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Gi vs No-Gi BJJ: Which One Is Better & Pros and Cons

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What’s the difference between gi and no-gi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? The significant difference between gi and no-gi BJJ is one requires the traditional Jiu Jitsu uniform, often referred to as a gi or kimono, and no-gi does not. No-gi BJJ is usually done in a rash guard and athletic shorts.

If you’re brand new and have no idea, what a gi is, here you go.

What is a Jiu Jitsu gi?

The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gi is a uniform for training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, adapted from the keikogi () in modern Japanese martial arts, especially Kodokan judo. A gi, meaning dress or clothes, is typically composed of a heavy cotton jacket, reinforced drawstring trousers, and a belt which communicates rank. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu gi is also sometimes referred to as kimono by non-Japanese speakers. Some Jiu-Jitsu school systems avoid using a gi.[1]

Source:  Wikipedia
IBJJF Gi Uniform Requirements

In other words, they’re pajamas that you wear to roll around in and choke your friends in.

They consist of a jacket top and pant bottoms, and you use a belt to keep the jacket closed. If this is news to you, then you should probably wear a white belt to your first class.

Belt ranks for adults go white, blue, purple, brown, and black. We’ll have a post on the Jiu Jitsu ranking system soon that will cover both kids and adults. IBJJF sets the standards and rules for ranks.

Similar look as a karate or taekwondo uniform, but Jiu Jitsu gis are much denser with a thick weave that makes them thicker and heavier.

You can not substitute a BJJ gi with a karate gi. It will likely tear or rip due to the gripping from your opponent.

You could use a judo gi, but you will eventually want to invest in a good BJJ gi, especially if you plan on competing since a judo gi may not meet regulations at a Jiu Jitsu tournament.

What makes Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the gi unique?

Fun with the gi

One of the things that makes traditional Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with the kimono so different from no-gi, is using your opponent’s clothing against them.

You can use many different grips to grab and control your opponents by their gi. Proper grips on lapels, collars, sleeves can help you sweep or even submit your opponent.

You can also grab other areas of the gi to handle your training partners. Their pants at the ankles, knees, waist, and even the belt are all areas you’re allowed the grab for control on a BJJ gi.

You’re also allowed to grab and use your gi for submissions and control.

In an Ezekiel Choke, you to use your fingers in your sleeve to finish the choke.

Rafael Lovato Jr Teaches Ezekiel Choke From The Mount

This is an excellent choke that you can hit from so many different positions, and it’s also easy for beginners to learn.

There’s also a modified version this choke for no-gi.

One last note on grips

When you first start, you’ll notice that traditional Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the gi is hard on your hands.

Theirs a lot of grip fighting going on where you’re attempting to grab your training partner’s gi, and they’re breaking your grip from it’s clinch.

Also, spider guard grip is one of those grips that you kind of need to build a callus on your knuckle to get used to it.

With all that said, watch out for Jiu Jitsu fingers and make sure to take care of your hands when they hurt.

Paulo Miyao’s hands display an excellent example of Jiu Jitsu fingers.

You can do this by icing them after training when they’ve taken a beating or tape them up to take preventive measures next time you train.

Here’s a handy article we have on finger taping, check it out lots of tips for dealing with Jiu Jitsu fingers.

What is no-gi Jiu Jitsu?

A lot of new people who don’t know the difference between gi and no-gi Jiu Jitsu might think it’s something different. I’ve heard white belts say they’re not ready for no-gi when I tell them they should try it.

It’s just Brazilian Jiu Jitsu without the gi.

Your grips will be different, and you won’t have the cloth from the gi to grab on to, but that’s the most significant difference that you’ll notice.

Along with BJJ practitioners, you’ll likely see wrestlers or MMA fighters in a no-gi class, if your gym offers these programs. It’ll be a little intimidating at first, but jump right in and trust me you’ll have fun.

Unless it’s MMA sparing day… then you’re going to get punched in the face, but you might still have fun.

What do you need to bring to no-gi Jiu Jitsu?

The great thing about no-gi is that you don’t need anything special to do it.

Just some basketball or board shorts (preferably with no pockets) and a t-shirt (preferably a synthetic fiber blend for wicking, avoid wearing cotton if you can), and you’re all set.

IBJJF No Gi Uniform Requirements

If you do want to invest in no-gi grappling gear, get yourself a good rash guard, some no-gi shorts, and maybe even some BJJ spats.

There’s not much else to cover as far as what to bring to a no-gi Jiu Jitsu class.

You could bring a towel if you sweat as much as I do. It’s gross, and I feel bad when I sweat on my training partners, so I try to wipe my brow between rounds.

If you have no interest in training in the gi and only want to train no-gi, you can look for a 10th planet Jiu Jitsu school in your area.

They focus solely on no-gi BJJ, and they rank you by the same belt ranking structure as you would have in gi Jiu Jitsu.

I enjoy training in both, because each of them has their own pace and dynamic.

Amazon has excellent affordable no-gi gear available if you’re looking to get set-up without spending a ton of money.

Most “Brand Name” no-gi rash guards and shorts are about $60 apiece. I’ve had good success with the cheaper amazon stuff, so if you’re cheap like me, check Amazon for prices on no-gi BJJ gear.

7 Noticeable Differences Between Gi and No-Gi Jiu Jitsu

Gi BJJ

  1. It can feel slower at times but it depends on who you roll with
  2. You can grab lapels, sleeves, pants, pretty much anywhere on the gi
  3. It’s easier to control or be controlled because of gi grips
  4. You will learn to use a jacket to choke people
  5. It can be easier to get stuck in bad positions
  6. The heat of the gi is real.
  7. Sweat everywhere but mostly contained in your gi.

No-Gi BJJ

  1. No-gi always feels faster-paced, and you tend to see more scrambles.
  2. No Clothing to grab in no-gi.
  3. Harder to control or be controlled because of no-gi grips
  4. No jacket = no collar or lapel chokes
  5. It can be easier to get out of bad positions.
  6. A lot cooler with no-gi.
  7. Sweat everywhere, mostly on the mats.

Gi Jiu Jitsu

1. It can feel slower at times, but it depends on who you roll with

Due to the friction of the cloth and all the different ways to you can be held and controlled, gi Jiu Jitsu just feels slower than no-gi.

With the gi, you’re able to take your time in positions that you usually wouldn’t be able to in no-gi.

Of course, this depends on who you’re rolling with because some people are just fast and explosive no matter what. 

2. You can grab lapels, sleeves, pants, pretty much anywhere on the gi

Many moves can’t be made without a Jiu Jitsu gi, spider guard, lasso guard, worm guard, even basic collar and sleeve grips.

These are positions that don’t really exist in no-gi, although you can modify your grips by holding wrist and collar ties, it’s just not as effective as gi grips.

Remember, you should always be fighting to get grips on your opponent and to break their grips from holding you.

Grip fighting is a concept that carries over to no-gi as well, never let someone get the grips they want on you, ever.

Check out our article “10 Concepts Every BJJ Aficionado Should Know”.

3. It’s easier to control or be controlled because of gi grips

You have handles everywhere, all over you and all over your opponent, these can come in handy and are a lot of fun to learn.

There are a wide variety of grips you can use when you’re doing Jiu Jitsu with the gi. Remember that your training partners have all the same grip options as you.

As fun as it is to work your grip game, it can be hard to fight against a bigger or stronger person that has solid grips on you.

Gi grips can make it difficult to get out of bad positions and will leave you frustrated and exhausted.  

4. You will learn to use a jacket to choke people

As crazy as this sounds saying it, it’s so cool to learn how to control and choke someone with their jacket. This is something you’ll learn early on if you decide to train BJJ in the gi.

You can also apply this to real self-defense situations if you live somewhere that people often wear coats, you can use them much like a gi top.

There are so many different chokes and moves that you can do on someone that’s wearing a jacket, coat, or even a hoodie. 

5. It can be easier to get stuck in bad positions

I touched on this when talking about controlling with gi grips; I’ll go into it with a little more detail now. The fact that any part of your gi is allowed to be grabbed can make it a lot of trouble in positions like bottom side control and north-south.

It can be hell to have a strong opponent crushing you in side control while holding your pants and jacket to keep you there.

Knee on belly in the gi is a different animal from no-gi. That’s mostly because of the grips adding the ability to hold someone in that spot in the gi. 

6. The heat of the gi is real

One of the first things you’ll notice when you’re training Jiu Jitsu, is how hot the gi is. It’s also a little heavy and cumbersome, the thick weaving also traps the heat in. Check out our article on how much a Jiu Jitsu gi weighs here.

It’s not the most comfortable thing to roll around in, but you get used to it after a while.

If you live somewhere hot and humid, training in the gi can be miserable in the summer; you might want to go to a few more no-gi classes during those hot months.

7. Sweat everywhere but mostly contained in your gi

You’re guaranteed to break a sweat when you’re training Jiu Jitsu, and with the added heat from the gi you’re probably going to be sweating a lot. 

Jiu jitsu gis are usually 100% cotton. While there are some hemp gis that may wick a slightly faster, you’re likely to be soaked in sweat after a few rounds of rolling.

If you sweat a lot as I do, your gi will likely double in weight after a training session just from sweat. Kind of nasty, I know.

One thing to note about training Jiu Jitsu in the gi, you get to do a ton of stuff with the jacket that is really fun that you miss out on in no-gi.

No-gi Jiu Jitsu

1. No-gi always feels faster-paced, and you tend to see more scrambles

Where traditional gi BJJ can be slow and methodical, no-gi tends to be faster and more explosive.

It’s extremely difficult to hold someone down without all that extra gi material. Things are slippery, you don’t have gi grips, there are a ton more scrambles, and it’s harder to get submissions.

2. No Clothing to grab in no-gi

Since you don’t have any clothing to hold on too, you’ll need to learn how to control someone without it.

Without gi grips, you’ll learn how to grab and control people with nothing more than their own bodies. I believe this makes no-gi a more practical and better fit for real-life situations.

Honestly, I think no-gi is a more level playing field because it makes it much harder to hold someone in place and greatly reduces stalling. 

3. Harder to control or be controlled because of no-gi grips

There’s nothing for you to hold on to or be held by.

This can be a big change if you’ve only done Jiu Jitsu in the gi, but it’s a short learning curve if you’ve been training for a while. 

One big difference is this does make controlling your opponent and being controlled much harder, and because of this, you will see a lot more movement and a faster pace in no-gi.

4. No jacket = no collar or lapel chokes

You can apply everything you learn from no-gi to gi but not the other way around.

Although many no-gi grip variations resemble their gi counterpart, there isn’t much that transfers over as far as lapel and collar chokes go.

You can do a no-gi modified Ezekiel choke but not a whole lot more than that. 

5. Can be easier to get out of bad positions

With less friction and nothing to hold on to, you’ll find yourself moving in and out of positions much easier than when you’re wearing the gi. 

This greatly contributes to the pace difference between gi and no-gi. It’s also a lot harder to stop someone from passing your guard when you can’t grab anything. 

6. A lot cooler with no-gi

Without the hot and heavy gi, you’ll be nice and cool during no-gi training. You’ll still be warm, but you won’t be nearing as hot as you would rolling in the gi. 

Since you’ll be wearing a rash guard and shorts you won’t have to deal with the burden of the gi, it’s nice to do no-gi on hot days.

7. Sweat everywhere mostly on the mats

No-gi Jiu Jitsu is a sweaty, slippery mess of a good time. I’ve never finished a no-gi class where the mats didn’t look like a swamp of sweat at the end.

I’m not kidding here since you don’t have the gi retaining any of the sweat; it’s got nowhere else to go. So you, your training partners, and the entire surface of the mats will be covered in sweat.

This is why hygiene is so important in Jiu Jitsu. You get extremely close to people when you’re training, that’s why it’s important to stay clean. Here is a great article we have on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu etiquette.

If you’re goal is to get into MMA, don’t skip the gi training but don’t focus on it either.

Some people will disagree with that, saying you need the gi to learn fundamental principles that you miss in no-gi, but it only makes sense that no-gi is better for MMA.

Bonus: How to acquire a Gi

What if I want to train in the gi but don’t own one?

So you want to train in the traditional Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gi but don’t have one. I recommend you avoid buying a gi without trying a class first if you can.

Honestly, Jiu Jitsu is not for everyone, and gis can be pretty expensive.

But your options are.

Borrow one

Don’t worry if you’re new and don’t own one. Most Jiu Jitsu gyms have loaner gis for new students who do trials.

Watch out for gyms that try to pressure you into buying one of their gis to do a trial class.

Call the BJJ schools near you and ask if you can borrow a gi when you drop in for your trial class. This is also good if you’re traveling and forgot to bring your Jiu Jitsu gear with you.

Many times we’re introduced to BJJ by a friend that chokes us out in our living room. At least that’s how I was introduced to “The Gentle Art”.

If a friend of yours convinces you to try a class and that friend is about your size, borrow one of theirs if they have a spare.

Or ask that friend if they have a training partner your size you can loan one from. Just make sure you wash it!

Use a judo gi

A judo gi is probably the closest martial arts uniform that resembles a Jiu Jitsu gi and can be a good substitute option.

Many times when judo guys come over to Jiu Jitsu they can use their judo gi and be fine.

Minus minus a few small differences, it’s usually not a problem. Using a judo gi can get you by for a while, but eventually, you’ll want a BJJ gi, especially if you plan on competing.

Buy one

I left this last but had to include it because honestly there’s not that many ways to get a Jiu Jitsu gi.

If you’ve been doing no-gi for a while and know you’ll be training gi every so often, I say just get one you like and don’t worry about it.

If you’re brand new to the sport, try to buy your first gi, second hand. You can do this through Offerup, Craigslist or eBay first, or get a cheap starter gi on Amazon.

Fuji has a great entry Judo gi w/ white belt that can work as a good first BJJ gi, and it’s usually around 40-60 bucks (check Amazon for current price).

Do this so you can save a little money if you decide not to continue training, I mentioned earlier Jiu Jitsu is not for everyone.

It’s hard you can get hurt, and a lot of people quit early on. With that said, if you’re sure about this and you know that you’re going to commit.

Buy only one gi for you’re first six months.

You don’t want to be the white belt with ten gis.

But hey, if you have the money to spare then, by all means, do what you want. I just can’t spend $200 dollars on a gi.

A lot of people collect gis, and there’s a whole Jiu Jitsu fashion subculture with Shoyoroll and CTRL. With other brands that I don’t remember off the top of my head.

But I look at it this way; your gi count shouldn’t be higher than the number of days you train a week.

You should wash your gi after every training session.

If you just can’t find someone to lend you a Jiu Jitsu gi and you don’t want to buy one but still want to train, just do no-gi.

Conclusion

Regardless of which training option you prefer, as long as you’re on the mats getting better than you were yesterday, that’s all that matters.

Sometimes, depending on your circumstances, you may not have the luxury to train both gi and no-gi, but we highly recommend it if possible.

Whichever you decide to do, remember to have fun and keep on rolling.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and if you enjoy, please share and subscribe below.

Thanks for reading!

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By Let's Roll BJJ

Let's Roll BJJ aims to be the leading source of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Grappling information and news on the web. Dorian, the owner and editor of Let's Roll BJJ is a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu and has been training and competing for over 6 years.

Apart from being a BJJ geek, Dorian is a software developer by trade, a husband, and a father of two wonderful kids who he's recently began teaching Jiu Jitsu. When he's not training, coding, or writing, you can find him hiking, camping or occasionally binging on video games.

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