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Differences Between Gi vs. No Gi Jiu-Jitsu: The Debate Rages On

Differences Between Gi vs. No Gi Jiu-Jitsu: The Debate Rages On

Posted by Jacob Edwards-Bytom on 27th May 2021

Jiu-jitsu is one of the world’s most popular martial arts.

This is probably because it has a lower impact on the body than other mainstream martial arts such as Muay Tai or judo. Ju-jitsu is more about using your opponent’s strength against themselves than striking outward or attacking your opponent.

After originating in feudal Japan, jiu-jitsu made its way to Brazil in the early 1990’s where it became Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). There the Gracie family helped to introduce jiu-jitsu to a mainstream audience and give it widespread popularity.

Over the years, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has split between two grappling techniques: Gi and no-Gi BJJ. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners often wear a kimono called the Gi while training. As you might guess, those who favor no-Gi do not wear one.

We’ll look at the differences between Gi and no-Gi BJJ and determine which one is better for self-defense, training and competitions.

Differences Between Gi and No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu

Even though the difference between Gi and no-Gi BJJ mainly involves whether or not the practitioners wear the Gi (Kimono), it is not the only difference. These two Brazilian Jiu-jitsu forms may also differ in clothing style, training processes, rules and techniques.

Clothing Differences

The main difference between Gi and no-Gi BJJ is the use of the Gi, or kimono. Gi Jiu-Jitsu, or Gi BJJ participants wear the Gi, which consists of thick cotton pants and coat and a coloured belt that represents your current rank. The uniform isn’t just for show; it can be very advantageous while rolling as well as while executing different techniques like grappling and throwing.

No-Gi practitioners generally wear rash guards, shorts, and spats underneath their shorts, mostly made from polyester.

Advocates of No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu make the case that it’s easier to learn and has more real-life applications. After all, you don’t usually see people wearing traditional Japanese kimonos walking down the street. In a real street fight, a Gi might make you conspicuous or even be a liability. Meanwhile, many others believe that Gi BJJ is a better option because it simulates a situation in which an attacker can grab your clothing.

Training Differences

The objective of jiu-Jitsu is to submit your opponent with grips and throws. In Gi BJJ, both you and your opponent are wearing Gi kimonos, and you both use it to grapple and throw each other into submission.

No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu training is more fast-paced than traditional Gi training. This is mainly because no-Gi BJJ leaves fewer opportunities to stall or grapple an opponent while rolling. You must rely more on chokes and control positions than over-hooking and clinching. No-Gi BJJ forces you to focus on your gripping technique.

Differences in Strategies & Techniques

Gi and No-Gi BJJ share many of the same techniques, but differ in their applications during competitive bouts.

It is important to note here that natural physical abilities like speed and strength play different roles for each of the two styles. Gi and No-Gi BJJ both use grappling and rolling techniques to force their opponent into submission. Gi-BJJ particularly uses these techniques to grab the opponent by their Gi. Natural abilities are secondary as they are not very useful in more advanced Gi techniques.

In No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu, these abilities are more advantageous. A No-Gi practitioner harnesses their natural strength and speed so that they can easily move to a dominant position. It is harder to secure a submission if you can’t hold your opponent’s Gi. Moreover, grappling a Gi causes friction and slows both parties, forcing them to focus more on technique rather than raw strength and agility to win.

Rule Differences For Gi and No-Gi BJJ Competitions

There are many events and tournaments that allow you to test your skill as a BJJ practitioner. The key difference in the rules is while holding your opponent’s clothing is allowed within reason in Gi BJJ, doing so in No-Gi is out of bounds.

The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) is one of the organizations that oversees competitive BJJ. The IBJJF has both Gi and No-Gi brackets. The heel hook technique is banned in the case of IBJJF Gi competitions, but is allowed in many No-Gi competitions like the one held by the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC).

Typically Gi competitions have a stricter set of rules and guidelines than their no-Gi counterparts.

Advantages of Gi BJJ Training

Improves Your UpperBody Strength

Because Gi-BJJ utilizes your opponents' Gi for grappling and submission, you will need to train rigorously to improve the techniques necessary to grip your opponent’s lapels, collars and sleeves. This builds your upper body strength and develops your muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the hands, forearms, upper arms and back.

Rely More on Technique Than Speed

Using a Gi forces you to slow down, making it more strategic and methodical than a fast-paced bout based on speed alone. Both you and your opponent are wearing the Gi kimonos. This absorbs your sweat but also slows down your movement. This means you have to get creative by using combinations of techniques like sweeps, escapes, and various submissions. It is like a game of chess, in which strategy outweighs speed.

Learn Better Escape Techniques

Gi-BJJ techniques are more defensive than in No-Gi training. This is mainly because your Gi collar makes you vulnerable to choke holds and submissions from various angles. If you train using a Gi, you are bound to learn a variety of escape techniques. Gi-BJJ makes it more difficult to escape locks and submissions when the opponent has a strong grip on your Gi. This forces a player to think more technically than in no-Gi.

Many people argue that it’s easier to train in Gi-BJJ than No-Gi as most of the techniques used in the latter are also common to Gi training. On the other hand, it is much harder for someone trained in the No-Gi style to shift to Gi style, as they would have to learn the basics of Gi style strategy first.

Advantages of No-Gi Training

Helps To Achieve Better Control Positions And Hold-Downs

While Gi training teaches you proper defensive maneuvers, No-Gi training focuses more on offensive grapples and takedowns. Gi’s absorb your perspiration, which makes it hard for No-Gi practitioners to hold down a sweaty opponent. Learning how to hold down an opponent in No-Gi helps you learn how to hold down an opponent wearing a Gi.

Provides A Fast-Paced Game

No-Gi competitions’ reduced friction and weaker grips means that bouts will move at a faster pace. Practicing at these higher speeds improves your reflexes and helps you develop a reactive and free-flowing movement, which often plays a critical role during scrambles.

Which Is Better: Gi Or No-Gi?

Gi vs No Gi Jiu Jitsu

Each style has its unique advantages and drawbacks. The intended purpose of your art is important as it provides perspective. You can compare them in terms of self-defense and competitions.

Gi And No-Gi For Self-Defense

Gi training makes you fight more defensively, but No-Gi training helps you focus on a tight offence. However, martial arts garb is not worn by most people in day-to-day life. In this respect, No-Gi style is more realistic for self-defense scenarios because it means you’re not reliant on ceremonial clothing.

Gi And No-Gi For MMA

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competitions feature both Gi and No-Gi brackets. Most professionals would tell you that focusing on a No-Gi training style is optimal for MMA. However, training in Gi style helps develop better defensive habits, which is also vital for any professional MMA fighter. So learning both Gi and No-Gi can give you the edge above others.


Whether you need No-Gi rash guards and spats, or a good old-fashioned BJJ kimono, we’ll make sure you’re ready to take your jiu-Jitsu training to the next level.