Gi or No-Gi?

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I found an interesting blog where the author, Keith Owen, has three long posts arguing the merits of gi vs. no-gi:

To Gi or Not to Gi? – That is the question – Part 1
To Gi or Not to Gi? – That is the Question Part 2

To Gi or Not to Gi? – That is the Question Part 3

I agree with many of his points and I also think there is beauty and practicality inherent in both methods.

One point that he brought up is the idea that those who practice no-gi jiu-jitsu or grappling have no idea where they stand. I agree. I have been taking BJJ for a few years at different no-gi academies and I would like to have earned rank. I also know that there are many chokes and techniques that the gi allows. Even though I have a few years experience, when I do join a school that wears the gi I will have to start from the beginning.

Owen also wrote that, in his experience, he has seen many no-gi schools instructors that were unprofessional or lacking in techniques. I can’t argue with that, yet, in my limited experience with academies, I have found instructors to be very technical and who have earned their stripes through BJJ, MMA, wrestling, Judo, etc. However, some choose to follow the no-gi route.

I also think that so many students go to no-gi schools because of the lack of availability of traditional BJJ schools. Further, many no-gi schools do extremely well in preparing their students for competitions and MMA.


20 thoughts on “Gi or No-Gi?

    Steve said:
    January 9, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    We have gi and no-gi classes, although my schedule leads me to train almost exclusively with a gi on. I know Ivan Salaverry’s school up in Seattle trains exclusively no-gi, but I’m not sure whether he awards rank or not. I guess I’ve always presumed that they do based on Eddie Bravo’s example and am surprised to learn that this isn’t the norm.

    JiuJitsu365 said:
    January 9, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    I have trained under blue, purple and brown belts but never a black belt in BJJ. I am unsure if they were able to award belts at all. I would assume that whoever they trained under could do so, but without the gi I doubt that the traditionalists would promote people who don’t use the gi.

    Rolling without rank does tend to show that people are doing it for the love of it though.

    JustinP said:
    March 6, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    As Bruce Lee once said:
    “Belts are only useful for holding up your pants.”

    jiujitsu365 said:
    March 7, 2008 at 10:26 am

    I agree with you Justin. If it were just about the belt I would have stopped a long time ago because I have no way of obtaining one.

    However, it would be nice to evaluate my progress. In BJJ it is difficult to lie about your belt rank….

    kellon said:
    June 17, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    hey im just getting in to jiu jitsu and waht is the diffrence between gi and no gi

    jiujitsu365 said:
    June 18, 2009 at 7:12 pm


    The gi is the traditional Kimono (uniform) worn by most martial artists. The Karate gi, Judo gi, etc. The guys in this link are wearing a gi:

    No-gi refers to submission wrestling without the uniform. Usually consists of rash guards, board shorts or just regular workout clothes. In BJJ or Gracie Jiu-jitsu it people train in both. In submission wrestling people usually train no-gi.

    Christian said:
    July 1, 2009 at 3:12 am

    I find No-gi students who are not ranked don’t have any limits on learning and tend to learn faster because they dont mentaly cap thier learning and progression by the rank they are at. Without rank a student has no learning barrier to stop at such as the next belt.

    jiujitsu365 said:
    July 7, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Good point!

    I practiced no gi for a couple of years before training in the gi. When I finally grappled against blues, purples and brown belts with the gi, I was doomed. But without it, I was pretty even with the blues, purple belts had a real hard time or could only dominate me by position and I could give a brown belt a fit. Many times I could avoid being tapped altogether.

    Jon said:
    August 14, 2009 at 2:57 am

    More practical submissions in a “street fight” training “no gi”
    What do think? Or have I opened up a can of worms? Although i have never grappled in a street fight I could imagine it would fricken hurt rollin around on your back on bitumen 😀

      dave said:
      October 2, 2009 at 8:33 pm

      My instructor will occasionally teach street versions of things; you know, the mean way of doing things (not tournament legal) Id stick to take downs to knee on belly. I don’t think anyone would teach you to roll around on pavement.

      you do a take down and then finish it and run.

      There’s also T shirt chokes that believe it or not are much more brutal than being choked with a Gi.

      run because if you do to well you can be looked down on by police for hte fact tht your a martial artist. Plus he might have friends.

        neijia said:
        October 13, 2009 at 6:52 pm

        you do a take down and then finish it and run.

        agree with your points 100%. that’s why i prefer takedown arts overall – for the overlap with “street” practicality. i like gi bjj for the “art” aspect — just doing it for its own rewards.

      tinyoutsider said:
      April 14, 2010 at 9:57 pm

      well, one thing to consider is that more often then not people wear jackets- at least where I live where it is cold for a good part of the year- and almost all people seem to wear jeans. As a proponent of gi-grappling this thought comforts me. Although no-gi techniques are always applicable, having gi knowledge in gi would give you an advantage in many real life scenarios.

        jiujitsu365 said:
        April 15, 2010 at 11:51 pm

        In a self defense situation excessive clothing would seem like sweet candy to people who love gi training. I am not saying that they will succeed but it sure wouldn’t hurt.

    dave said:
    October 2, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    My gym trains both no gi and gi

    we have belt ranks signified on our uniform rash gaurds by a stripe on the shoulders that has the color of your belt. Our no gi class is also kind of an MMA class; being that we train mostly no gi jiu jitsu in it but we also train how to come in striking for the take down and incorporate wrestling (Judo, Greco and free style) moves. They are really good for connecting your stand up to the ground game. Of course we only use the practical moves from wrestling. No suplexes.

    The issue of learning caps doesn’t seem to be present in my gym because we mix it up all the time. Maybe some people have that problem but i think its more of a mental block they inflict on themselves.

    Andy said:
    January 24, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    I train exclusively no-gi at my school. I have been training six days a week for a year and a half. I am tapping blue belts regularly and have tapped purple belts in no-gi competition. I understand because I attend a no-gi school I am not being awarded rank. I have to say when we go to other schools or competitions and we wear a gi it is a real mental bummer. When we roll the other guys think I’m a sandbagger. I think that really stinks.

    jiujitsu365 said:
    January 25, 2010 at 11:32 am

    I agree with you Andy.

    In the past year or so, however, I have had the opportunity to grapple with a gi on. When I am not wearing it I can hang with purples and some browns pretty easily. When I have the gi on, the purple belts and up destroy me.

    Plus, at our school a lot of the guys refuse to buy a gi but still come to the gi classes. So when I grapple with them I am at a severe disadvantage because of their grips. I am frustrated about that and want to get to the level where it wouldn’t really matter if I have on a gi and they don’t.

    Paul said:
    March 8, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Don’t forget about the change from gi to no-gi. I trained with a gi and got my blue belt. After a ten year break I got back into jiu jitsu but am now training without a gi. I felt that I had lost 30% of my attacks and 40% of my defenses. Gi’s are great because you a lot o place to grip. A good deep grip on the collar also distracts your opponent while you work for an armbar. I think a person should train for 6 months in gi attacks and defenses even if they don’t ever plan on being in a g for whatever reason. I’m now training at Craig Kukuk’s and I am pretty used to having no gi now. Having trained in a gi for a few years makes it so I don’t hesitate to train with some one with a gi or at a school that trains with them.

    jiujitsu365 said:
    March 9, 2010 at 9:22 am


    I believe people should experience both when they begin as well. Many people think the gi is restrictive but there is so much that can be done.

    "Ze Cobra" said:
    March 28, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Gi or No-Gi just train and learn as much as you can from both styles!

      jiujitsu365 said:
      March 29, 2010 at 11:56 am

      Well played! I agree.

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