearing a gi, you can certainly do so without one.

Others feel that no gi training is better.

They highlight the fact that real-life altercations are unpredictable and often quick. In such scenarios, it is better to control an opponent without relying on their clothing.

I trained both in no-gi and Gi. Personally, I lean towards the no-gi camp when it comes to self-defense. Focusing on techniques that don’t require grabbing clothes seems better for real-world situations.

I also feel that in no-gi training, we focus more on takedowns, and takedowns that also work in MMA. So, I feel more prepared for self-defense when training no-gi.

However, I can’t dismiss the arguments for gi jiu jitsu. Many self-defense scenarios could involve an attacker wearing a jacket or shirt, and the techniques learned from gi training would be important in that case.

In the end, whether gi or no gi, the essence of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – leveraging technique and strategy – remains a powerful tool in self-defense.

But remember, the best form of self-defense is always avoiding conflict in the first place. 

Pros and Cons of Gi and No Gi Jiu Jitsu

Gi Jiu JitsuNo Gi Jiu Jitsu
ProsOffers additional sweeps and submissions due to the presence of the gi, expanding the arsenal of techniques.

The gi’s increased friction and grips can improve defensive skills as it becomes harder to escape.   

Many gyms provide a higher frequency of gi classes, giving practitioners more opportunities to train.
No gi has more potent offensive skills. The absence of a gi means reliance on body positioning rather than grips.

More aligned with MMA training since MMA fighters grapple without traditional gis.

Emphasizes adaptability due to lack of reliance on clothing, making transitions and submissions quicker.
ConsThe gi’s friction can sometimes be a crutch, allowing for the completion of submissions even with improper technique.

Not as directly transferable to real-world self-defense situations where opponents might not have grabbable clothing.
The reduced friction and lack of grips could result in not developing as robust defensive skills as with gi training.

While gaining traction, exclusive no-gi gyms are still less common, limiting training opportunities for dedicated no-gi practitioners.
Gi vs No Gi: Comparison

Should You Train Gi or No Gi As A Beginner?

When diving into the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a question that pops up is: Gi or No Gi? Which path should you wander down?

  • Your Training Goals Matter

Why are you considering jiu jitsu?

If it’s for self-defense, Gi training lays a solid foundation in defensive principles, especially for beginners. The gi helps you grasp neck defense and other crucial techniques.

On the other hand, coaches like Firas Zahabi recommend no-gi training if you’re interested in entering the MMA arena. In MMA, you won’t have a gi to grip, making no-gi techniques more relevant.

  • Gym Offerings

Most gyms won’t force you into a gi or no-gi corner; they’ll give you both options. Access to both styles lets you train in gi and no-gi, giving you a well-rounded skill set.

However, many gyms might have focused more on Gi than no Gi. Even though I’ve seen changes in the years. I feel like in the years to come, more and more gyms will focus on no-gi BJJ.

There’s the renowned 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu by Eddie Bravo, which is purely no-gi and has academies around the globe.

  • Beginner’s Focus

For those beginning, GI training can be good for learning the Grip.

Yet, no-gi’s lack of grip reliance can sharpen your offensive techniques as you can’t just depend on grips to control or submit.

Some Gi Gyms don’t let beginners participate in No-Gi Sessions. I don’t understand why, to be honest. I enjoyed No-Gi as a beginner because of the chilled environment. There were fewer formalities, and I could join with my regular Gym clothes.

  • Feel It Out

Try both styles. Go to both gi and no-gi classes. I did the same at the beginning. Coming from a wrestling background, I liked the fast tempo of no-gi. The Gi’s clothing felt stiff, and no-gi seemed to go better with my wrestling roots.

But here’s the key takeaway: your path in jiu-jitsu is deeply personal. What suits one might not fit another. Start with both, and then go toward what feels right for you.

What Gear Do You Wear In Gi and No-Gi BJJ?

The Gear in Gi BJJ

When someone says they’re going to a “gi jiu jitsu” class, they talk about wearing the traditional BJJ attire. This includes a gi jacket and pants, and a belt that signifies rank and is used during techniques. With Gi training, there’s a lot of emphasis on grip.

Practitioners use the gi to grip, control, and submit their opponents. The gi grips play an important role. So, if you want to wear a gi, be ready to learn many techniques centered around this attire.

The Gear In No-Gi BJJ

No-gi grappling is where things get slippery. You won’t see any traditional gi here.

Instead, the martial arts enthusiasts will be in rash guards and shorts. Since there’s no gi, there’s no cloth to grip. The grappling style of no-gi relies more on body movements, clinches, and submission holds that don’t involve the gi.

Think of MMA fighters: They grapple without the gi, which makes no-gi BJJ a favorite among the MMA community. Rash guards reduce friction and prevent burns during these quick-paced encounters.

What Are The Techniques?

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, it becomes clear that Gi vs No Gi isn’t just about what you wear. It’s rooted in the techniques, strategies, and approaches you apply when grappling. So, when you grapple, are you gi or no-gi?

Gi BJJ Techniques 

The Gi becomes part of the fight. It’s not just for looks or tradition. The Gi jacket and pants offer grip opportunities, from collar chokes to sweeps.

The key difference between gi and other styles is the strategic use of the gi. An opponent’s gi becomes part of the techniques. Gi grips allow for a greater variety of submissions and positions.

No-Gi BJJ Techniques

Without a gi, the grappling style changes. You can no longer rely on gi grips. The game becomes faster and more fluid. MMA fighters often train in no-gi BJJ. Without the gi, it’s all about under hooks, overlooks, and clinching.

The absence of a Gi means that different submissions come to the front.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu becomes less about using a cloth and more about controlling limbs and leveraging body positioning. Rash guards and shorts are the standard no-gi attire designed to reduce the potential for mat burns and to allow for free movement.

The difference between gi and no-gi isn’t just superficial. Sure, one wears a traditional gi uniform and the other a rash guard, but beneath that is a world of technique difference. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. Instead, they offer varied techniques.

Some BJJ students start with gi, believing it provides a strong foundation, while others dive straight into no-gi. Whether you train in both styles or stick to one, the martial art’s essence remains – leverage, strategy, and submission.

What’s The Difference In BJJ Competitions?

Gi and no Gi BJJ competitions have more than just a wardrobe distinction. There are rules and techniques that define each style. Diving deeper into the competitions, here’s a quick breakdown:

In gi competitions, competitors are free to grip and manipulate the gi. This becomes a game-changer, allowing for intricate grips and submissions. In contrast, no-gi matches don’t allow grabbing the clothing.

Now, focusing on the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF), a powerhouse in BJJ competitions globally: In their no gi competitions, particularly at the advanced brown and black belt levels, they open the door for additional leg submissions. Think heel hooks and toe holds that exert outward foot pressure. These are typically not allowed in their gi competitions.

Competition opportunities? There are many for both gi and no-gi enthusiasts. The IBJJF hosts tournaments worldwide. Their events often feature both gi and no-gi divisions, drawing large pools of competitors for each style.

There’s also the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC). They hold the ADCC World Submission Fighting Championships every two years. In ADCC matches, wearing a gi is a choice. Still, most fighters opt for no gi attire.

In conclusion, whether you’re a fan of gi or no gi, the BJJ competition scene offers a platform for everyone. Rules might vary, but the essence of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu remains constant – skill, strategy, and the pursuit of the perfect submission.

Gi vs No Gi: Final Words

The Gi vs No Gi debate has been a hot topic in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) world. If you’ve ever grappled with the decision of which martial art style to pursue, you’re not alone. The difference between Gi and No-Gi can seem big, especially when you’re just starting in BJJ.

To sum it up, Gi vs No Gi isn’t a question of which is better, but rather which suits your personal goals and preferences in martial arts. Whether you lean towards the traditional Gi Jiu-Jitsu or the modern No-Gi style, both have their strengths.

Gi vs No Gi isn’t an either-or decision.

Train in Gi and No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu, understand the main difference between Gi and No-Gi, and decide which variation of BJJ aligns with your goals. After all, learning BJJ in any style promises growth, discipline, and resilience.

So, grab that Gi jacket or that rash guard, step on the mat, and start your BJJ journey. Whatever path you choose, the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a beautiful one.

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