Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art that focuses on grappling and ground fighting. There are two primary BJJ styles: no-gi and gi (requiring a uniform) and no-gi (without a uniform). Depending on the main differences between the two styles, the tactics and strategies used in a match can be different, even though both styles have ways to bring an opponent to the ground and use submission grips. In this article, we’ll look at how gi and no-gi BJJ are different, including how the rules, techniques, and training methods are different.
What is Gi BJJ?
Gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art that involves grappling and ground fighting techniques, and is typically practiced with a uniform called a gi. The practitioner’s uniform, or gi, is composed of a belt that indicates the practitioner’s rank and is constructed of thick cotton clothing. Gi BJJ involves utilizing the gi to obtain a submission hold or a dominant position. The gi is utilized to grab and cling onto an opponent. The use of the gi is governed by a series of restrictions in Gi BJJ, such as not being able to grasp below the waist and only being able to utilize specific grips on the jacket. Gi BJJ contests often have stricter guidelines than no-gi competitions, and successful techniques utilizing the gi are rewarded with points.
What is No Gi BJJ?
As implied by the name, no-gi BJJ is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practiced without the traditional gi. Practitioners, dress in shorts and either a rash guard or spats. Since there are less alternatives for holding and the fighter’s flesh is exposed without the gi, the tactics and methods employed in a match may change. Because grabbing an opponent’s clothes is usually not allowed in no-gi BJJ, practitioners have to rely on body control, pressure, and leverage techniques to get submission holds or get in a position of power. Compared to gi BJJ, no-gi BJJ has a different set of regulations and may place a greater focus on submissions than on points. In comparison to gi tournaments, no-gi BJJ contests may also have less rules and regulations.
Techniques Not Allowed in Gi BJJ or No Gi BJ
In Gi, there are certain techniques that are forbidden but are allowed in no gi. The most prominent example is perhaps heel hooks. A type of leg lock that is only permitted for higher rank belts in no gi – it is totally forbidden to do while wearing a Gi at any level. Other moves that can garner a foul or even a disqualification in a Gi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu match include:
- when a you purposefully take off their own belt or gi to interrupt the match.
- when you grip the opponent’s sleeve or pant leg opening with their fingertips inside the clothing.
- when you step inside the Gi jacket, clutche the inside of the opponent’s gi top or pants, or pass a hand through the opponent’s gi’s interior to grasp the exterior of the gi.
Strategic and Tactical Differences Between Gi and No Gi
Training for a Gi match necessitates a different set of tactics and strategies than for a no-gi match. Without the gi, there are fewer ways to grab and control an opponent, so practitioners must rely more on techniques that use body control, pressure, and leverage. This can make no-gi BJJ feel faster and more dynamic, as there are fewer grips to slow down the action. Sometimes a Gi match may feel more like a chess game, as opponents focus on breaking down each other’s grip and advancing step by step to a advantageous position. In contrast, opponents in no-gi must work faster and harder to gain an advantageous position.
Things a person training in the Gi may focus on that someone in no-Gi wouldn’t can include:
- Lapel chokes such as the bow and arrow choke
- Spider guard
- Worm guard
- Certain types of guard passes such as X-passing or toreando passing
- Judo takedowns
- Grip fighting and breaking
Things a person training No-Gi may focus on that someone in Gi wouldn’t can include:
- Types of leg locks like heel hooks
- Wrestling takedowns
- Hand fighting
- Scrambling and wrestling
Gi vs No-Gi Summary
|Uniform/Attire||Gi & Belt||Rashguard and spats|
|Main Focus||Control and position||Submission|
|Takedowns||More judo focused||More wrestling focused|
|Techniques allowed||Lapel chokes||Heel hooks|
Should Beginners Focus on Gi or No Gi?
It really depends on what your goals are as a practitioner of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Some people enjoy the traditional elements of the sport, the chess-like nature of Gi and of course the belt system. For those reasons, some tend to focus extensively on Gi. Others enjoy the dynamism and speed of no-gi and don’t want to be slowed up with grips and grip fighting. For those reasons, can choose to focus just on no-Gi.
For the most part, most practitioners don’t have to really choose. Most gyms – even traditional ones- offer both forms throughout a week of typical training. If you are focused on competition, it may be wise to pick just one divisions (Gi or no-Gi) and just train that form in the lead up to the tournament.
Is Gi or No-Gi Better for Self Defense?
Both forms of BJJ will give you the training and skills to potentially survive a self defense encounter. The skills between each form are 90% similar with the final 10% representing the things we list in the section above. Any form of BJJ should teach you how to handle yourself in a ground fighting situation and keep your composure in a street fight.
That being said, no-Gi does offer a more realistic picture of a combat situation. Outside of a BJJ gym, people you face are not going to be wearing thick and easy to grab Gis. So most of the techniques you learn for manipulating an opponent through their Gi will likely not be useful in a street fight or self defense situation. A strett fight will likely be more dynamic and fast moving – more akin to a no-Gi match than a Gi match.
As we say above though, this shouldn’t discourage you from training Gi BJJ if you want to. The skills are still transferable to a self defense situation. Rather, if self defense is your main priority, just training Gi BJJ may be detrimental. I would recommend you train no-Gi mostly but can sprinkle in Gi as well – especially if you want to advance through the belt system.
No-Gi vs Wrestling
No-Gi and wrestling share a lot of similarities. They are both dynamic martial arts that require a high level of athleticism and determination for success. While both grappling arts involve two opponents in a sleek clothing (rash guard and a singlet) trying to gain positional advantage over the other, the similarities kind of end there. The purpose of both sports and what’s allowed are very different. In no-Gi, your main goal is to submit your opponent. In wrestling your main goal is to pin your opponent.
That being said, many no-Gi focused BJJ fighters integrate wrestling into their jiu jitsu. It is inevitable in no-Gi that opponents will need to scramble and basically wrestle to obtain an advantageous position. Athletes with a wrestling background tend to thrive when they pick up Jiu Jitsu because they have the base knowledge on how to maneuver towards those positions. Wrestlers tend to struggle the most with submissions when picking up BJJ however.