Gi Jiu Jitsu vs no-gi Jiu Jitsu has been a hot debate among the Jiu Jitsu community since time immemorial. Advocates for gi BJJ focus their arguments on tradition while no-gi BJJ advocates argue that no-gi is better for real life ‘street’ scenarios. This can be confusing for beginners trying to break into BJJ. So which style is best for beginners to start out with?
What is Gi BJJ?
In gi BJJ, practitioners train in the traditional BJJ uniform called the gi. Training focuses on collar, sleeve, and belt grips. The gi is mostly used to complete submissions. While several submissions such as the guillotine, kneebars, and kimuras are performed without the use of the gi, many submissions utilize collar or sleeve grips to tap out opponents.
Most techniques used in gi BJJ cannot be used in no-gi BJJ, however there are adaptations that can be made in order to translate moves from gi to no-gi.
What Is No-gi Jiu Jitsu?
No-gi Jiu Jitsu practitioners train in rash guards and spats, shorts, or gi pants. When training no-gi, grips on clothes are not allowed. To translate grips from gi to no-gi, a grip behind the neck is equivalent to a collar grip to control your opponent’s head. Instead of a sleeve grip, a grip on the wrist or ankle is used.
The pace of no-gi is much faster than gi Jiu Jitsu. Since gis are not worn, friction is decreased significantly. Grips are harder to maintain because people sweat and gripping a slippery wrist or ankle, for example, isn’t an easy task.
Opponents get into and out of positions much faster than in the gi, without the use of grips on clothing.
The Case For No-gi Jiu Jitsu For Beginners
Less Gear Requirements
When you train no-gi, you can wear anything from rashguards specifically made for no-gi BJJ to a t-shirt and shorts. This makes gear requirements much easier to sustain both physically and financially.
Gis can be expensive, so being able to rely on street clothes is a great option, especially for beginners not ready to commit to buying potentially expensive gis.
For our top picks of beginner friendly gis, check out this article!
Understanding control (grips and weight distribution)
No-gi Jiu Jitsu can teach you a lot about controlling your opponent in a tough, fast paced environment. Because of the fast pace of no-gi and the fact that you can’t rely on gi grips, no-gi forces you to work to learn to control and maintain grips. Grips are much easier to break, so if you can master maintaining grips in no-gi BJJ, you can most certainly master that in gi BJJ.
No-gi is also great for learning how to distribute your weight. It’s a lot harder to control your own body, never mind your opponents, when training no-gi. The decreased friction forces you to learn to position yourself in the best possible place to distribute your weight so that you don’t get swept and you can have the best pressure when controlling your opponent.
No-gi / No Shortcuts
No-gi Jiu Jitsu doesn’t allow for shortcuts. Transitions are made at the blink of an eye and if your Jiu Jitsu is sloppy, you can place yourself in some very bad positions. Being technical is a must in a fast-paced match.
Training no-gi will quickly teach you to have the right angles and make the right pressure at the right times in order to avoid being caught in sweeps or submissions.
Learning Not To Spaz (Ego Killer)
Nobody likes a spaz, and nobody really wants to be a spaz on the mats. No-gi forces you to have self-control. If you spaz out on the mats in no-gi, you ‘ll find yourself in a compromised position every time because your opponent will be able to take advantage of your sloppy movements.
When you train in a wild manner, you’ll get caught every time which will force you to learn self-control and improve your technique. Slowing down and focusing on technique will help a mat spaz transition into a smooth jiujitsero.
The MMA and Self-Defense Connection
No-gi Jiu Jitsu is closely related to MMA and self-defense techniques.
All MMA matches use no-gi Jiu Jitsu, whether it’s Invicta or UFC. Outside of the earliest years of the UFC, gis are never worn in MMA. So, if MMA is your goal then no-gi training is a must.
Though you can use a jacket or a shirt to mimic gi grips when defending yourself, most street fights more closely match no-gi training. Self-defense classes are also always taught without gi grips, as to help the student train in the most realistic scenario.
Gracie Jiu Jitsu self-defense moves rely heavily on the clinch to takedown when someone tries to punch you which is used in both self-defense and MMA.
No-gi BJJ Ranks
Although belts are not worn in no-gi, some Jiu Jitsu schools, such as 10th Planet, will promote students who train no-gi following the standard BJJ belt levels. One main difference is that no-gi schools don’t award stripe promotions – instead promoting directly from one belt to the next..
However, many schools don’t perform no-gi promotions at all, and some may use different colored shorts or rash guards to indicate rank level. In IBJJF no-gi competitions competitors are required to wear a rash guard that matches their belt rank, and this practice is commonly seen in gyms with stricter uniform requirements like Gracie Barra.
Most Jiu Jitsu schools train both gi and no-gi Jiu Jitsu, so if your training goal is Jiu Jitsu, it is a good idea to train both forms. If your goal is MMA or strictly self-defense, then training strictly no-gi may be a good choice for you.
Beginners can learn a lot from training no-gi, from grip fighting to self-control. No-gi is also a great start for beginners due to the lower financial responsibility and commitment. Whatever your path, decide what you want out of training and choose the best training style for you.
Kimberly is a Jiu Jitsu purple belt who also holds a black belt in Siljun Dobup Korean Sword Arts. When she’s not on the mats, she enjoys immersing herself in nature or a good book. She trains in New Jersey with her 9-year-old son.