Is it better to train in Gi or No-Gi? Once people start training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) with us, they see that there are many debates that occur within the martial arts community. In Jiu-Jitsu circles, the usual arguments are as follows: Should training be more about self-defence or sport? How important are competitions? And, of course, is it better to train in Gi or No-Gi?
Like most questions, the answer depends on what you want to get out of your martial arts training. But regardless of your goals, there are a few reasons why it’s important for you to train No-Gi BJJ.
This all may sound confusing if you’re not already a practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. For those who don’t know, BJJ is a grappling martial art that focuses on ground-based combat. The idea is that taking opponents to the ground means they’ll be less able to utilise power and strength. In this way, Jiu-Jitsu is designed to be effective self-defence against larger opponents.
When you sign up to an academy like Gracie Botany, you’ll see that there are two types of Jiu-Jitsu classes: Gi and No-Gi. The Gi is the white or blue training uniform, made up of pants, a Gi jacket and a Jiu-Jitsu belt. In No-Gi, you instead wrestle wearing only a rashguard and shorts.
What’s the difference between Gi and No-Gi training?
We’ve already outlined how students wear a different attire to Gi and No-Gi classes, but the change is not merely cosmetic. Instead, it centres around grips.
If you look at a Jiu-Jitsu Gi, you’ll see that it’s made using thick cotton.The thickest part of any Gi is its lapel, which extends from the bottom of one side of the Gi jacket, loops around the neck and comes down to the other side. This lapel is an important part of Jiu-Jitsu training.
As you learn guard passes, sweeps and various submission holds, you’ll see that gripping the Gi is a regular part of the process. Almost all chokes in Gi classes involve gripping your opponent’s lapel. Most sweeps require you to hold onto your opponent’s Gi, either on the lapel, leg or sleeve.
Critics of Jiu-Jitsu will often say that Gi training gives practitioners unrealistic parameters for a self-defence scenario, since no one wears a Gi on the streets. This isn’t entirely fair. The techniques learned in Gi classes extend to self-defence situations where the aggressor is wearing a jacket, hoodie or even a long-sleeve shirt. But it’s true that many lessons learned in Gi classes won’t extend to a bare-shirted assailant attacking you.
That’s where No-Gi comes in. On the surface, No-Gi training looks similar to wrestling. The principle behind No-Gi training is that all the techniques should work without the need to grip onto your opponent’s clothing. You may hold their arm, neck or leg, but you won’t be grabbing onto any of their outfit. It’s for this reason that even gripping an opponent’s rashguard is illegal in No-Gi tournaments.
Many Gi positions are untenable in No-Gi. It’s difficult to play open guards like Spider or Lasso Guard, for instance, since you have no sleeves to hold onto. Yet at the same time, No-Gi alone doesn’t entirely prepare you for all self-defence situations either.
For one thing, No-Gi is a slippery game. This is especially true once you and your opponents begin sweating. It’s often possible to wriggle out of bad positions and submission holds only thanks to assistance from the slippery rashguard. If a student becomes used to this, they may be unprepared for the friction that occurs when grappling an opponent wearing a Gi or everyday clothing.
No-Gi and specialized training
For the reasons outlined above, it’s a good idea for most students to get a mixture of Gi and No-Gi training. It doesn’t have to be 50-50. If you prefer one over the other, an 80-20 mix will do.
In some scenarios though, specialized No-Gi training does make more sense. For instance, Jiu-Jitsu practitioners who hope to compete in MMA need not do much Gi training as MMA competitors don’t wear Gis for their fights. Similarly, many people who wrestle or play rugby like to train No-Gi BJJ to improve their respective games. Again in these cases, the No-Gi attire closely resembles the other sport’s uniform, and as such it makes sense to exclusively train No-Gi.
Note that these are instances of amateurs or professionals training Jiu-Jitsu to improve a specific skill. For the general practitioner, as noted, a mix of both training styles is key. Exposure to both Gi and No-Gi training will improve your Jiu-Jitsu game, and prepare you for a wider range of combat and self-defence scenarios.
Interested in BJJ training? Come into Gracie Botany for a free trial lesson.