1107 Main St. Floor 2, Woodward, Oklahoma 73801

Gi vs. No-Gi BJJ: Everything You Need to Know Before Switching Styles

Request More Information

Request More Information

By providing your number you consent to receive marketing/promotional/notification messages from Marcus Aurelio Jiu Jitsu Woodward. Opt-out anytime by replying STOP. Msg & Data rates may apply.

Request More Information

The gi is synonymous with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), among other martial arts. Most commonly seen in white or blue, the uniform is one of the first things you will receive upon joining a dojo. To receive your gi and belt is a form of initiation and is regarded with great respect and honor. Purists and traditionalists believe gi BJJ is the best place to build your foundation. Still, a new wave of practitioners thinks the opposite, especially if you are interested in competing in MMA. Knowing where to start or when and how to transition can be difficult decisions. Luckily, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about both styles and how to transition from gi to no-gi BJJ.


What is a Gi?

BJJ has its roots in Judo, a grappling art that hails from Japan. Inspired by traditional kimonos, Kano Jigoro, Judo’s founder, created the judogi to develop a uniform for his students. He needed something durable that could withstand the forces of full-contact martial arts. Over 100 years ago, he constructed a jacket and pants uniform from a heavy unbleached white cotton fabric. It became the first martial arts uniform. 


How Does a Gi Affect the Sport?

The main difference between gi and no-gi jiu-jitsu is the uniform, which affects not only the student’s appearance but also the techniques they will use. In gi BJJ, the traditional uniform of a jacket, pants, and belt (denoting rank) is worn in all training elements. The clothing’s looseness allows practitioners to grab and grip around the wrist, leg, lapel, or collar. It is more comfortable to establish, secure, and maintain these holds because the fabric adds friction and is far less slippery than the no-gi’s athletic garments.


In no-gi, a ‘rashguard’ is typically worn with board shorts, or leggings are also a common alternative. These fabrics are stretchy, sweat-wicking, and made from elastane and polyester. Without the gi, the ‘handles’ used to secure grips are no longer available as the rashguard and leggings are not only skin-tight but also made from a slippery fabric.  The gear gets wet, sweaty, and slick, making it even harder to establish a solid hold on an opponent and far less complicated for them to escape completely.


Advantage vs. Disadvantages


Gi Advantages

  • Wearing a gi allows you to follow tradition and learn the martial art as initially intended. 

  • This style relies on various pulling techniques against the heavy fabric, strengthening the muscles and tendons in the hands and forearms.

  • It is also considered the more methodical way of learning the art. Navigating the use of the gi teaches patience and discipline and requires a well thought out strategy. 

  • There are more sweeps and submissions available in gi BJJ.


Gi Disadvantages

  • The increased friction makes up for sloppy technique.

  • Cardio conditioning is not expected due to the slower nature.


No-Gi Advantages

  • Less complex to learn (but requires more wrestling based takedowns)

  • Builds cardiovascular strength due to the faster pace 

  • Requires quicker decision making which results in better offensive skills

  • Better for MMA training


No-Gi Disadvantages

  • Faster-paced, so it is harder to think ahead, which can affect defensive skills.

  • Most gyms don’t offer as many no-gi classes on the schedule.


Main Differences


  • Speed

No-gi requires greater speed in both strategies and actions as the pace is much faster than in traditional BJJ. Without the uniform, the number of options you have to control your opponent is reduced, so there is a lot less of a gap between action, reaction, and counters.

  • Grips

No-gi BJJ has far fewer grip options available to the practitioner. Without lapels, pants, and collars to secure them, you will have to focus on more wrestling-based grips and controls such as ‘wrist grips,’ ‘collar ties,’ and both ‘overhooks’ and’ underhooks.’ 

It may feel like there is a lessened sense of control without the gi when you first transition, but you will feel more competent over time. One way to ease the transition will be to try using grips that don’t require the gi in class to help strengthen areas that will benefit you once you make the move.

  • Guards

Unfortunately, many of the guards you will have learned in gi will not apply to no-gi. Lasso guard, spider guard, and worm guard will be rendered useless; instead, you will need to revert to more basic guards such as closed guard, x guard, and half guard.

  • Leg Locks

The opportunities for leg locks are much more frequent in no-gi, as the absence of the uniform means you have more options to grab limbs than clothing, and the legs are usually easier to grasp and are more likely to be exposed. Getting good at leg locks will drastically improve your submission rate. In classic BJJ, leg lock options only really open up at higher belt levels. However, there are plenty of opportunities to learn in no-gi and use these from very early stages.

  • Taking the Back

The back is the best position to have in no-gi BJJ. It will be crucial to your success to learn how to take the back, maintain it, and submit from that position. This is the most dominant position you can have, which not only makes it hard for your opponent to escape from, but it is also the perfect position to have to be able to set up a rear-naked choke, which is one of the most superior submissions available in no-gi.

  • Dominant Submissions

While there are fewer submission options in no-gi, students tend to be more proficient in a smaller range of reliable techniques than knowing a wider variety, but to a lesser degree. The submissions that hold up across both modalities are also the oldest: triangle choke, rear-naked choke, armbar, kimura, guillotine. Working on these fundamental techniques will aid you in your transition.


Which is more realistic?

It’s hard to decide which style is more practical for self-defense. Some say that traditional BJJ is more realistic as people usually wear loose clothing similar to a gi. However, on the other hand, it is not necessarily always possible to establish a grip on an attacker’s attire, and it’s worth having the conditioning from no-gi BJJ to sustain these grips in an instance where there is nothing easy to grab onto.

Gi or no-gi, there are strengths and weaknesses to both styles. Experts recommend training across both modalities to gain the benefits of both. Cross-training in styles may be difficult initially but will become an automatic process after a little while. 

To reach the sport’s highest levels, gi BJJ is always recommended, but if you intend to be an MMA fighter, training no-gi only is a better solution. Ultimately, the decision should come down to your personal goals and needs. Whatever you choose, there is little to worry about; jiu-jitsu is a proven self-defense system and works regardless of what you are wearing. 

Experience the best martial arts training in Woodward!

Request information

Request Information Now!