Gi or No Gi Jiu Jitsu Which Is Better? (Explained)

gi or no gi jiu jitsu which is better

There are two grappling options in Brazilian jiu-jitsu – gi and no-gi. BJJ diehard addicts know how hard this debate can be. For example, many practitioners believe that no-gi works better in mixed martial arts. On the other hand, the gi fighting might help you defend yourself in a 1-on-1 situation against a bully. So we are in the role of myth busters!

This article will analyze the different aspects of both BJJ styles. You’ll get to know legal and illegal moves, positive and negative sides, and much more. We will help you understand which BJJ style works better for a specific situation.

What Is The Difference Between Gi and NoGi Jiu-Jitsu?

Difference Between Gi and NoGi Jiu-Jitsu

There are many BJJ competitions and federations all around the globe. In the greatest number of cases, you will fight in a traditional gi in the tournament. But sometimes rash guards and shorts (spats) are mandatory pieces of tournament equipment.

Here are the greatest differences between these gi and nogi fighting styles:

  • Clothing – gi competitions demand wearing a traditional gi with a belt, while you’ll mostly wear rash guard, shorts, and sometimes spats in a no-gi tournament;
  • Grabbing the opponent’s clothes – you mustn’t grab your foe’s clothes or use the parts of his gi, shorts, or rash guard to successfully finish the no-gi fight. In a gi matchup, rules allow holding the opponent’s gi, you can end the bout via lapel or collar choke.
  • Gi competitions offer a greater number of submissions, but no-gi BJJ is way more applicable in mixed martial arts.
  • The philosophy of fighting – no-gi sweeps and transitions are way faster as you don’t have many ways to stall while rolling.
  • Breaking grips – in no-gi, strength is way more important than technique. In a gi battle, you can use lapel/collar tricks to your advantage against a stronger opponent.
  • Speed and quickness are way more important in a no-gi bout. The skillful opponent can use your piece of clothes against you in gi combat.
  • Submission switches – way quicker in the no-gi bout, but you have much more options in gi combat;
  • Individual rule differences – for example, IBJJF Gi competitions ban heel hooks, while ADCC allows this dangerous leg lock. Please read the tournament invitation letter carefully, they must write the list of legal and illegal maneuvers. Some techniques might be allowed for brown and black belts only.

Which Is Better Gi or No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu?

gi and no gi brazilian jiu jitsu

It depends on your personal preferences. If you’re looking for better self-defense disciplines, no-gi works better. However, since the Gi is similar to a jacket, so there are many downsides of gi combat for a street battle unless you live in Russia or Alaska.

Do you plan to become the best competitor and earn tons of medals in a sports discipline with a strict ruleset? Gi BJJ is a better choice for you. Would you like to transition to MMA and boost your overall fighting skills? If you answer with “yes”, give no-gi a shot.

Is Gi Harder Than No-Gi BJJ?

No-gi can be pretty hard to master because you need a decent amount of strength. For example, you’ll hardly finish the opponent with a Kimura or a triangle choke when he’s twice stronger than you.

Indeed, no-gi submission switches are harder to perform as you can’t get a hold of the opponent’s gi, lapel, or collar. It is also way harder to make a sweep or transition because of the slippery foe.

Oh, one more thing – no-gi combat demands way more stamina than a gi fight. Why?

In gi combat, you can, for example, grab your opponent’s collar, trap him into a full guard and recharge your batteries when you’re gassed.

But, In a no-gi fight, the ref sanctions any contact with your opponent’s clothes. It is much harder to control him, despite fewer sweep/transition options.

No-Gi or Gi Jiu-Jitsu Which is Better for MMA?

No-gi is way more realistic for MMA combat. The cotton kimono style was excellent for the early stages of the UFC (Royce Gracie was fighting in a gi, which gave him a significant advantage over the other opponents).

Source: UFC – Ultimate Fighting Championship

Yet, MMA evolved and fighting in a gi was prohibited during the era of PRIDE FC. Judo fighters Kazuhiro Nakamura and Hidehiko Yoshida were some of the last names who entered the ring in a traditional gi.


Nowadays, the modern MMA rules strictly prohibit grabbing or holding your opponent’s shorts. You can forget about lapel and collar chokes because the professional MMA fighters mustn’t wear a t-shirt or a jacket (it is allowed in some amateur MMA bouts though).

Source: UFC – Ultimate Fighting Championship

Almost every single no-gi technique will work in modern MMA. There is only one difference – MMA fighters mostly don’t wear spats (some federations allow it though).

So you might have a hard time setting up a successful leg lock. And, it’s very hard to get a good grip on a sweaty opponent.

Source: akleyn

Related article: The 7 Best Grappling Martial Arts for MMA

Gi Vs. No-Gi, Which Is Better for Beginners?

No-gi BJJ may be harder to learn because the game moves at a faster pace. You’ll get a good grip when your opponent wears a traditional gi way much easier.

Indeed, in Gi training, you can catch his lapel or collar too, plus you don’t have to press his back or waist hard with your chest to stay on the top. There is a chance of winning the fight via good technique.

On the other hand, when the gi and no-gi techniques’ difficulty level is even, you’ll perform a no-gi move way harder. Why?

Well, the answer is so simple – the opponent’s clothes are your greatest ally in the fight! Look at MMA bouts, it’s so damn hard to stay on top of the sweaty opponent. He’s gonna get up as soon as you raise your hips!

Should I Learn Gi or NoGi BJJ for Self-Defense?

gi or no gi jiu jitsu for self defense

No-gi moves are realistic for self-defense. Spats are similar to pants or jeans and people wear often shorts and t-shirts.

On the other hand, Gi fighting might not be the greatest choice for self-defense.

First of all, your opponents will rarely wear a jacket or a long-sleeve t-shirt. You’ll hardly perform lapel or collar chokes as your opponent doesn’t wear a gi. In a street fight, you will be limited to takedowns and some submissions.

More, you’ll need more power and excellent technique to stop the bully, but self-defense rarely lasts longer than 5-7 seconds. You can quickly win via clinch chokes, tricky submissions, or ground skills.

Gi or No-Gi Grappling, Which Is More Realistic for Street Fights?

The no-gi skills are going to work well in a 1-on-1 street fight, but there are two big downsides – dealing with multiple opponents and a stand-up fight. Also, you’ll hardly perform a clinch submission on the concrete, you could hurt yourself badly.

As soon as your enemy starts weathering the storm, you have to intercept him with a GSP-style counter takedown and drag the bout to the ground. It is not easy to duck under the quick enemy. Yet, street bullies are usually the slow masters of one or two powerful strikes.

Source: Hacking MMA

No-gi fighters will have greater chances against very confident bullies. Bigger attackers mostly grab you and try to finish the bout on the ground because, according to their philosophy, size matters.

They believe the bigger guy wins the bout easily. But, they should not underestimate the power of BJJ on the ground!

Related article: Is BJJ Right for Street Fighting?

Should I Train Both Gi and No-Gi?

Yeah, you should give both fighting styles a shot. There are so many reasons to try both gi and no-gi out:

  • No-gi training turns you into a pressure king – you can’t get a hold of the opponent’s gi when you’re trying to control him in a no-gi fight. Isometric strength matters a lot. This leads to a positive effect on your gi game.
  • Better reflexes – you have many ways to stall in a gi fight. But in a no-gi bout, one wrong position leads to a sweep or transition. You can lose the dominant position quickly unless you react in the split of a second.
  • Stronger grips – gi workouts improve the power of your grips, which translates to better grip strength in your no-gi game too.
  • Better escapes – it is harder to slip out of the bad position in a gi match due to friction.
  • Deeper knowledge of the game and better self-defense.
  • No-gi bouts will improve your takedown offense. Gi bouts start on the feet, so you might end up on the top of your foe instead of pulling guard and working off your back.

Should I Focus on Gi and No-Gi BJJ Competitions?

gi vs no gi bjj

It depends on your goals. Fighters who plan to become the best should pick one style and stick to it because there are rule differences. For example, a super-skillful might make rookie mistakes in a no-gi bout because of different grips. It is harder to get a hold of the sweaty opponent.

However, Fighters who plan to transition to MMA or get a deeper knowledge of BJJ should try both styles out. You should experiment in the early stages of your career too.

There are differences between federations too. For example, IBJJF rules ban heel hooks, but these leg locks are legal in ADCC.

Professionals dedicate their lives to a specific ruleset. Just answer the question “which is my final BJJ goal”, and you’ll discover which style works better for you.

Is There Belt System in No-Gi and Gi BJJ?

There are many no-gi BJJ schools all around the globe. These dojos, when run by a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, do have their belt ranking system, which depends on numerous factors:

  • Skillset progress;
  • Time spent in the gym (training);
  • etc.

Besides, Gi Brazilian jiu-jitsu includes a variety of colored belts, ranging from white to red, with the red belt being the highest belt level in this martial art.

Final Thoughts

Brazilian jiu-jitsu gi and no-gi are incredible training styles that you should try. In no-gi, you wear a rashguard and shorts (spat). But in gi training, you’re wearing a gi uniform (kimono jacket + pants).

In this article, we’ve discussed some facts about the gi and no-gi grappling styles. It is way harder to control your opponent in a no-gi match. Otherwise, both in no-gi or gi combat, one mistake leads to tons of problems.

Here are other amazing facts to illustrate the debate gi vs no-gi so far:

  • No-gi fighters’ grips, takedown offense, and reflexes are better, but gi fighters are more skillful in escapes and changing positions.
  • No-gi works better for self-defense.
  • Several Brazilian jiu-jitsu schools award belts in both BJJ styles (gi and no-gi).
  • You should learn gi and no-gi if you plan to transition to MMA or get a deeper knowledge of the game.
  • Gi fighting is more technical, but you need way more strength and pressure to control your opponent in no-gi combat.
  • Escape tactics are more difficult to execute in Gi jiu-jitsu because the Gi grips slow the game down and make it more technically difficult.
  • Finishing a submission technique is more difficult in No-Gi since the grip holds are easily broken and the game is played at a faster pace. 
  • Because of the popularity of mixed martial arts competitions, No-Gi jiu-jitsu got decent popularity. Nonetheless, Gi jiu-jitsu is also more popular as one of the most recognized martial arts.

We hope you understand the demands of both fighting styles now. What are your plans, and which BJJ style are you going to choose? Would you like to add something to this article? Let us know in the comments below and please help us by sharing this article on social media!