To Gi or not to Gi? The 2 Types of Jiu Jitsu Training (with videos)

When you start out Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or even mixed martial arts, you’ll notice that there are two different types of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu session. Gi training is traditional BJJ, trained in the Gi (aka Kimono), the tough karate suit worn by BJJ practitioners. Nogi training, as the name implies, is BJJ without the Gi, trained in shorts and a top. In this article we’re going to explain the differences between the two, and why you should pay attention to both.

Takedowns- Gi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Perhaps the main and most fundamental difference between Gi and Nogi is the ability to grip your opponent’s Gi when doing the more traditional variation of BJJ training. When you’re in the standing position, seeking to take your opponent to the mat, you can use your grips on your opponent’s Gi collar, sleeves, pants. or belt, to unbalance them and look to throw them. This arguably allows a greater variety of throws as control of your opponent can happen from a slightly larger distance from them. In addition, lower body takedowns such as double and single legs can be more difficult to achieve as your opponent can prevent you from dropping to grasp the legs with grips of his/her own. There is also greater friction and grip in general, making it more difficult for your opponent to wriggle free of your techniques.

Takedowns- NoGi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

When we take away the ability to grip clothing in Nogi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, takedowns don’t really get easier or harder, but the tactics you employ must change slightly. Grips change to clasping your opponent’s wrist, triceps, or clasping your own hands to grab your opponent. This means that to successfully take your opponent down, you must be able to hold on to him/her using more ‘natural’ grips on their limbs such as wrist or ankle grabs, or by clamping your arms around their legs or upper body. Your opponent is also more  than in Gi matches, making holding them more difficult, but then again, so are you! The comparison has often been compared to the difference between Judo (gi training) and Wrestling (Nogi). However it should be noted that both Wrestling and Judo style takedowns follow the same principle of unbalancing your opponent, and it’s fair to say that the changes for either type of BJJ are not massive!

Submissions- Gi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

The difference between Gi and Nogi BJJ are probably most easily seen when we compare the array of submissions available to both styles. While arm bars and leglocks might remain, broadly speaking, the same, the Gi practitioner can call upon the opponent’s collar and lapels, and his own sleeves and lapels to secure chokes and tighten other submissions. For example, a common Gi choke such as the Cross Collar choke below, would simply be impossible in Nogi training. In addition, the additional friction from both people’s sleeves can make armlocks more difficult to escape from.

Submissions- NoGi Brazilian Jiu jitsu and MMA

While at first glance it may seem that it’s more difficult to submit a resisting opponent in NoGi training, there are advantages too. While it’s true that you can no longer collar choke an opponent, the lack of collars and the slippier nature of the match means that the neck can be more exposed to chokes such as the famous Guillotine choke, or the Brabo choke below. Training Nogi also teaches the importance of control in submission situations, since allowing your opponent even an inch of space can allow them to slip out of holds and positions.


General Differences Between Gi and Nogi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Training

Your own personal preference will determine which type of training you enjoy more, but both should be trained to have a well rounded Jiu Jitsu game. It’s natural for people who are training to fight in MMA competition to assume that they don’t need to train in the Gi, however Gi training can assist with your ability to escape from positions without relying in strength, as well as offering you far more training opportunities to refine your Jiu Jitsu game. Gi matches also tend to be slower, meaning that thinking your way through matches becomes important. Likewise, NoGi training can help BJJ Gi fighters to tighten their submissions and help them not to rely on collar or sleeve grips for all of their work.

In general, NoGi sparring tends to be faster, and positions more difficult to hold and maintain. Certain guard positions are unique to the Gi game also, whereas guards that work in NoGi training tend also to work in Gi, though they may not be optimal.

For competitive athletes looking to compete in either Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitions, Nogi submission wrestling style competitions, or Mixed Martial Arts fights, training at Kyuzo will taper towards the mode of competition closer to the date. In other words, MMA fighters will do more and more Nogi in the run up to fights, and BJJ fighters will do more Gi training also. This doesn’t necessarily mean that training of either code would be dropped altogether, all training is good and nothing is detrimental!

Hopefully this clears up and answers a few of the common questions and misconceptions about the difference between Gi and Nogi training. But if one thing should be taken home from this article, it’s that IT’S ALL JIU JITSU!


Kyuzo is Dublin’s Premier Beginner club for those seeking to start Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Mixed Martial Arts, or Wrestling Training. We accept Beginners all year round to our full time custom designed Dublin facility, as well as running regular Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Beginners Courses, Beginners Mixed Martial Arts Classes, as well as our very popular Children’s Classes. Membership is open to anyone from 4 years of age upwards. Our eldest BJJ trainee is 47 years old! Please contact us for more details.

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