Gi or NoGi, the classic debate between the two different grappling options in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. If you’re a BJJ practitioner then you know how heated of a debate this can become. I personally don’t have a preference between the two, however I do see the ‘pros and cons’ that both have to offer. Training Gi or NoGi is always going to be an opinionated topic, however we’re going to give you the all the information you need to formulate your own decision on the matter.
Many experts will claim that one is better over the other, basing their decision off a certain set of beliefs. Some believe the Gi is better because you can also take what you learned to NoGi as well. Others believe NoGi is better because it’s more realistic to real-life situations and is an easy transition into MMA. Today we’re going to dive deep and explore the two training styles to try and figure out which one is more beneficial for Jiu Jitsu.
The Main Differences Between Gi and NoGi
Chances are you already know the differences, but for those of you who don’t: Gi and NoGi are the two forms of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Gi Jiu Jitsu is grappling with the use of a traditional Gi, which can be useful for certain types of grappling techniques. NoGi grappling is without use of the traditional Gi. Typically in NoGi grappling you can’t grab your opponent’s clothing to use it against them, of course there are always a different set of rules depending on the tournament format.
The main difference between Gi and NoGi is obviously the clothing aspect. In NoGi grappling you normally wear a rash guard, shorts, and usually spats underneath your shorts. In Gi grappling you wear a traditional Gi that can be used for your advantage while rolling. I would tend to say NoGi is more realistic to real-life training because chances are you won’t be fighting a guy on the street who wears a traditional Gi. The BJJ Gi is a thick kimono top which is similar to a jacket. The pants are also thick and are made of similar material so give you an all-around authentic feel.
The main difference between Gi and NoGi is the technical use of the Gi when grappling. NoGi training is much faster and more high-paced than it’s Gi counterpart. This is because in NoGi there aren’t as many ways to hold or stall an opponent while rolling. Breaking grips in NoGi is much easier to do than when training Gi because you’re purely relying on the strength of your grips rather than the technique of a lapel grip.
In addition to the speed of NoGi vs Gi grappling, there are also various tactics that can be used between the two. Many submissions in Gi are executed by using various grips on the lapel and collar. This is obviously impossible when rolling NoGi as there is no lapel or collar to use. No only can the Gi be used for submissions but it can also be used to completely control and dominate your opponents movement. Using a Gi to control your opponent is using their own clothing against them, an advantage you can’t use when training NoGi.
Something people don’t understand is that the use of the Gi lowers the need for natural abilities such as strength and speed. The use of proper technique in a Gi is much more useful than natural abilities such as strength and speed. The use of leverage, force, and technique to subdue opponents is naturally taught within Jiu Jitsu, however with a Gi those type of techniques become even more powerful. Natural abilities such as strength and speed won’t be as useful in a Gi where techniques are more advanced and complicated.
NoGi grappling allows those natural abilities to have a higher advantage of success when you compare them to exact technique. In NoGi strength and speed are a huge advantage that will allow you to easily move to a more dominate position. However the downside to this is that dominate positions in NoGi aren’t as dangerous as they are in Gi. It’s much harder to secure a submission from full mount in NoGi when compared to full mount position in the Gi.
Although we touched on this a bit earlier, there are many rule differences in Gi and NoGi Jiu Jitsu competitions. For example: heel hooks are a technique that have been banned from IBJJF Gi competitions, however they’re allowed in many NoGi competitions such as ADCC. There are different rule sets for each type of competition, in my experience I can tell you that Gi competitions have much more strict rules and guidelines when it comes to various submissions allowed. Always look over the rules before competing in a Jiu Jitsu, this goes for both Gi and NoGi competitions.
Advantages of Gi and NoGi Training
Advantages of Gi Training
The main advantage of training with a Gi is that what you learn can usually be transferred to NoGi training as well. This isn’t the same for NoGi training as you’ll have to learn the importance of the lapel and collar. Using the lapel and collar is something that takes a long time to master believe it or not, many different technical grips go into Gi training. Another great thing about Gi training is that lapel grips with strength the muscles and tendons in your hands, arms, and chest. Training in the Gi will also grow your Jiu Jitsu technique much faster than NoGi training. Training in a Gi is like Chess, the same is more slowed down and technically advanced.
Advantages of NoGi Training
Because NoGi training is much more fast-paced, you’ll have a cardiovascular advantage when compared to those who train Gi all day long. Training NoGi will sharpen your mind and allow you to make decisions much quicker than normal. NoGi uses techniques that are often seen in wrestling much more because you don’t have any clothes restricting you, similar to how a wrestler only wears a singlet. Takedowns are an ability that must be learned in NoGi because you can’t just grab your opponents collar and pull guard. The biggest advantage to NoGi training is that it translates well to both MMA and real-life situations.
So Which is Better: Gi or NoGi?
Finally we’re getting into the meat and potatoes of this post. This answer is probably not the one you were looking for, but I believe training both Gi and NoGi is the best thing you can do for your Jiu Jitsu and overall martial arts journey. One of the greatest grapplers in the world, Marcelo Garcia (who has been known to live in his Gi), has stated that he still trains NoGi at least once a week. Legendary BJJ Black Belt and UFC veteran Dean Lister had this to say on the Gi vs No-Gi debate:
Of course this decision can be different for everyone. If you’re someone who wants to be an MMA star, then it may be beneficial to only focus on NoGi training. If you’re someone who only wants to focus on Gi competitions, then it may be beneficial to only focus on Gi training. It’s my belief that even if you have dreams of being an MMA star or the best Gi competitor, I still see the advantages of training both Gi and NoGi Jiu Jitsu.
Gi training will help you build needed strength and technique while NoGi will help you build cardiovascular strength and speed of movement. It’s important to train Gi because it will allow you to be much more patient when facing an opponent, while it’s also important to train NoGi so that you can make lightning fast decisions while grappling if needed.
Hopefully you are able to take all of this information into consideration, and formulate your own decision regarding the Gi vs NoGi debate. Regardless of what you decide, make sure you are actually enjoying your training. That way you will stick with it and become a better martial artist over time!