One of the first things you should know about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is that there are two different styles: Gi Jiu Jitsu and No Gi Jiu Jitsu.
The Gi – the traditional martial arts uniform also seen in arts like Karate, Taekwondo and Judo – is usually what’s pictured when someone thinks of Jiu Jitsu. And this is the “purist’s” idea of BJJ. Yet just as many people today train without the Gi, which has a long history of its own.
Read on and we’ll share everything you need to know about No Gi BJJ.
What is No Gi BJJ?
No Gi Jiu Jitsu is predominantly the same as regular Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. However, it is done without the Gi, or kimono, that is usually worn in BJJ and other martial arts.
The rules, techniques and fighting style are mostly the same, except for the removal of the Gi, and techniques or rules linked to the Gi.
No Gi BJJ is believed to have originated from no holds barred forms of fighting popularized in Brazil in the 20th century, such as Vale Tudo. It also has similarities to catch wrestling, a hybrid form of wrestling that includes submissions.
Today, most gyms train both Gi and No Gi Jiu Jitsu. It’s common to see schools teach Gi on some days and No-Gi on others. There are also some schools – most notably the 10th Planet system – which train only No-Gi BJJ.
What Equipment Do You Need for No Gi Jiu Jitsu?
For No Gi BJJ, you’ll usually wear board shorts and a flexible, tight-fitting rash guard – similar to if you were going swimming or surfing.
The shorts should have no pockets, and no buttons, zips or anything else on the outside that can catch on things when you’re grappling.
You may also wear tight-fitting spats or compression pants underneath your shorts.
The rash guard is essentially a compression shirt. It’s important to be tight-fitting, so as to not get snagged during training or competition.
In training, some people may just wear a regular t-shirt or athletic gear. However, there are strict rules for what you can wear in competition.
You may also choose to use a mouth guard or ear guards as protection in training.
Best Techniques for No Gi BJJ
For No Gi Jiu Jitsu, there are a few techniques that will likely work better than when you’re in the Gi. There are obviously also techniques you can’t do in No Gi, as they require a grip on the lapel or sleeve.
No Gi tends to suit chokes from a headlock position better. With the Gi, you’ve got a thick collar to contend with, which can make slipping an arm under your opponent’s neck difficult. But in No Gi Jiu Jitsu, it’s a lot easier to hit chokes like the d’arce choke, guillotine, and the Peruvian or Japanese necktie.
The rear naked choke is also a go-to submission in No Gi BJJ. It’s harder to defend when someone’s on your back, and it’s also the only real submission to go for from back control (in the Gi you have a number of lapel chokes which are more effective).
Finally, leg locks are more common in No Gi Jiu Jitsu than in the Gi. One reason is that many leg attacks are illegal in competition in the Gi, yet allowed (at least in higher levels) in No Gi. Heel hooks are the best example of this. However, other leg attacks, such as knee bars and toe holds, are also more common to see in No Gi, and a little harder to defend against without the ability for your opponent to grab and hold on to your Gi.
Summing Up: here’s a summary of some of the techniques that work best in No Gi Jiu Jitsu, and those that don’t work as well:
👍 Front chokes (d’arce, anaconda, guillotine)
👍 Neckties (Peruvian, Japanese)
👍 Leg locks
👎 Gi chokes
Gi vs No Gi: FAQs
Let’s answer a few common questions about No Gi Jiu Jitsu.
Is Gi or No Gi Better for Self Defense?
It’s hard to say for sure whether Gi or No Gi BJJ works best for self defense. Some may argue that the Gi is unnatural, and that No Gi is more representative of a real self defense situation. However, the Gi can be similar to regular clothing your attacker may be wearing, in which case you could use that clothing to make grips or hit Gi chokes.
Realistically, both Gi and No Gi Jiu Jitsu are good for self defense, you just need to adapt to fit the situation, and realize that a self defense situation is different to a roll or competition fight.
Is No Gi Better for MMA?
No Gi Jiu Jitsu is a lot better training for MMA than training in the Gi. While you do need to adapt your game from No Gi Jiu Jitsu to MMA (since striking is involved with the latter), No Gi is much closer to the style of grappling you can expect in MMA, since there is no uniform to make grips on.
Is No Gi Harder than Gi?
It’s impossible to say whether Gi or No Gi is harder than the other. They each have their own wrinkles, and going from one to the other presents certain challenges.
Some may argue that No Gi is easier, as it’s less complex without grips. Yet grips may make training in the Gi easier for some, as it’s easier to control your opponent or a position. It’s really up to each individual, and what they find is most comfortable.
Does No Gi Have Belts?
Most schools do both Gi and No Gi training, so students generally earn their belts as normal, even if they train more No Gi.
Schools that only train No Gi, like 10th Planet, may implement their own system of belts. Generally this would just be the same belt they would have in the Gi, but it would serve a symbolic purpose.
A lot of gyms that don’t train in the Gi don’t bother with belts at all, however. This is why some high-level grapplers hold a BJJ belt well below their ability – such as Jon Jones getting his blue belt after being a UFC champion for years already.
In terms of competition, many No Gi competitions are arranged by experience, rather than belt divisions. This commonly goes like such:
- Beginner/novice (often white belt level)
- Intermediate (blue-purple belt)
- Advanced (brown-black belt)
This system helps cater to competitors who may not have a belt in BJJ (or a low level one), but have additional experience in something like wrestling or MMA.
Should I Start with Gi or No Gi?
Most of the time, there’s no need to choose between one or the other. A lot of schools train in both, and when you come along to training you’ll end up doing each on alternate days, or a mix of both in the same class.
There’s no problem with this, as the underlying skills in Gi and in No Gi are very much the same, so they aren’t two completely different things you’ll have to learn.
For a better idea, check out this video from black belt Dean Lister giving his opinion on the matter:
Which is Better – Gi or No Gi Jiu Jitsu?
There’s no simple answer as to which is better – Gi or No Gi. It comes down to personal preference, as well as what you are training for.
Personally, I prefer No Gi. However, the next person may prefer training in the Gi, which there is nothing wrong with.
Some people may argue one way or the other as to which is better for self defense. Realistically, both are good options, and are much better than having no self defense knowledge whatsoever.
If you’re planning to fight in MMA, No Gi Jiu Jitsu is definitely better. Training in the Gi will teach you many techniques that are irrelevant and impossible in MMA, whereas a No Gi Jiu Jitsu fight is much closer to how grappling will play out in an MMA fight.
And if your goal is weight loss, fitness, or fun both BJJ styles will work equally as well.
Ultimately, don’t concern yourself with worrying about whether Gi or No Gi Jiu Jitsu is better, and which one you should train. Unless you’re specifically training for an MMA fight, spend time in both, and if you really want to specialize in one form of BJJ, decide for yourself after a little experience.