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BJJ No-Gi vs Gi: Which Should You Choose?

Robert Green
Published: July 17, 2023
Updated: July 17, 2023

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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art known for its intricate techniques and grappling maneuvers. One of the key aspects that distinguishes BJJ from other disciplines is the use of a Gi, also known as a Kimono. However, practitioners often wonder whether it is better to train with or without a Gi.

This debate has sparked discussions among ancient philosophers and novices alike. In this article, we will explore the benefits of training with a Gi, as well as the advantages of practicing No-Gi BJJ. By understanding the nuances of both training methods, beginners can make an informed decision on which classes to attend and enhance their overall BJJ experience.

First, let's understand why BJJ (and other similar disciplines) is traditionally practiced with a Gi (aka Kimono).

BJJ, being a derivative of Judo which evolved from traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, follows the same traditional approach of using a Gi during training and combat.

The Gi was integral to these ancient martial arts as it demonstrated respect for the discipline and contributed significantly to technique execution. The use of a Gi provides various grip points for both offensive and defensive maneuvers. Meanwhile, the thick fabric helps to simulate the toughness of real-world combat situations, simultaneously fostering discipline and respect.

Moreover, the ritual of wearing and tying the Gi has always been seen as part of the mental preparation for practice, instilling a sense of purpose and dedication for the art.

An ancient philosopher (maybe) once said: To Gi or Not To Gi? That is the question.

The No-Gi style of BJJ is a relatively modern adaptation of the martial art, gaining prominence in the late 20th century. It was developed with a focus on real-world applicability, taking into account situations where an adversary may not be wearing a Gi-like outfit.

Here's the attire that No GI Pro fighters typically don.

As a result, No-Gi BJJ techniques have become a staple in the training regimen of many Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters due to their practicality in the ring or cage environments.

What Is Best for Beginners?

You look at a gyms schedule online and see that there are both "BJJ" and "BJJ No Gi" classes. As a beginner, which should you attend?

Choosing between Gi and No-Gi classes as a beginner can seem daunting, but it ultimately comes down to your personal training goals. For instance, if your primary objective is to learn self-defense, you might be more inclined to consider No-Gi training. It is more representative of real-world scenarios where opponents are unlikely to be wearing a traditional Gi.

No Gi Training
Gi Training

However, starting with Gi classes can be advantageous for anchoring basics. The Gi adds an extra layer of complexity with numerous grips and techniques that may not be available in No-Gi. As such, training with a Gi can provide a comprehensive foundation in BJJ, particularly in the intricacy of its techniques.

Gi training also tends to be slower and more strategic, emphasizing technique over strength and speed. If you appreciate a methodical and tactical approach that requires a deep understanding of leverage and positional control, starting with Gi classes would be beneficial.

No-Gi BJJ places greater emphasis on speed, agility, and strength due to its fast-paced nature. As a beginner, if you're drawn to these athletic aspects and enjoy a more kinetic, fluid style of play, No-Gi may be a good fit for you.

The absence of Gi in No-Gi training leads to an improved focus on body movement, controls, and transitions, making it an excellent way for beginners to understand body dynamics and positional hierarchy, which is crucial in mastering BJJ.

Training and Gym

Training in a gym setting can present a distinct experience depending on whether you opt for Gi or No-Gi classes. The differing attire and associated techniques make each class unique and challenging in its own way. From the discipline instilled through the traditional use of Gis to the free-flowing, fast-paced dynamism offered by No-Gi classes, each style offers significant benefits and differ dramatically in terms of the techniques exercised and the skills honed.

Let's dive into how training varies in a gym setting with each.


It's pretty obvious that BJJ Gi will be practiced while wearing a GI. But for No-Gi, things are a bit more fluid.

For BJJ Gi training, practitioners typically don a sturdy and thick Gi, much alike to a judo uniform. The Gi includes pants, a jacket, and a belt that signifies the wearer's rank. The fabric's weight and durability add an extra element to the physical strain of training, making Gi sessions more rigorous.

Standard GI

In a No-Gi class, the attire is much more streamlined due to the absence of a Gi. Typically, practitioners wear shorts and a rash guard. The absence of the Gi removes the possibility of using fabric for grips, which significantly influences the techniques used.

The shorts worn in No-Gi classes aren't ordinary athletic shorts but specific grappling or MMA shorts. These shorts forgo pockets, therefore eliminating them as potential areas for opponent's fingers or toes to get caught. Also, the materials of these shorts are often more durable and designed to withstand the strenuous nature of grappling.

The most popular No Gi shorts from Amazon

Rash guards are specialized shirts made from a moisture-wicking material designed to keep the body cool during intense activity. They are not only for comfort but also contribute to the prevention of mat burn and other types of skin irritation common in grappling martial arts. Not to mention, they can help reduce the spread of common skin infections.

BJJ rash guard, via Amazon

While some gyms allow shirtless training, most encourage the use of rash guards for hygienic reasons. Also, no jewelry is allowed during training, reducing the risk of injury by accidental snagging or pinching. In essence, No-Gi attire is all about functionality and safety.

Considering the cost, a BJJ Gi can be a bit more expensive than No-Gi attire, on average. However, budget-friendly options are available in both categories, and many dedicated practitioners invest in multiple sets of each to allow for frequent training and minimal wear and tear.

On The Mats

On the mats, both BJJ Gi and No-Gi offer distinct experiences. With Gi, techniques often involve manipulation of the opponent's Gi, such as collar chokes and sleeve grips. The inherent friction between the Gi's also leads to a slower, more strategic type of match where understanding of leverage and grip becomes crucial.

The heavy Gi fabric can sometimes make movements feel more sluggish but simultaneously can help build strength and endurance.

No-Gi training, on the other hand, is typically faster and more dynamic due to the lack of friction from the missing Gi. With the absence of a Gi, practitioners can't utilize fabric grips and hence focus on techniques that involve body grips such as underhooks, overhooks, and neck control. Strikes and transitions feel quicker, emphasizing the importance of agility and reflexes. The fast-paced environment can greatly assist in the development of explosive power and cardio.

Different strategies and techniques are required in Gi and No-Gi training. For instance, an effective Gi choke is useless in No-Gi where a choke relies more on anatomy and body positioning, while the absence of a Gi encourages more scrambles and wrestling techniques.

Some argue that No-Gi places a greater emphasis on physical conditioning as there is less of a reliance on rigid form and techniques compared to Gi training.

Whether it's the weighty strategic play of Gi training or the fluid, kinetic scramble of No-Gi, both styles offer a different set of challenges and opportunities. Both forms of training can complement and enhance each other, giving practitioners a more rounded skillset.

Ultimately, your choice between Gi and No-Gi might depend on your personal goals, natural abilities, and what you find the most enjoyable.

Self Defense & Street Fights

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, in all its forms, is very effective for self-defense and in street fight scenarios. The emphasis on grappling and ground fighting equips practitioners to control adversarial situations, even when taken to the ground, which is a common circumstance in real-world confrontations. But the decision between Gi and No-Gi training can also affect how one adapts their skills for self-defense and street fights.

In Gi training, many of the controlling techniques involve utilizing the opponent's Gi, something not usually available in a street fight.

However, the principles of leverage and control learned through Gi training can still be applied effectively. The Gi also mimics everyday clothing, so techniques involving sleeve or collar grips might transition well into controlling an adversary sporting a jacket or shirt.

On the other hand, No-Gi training more closely simulates fights where opponents are lightly dressed, as is common in warmer climates or during summertime.

No-Gi techniques emphasize control that's not dependent on what an adversary is wearing, making them broadly applicable. The faster, more physical nature of No-Gi also helps prepare for the intensity of real-world confrontations.

In essence, both Gi and No-Gi BJJ have their merits when it comes to self-defense and street fights. Gi training might lend itself better when your adversary is wearing clothes while No-Gi shines in situations where clothing is limited or non-existent. The fact remains that both forms of BJJ can offer a thorough grounding in handling physical confrontations and developing a defensive mindset.

Official Events - Differences and Similarities

When it comes to official events and tournaments, both Gi and No-Gi BJJ have numerous opportunities at various levels, from local competitions to prestigious international championships. However, each type has distinct rulesets and regulations which reflect the differences in their training and techniques.

In Gi competitions, such as those conducted by the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF), World Jiu-Jitsu Championships, and others, including the Pan American Championships, practitioners are required to wear Gi uniforms that meet specific rules for color, size, and fabric. Matches revolve around techniques using the Gi for both offensive and defensive moves. Competitions are also long-standing traditions with weight classes and belt rankings, where specific rules regarding points, submissions, and penalties are strictly followed.

ADCC 2022 champions

No-Gi tournaments, hosted by organizations such as ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) Submission Wrestling World Championship and the IBJJF No-Gi World Championship, bring their unique dynamic to the competitive scene. Unlike Gi competitions, fighters in No-Gi events compete wearing shorts and rash guards, and the rules and strategies used are distinct from the Gi-centric counterparts. The slightly altered ruleset in most No-Gi competitions reflects the alternate techniques possible without using a Gi.

Despite the differences, both Gi and No-Gi competitions hone competitors' BJJ skills under pressure, testing their ability to apply what they've learned in training, with an added bonus of encouraging sportsmanship and respect for opponents. Both types of competitions require high levels of training, conditioning, and strategic thinking, and have similar goals - to use superior technique and strategy to submit your opponent or outscore them on points.

Data from these events is also used by various BJJ promotions, for their rankings, relevancy, and in determining the seeding of competitors. Many practitioners often compete in both Gi and No-Gi tournaments to gain experience and exposure to different styles of fighting, elevating their proficiency in BJJ as a whole.

Our Suggestion - Do Both

Unsurprisingly, our recommendation for newcomers (and even experienced practitioners) who are torn between Gi and No-Gi training is simple: do both. Incorporating both training methods into your routine can produce a more rounded and versatile BJJ practitioner. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Gi training encourages precision, patience, and strategies due to its slower pace. It also allows the application of a broad range of techniques involving Gi grips and chokes that can become an important part of your BJJ arsenal.
  • No-Gi training tends to focus on speed, explosiveness, and wrestling techniques, valuable components for real-world self-defense. The swift pace emphasizes the use of natural body movements, which can complement Gi techniques.
  • Training in both keeps your regimen diverse and exposes you to varying strategic paradigms, giving a deeper understanding of BJJ in its entirety.
  • Both forms bring distinct benefits to the table - fitness, flexibility, strength, determination, and calmness under pressure - all of which come together to make you a more comprehensive BJJ student.
  • Finally, it is an effective way to avoid the "myopia" of training one style, which can limit your growth and understanding of the vast spectrum of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu techniques and principles.

If deciding on whether to specialize in Gi or No-Gi training, consider the following:

  • If you enjoy the traditional aspects of martial arts, find incredible depth in the Gi techniques, and don't mind a slower-paced, strategic game, then Gi BJJ might be for you.
  • If you relish a faster, more dynamic game, are interested in the application of BJJ in MMA, or live in a warm climate where potential self-defense situations are likely to involve less clothing, then No-Gi might be your speed.

The ultimate choice between Gi and No-Gi training will come down to personal preference, goals, and circumstances. By understanding what each style brings to the table, you can tailor your training to best suit your needs while fully experiencing the depth and breadth of BJJ.

Best of all, the two forms of training are complementary, not oppositional. By combining them, you'll develop a versatile skill set that's applicable in a wider range of scenarios, making you a more complete martial artist overall.

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