In this article, we'll introduce you to some of the differences between training in the gi and training no gi. We'll also cover what the advantages and disadvantages of each are and what you can expect when you step on the mat to train one style or the other.
What is gi jiu jitsu?
When you train jiu jitsu in a kimono, also known as a gi, you're training gi jiu jitsu. A BJJ gi is a uniform similar to kimonos often worn in other martial arts such as judo and karate. It consists of a jacket, pants, and a colored belt which indicates your current BJJ rank. Jiu jitsu kimonos may look similar to kimonos from other martial arts at first glance, but they are actually very different. Jiu jitsu kimonos are made to withstand the constant grabbing and pulling of fabric on both the gi tops and gi bottoms.
When you train gi jiu-jitsu, grips are critical and function as one method of controlling your opponent. Just about any piece of fabric on a kimono can be gripped and used. Common grab points include the lapel, sleeve and ankle cuffs, and jacket skirt. The kimono fabric can also be used to wrap around your opponent for additional control and a wide range of submissions. In fact it's even common to use parts of your own kimono to control and attack your opponent!
Some techniques can only be performed in the gi, like the bow and arrow choke and lapel chokes. Other techniques typically work better in the gi but can be adopted for no gi including certain types of guards.
What is no gi jiu jitsu?
No gi training is jiu jitsu without the kimono. Typically, when training no gi, grapplers will wear a rash guard (long and short sleeve are both common) and fight shorts. These can be substituted for gym shorts and a t-shirt if needed. Some grapplers also chose to wear compression pants or spats. In addition, in some competitions, it's not uncommon for male competitors to compete shirtless.
The attire you select for no gi is very much a matter of personal preference. Gear with more fabric such as long sleeves and compression pants means more friction. This generally makes securing grips on limbs easier compared to grabbing a wrist or arm with just bare skin - especially once you start sweating. This may work to your advantage or disadvantage depending on how you roll.
In general, no gi can make controlling and submitting your opponent more challenging because there is simply less to grab ahold of. From a defensive standpoint, this makes movement and escaping easier.
At the higher levels of jiu jitsu, no gi incorporates advanced leg locking techniques. These techniques are typically illegal when competing in the gi as there is a higher risk of injury due to wearing a kimono.
Which one is better?
Neither style is necessarily "better" than the other although most grapplers have an opinion on which they prefer. Which one you prefer may depend on your jiu jitsu goals (e.g. are you training for self-defense or for competition?) or it might be influenced by your own academy and the people you train with. There are many jiu jitsu schools out there that will focus on one style more than the other. Some schools may in fact be gi only or no gi only.
We are of the opinion that it is generally good to train both. Training no gi will help your gi game and vice versa. That said, if your goal is to compete in strictly one style, then it makes sense to focus your training around that particular style.
In the end, you should come to your own conclusion about which style you prefer to train, or perhaps even conclude you like to train both equally. It's all still jiu jitsu after all.
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