Student Question: “What is the difference between Jiu-Jitsu with the gi and no-gi?”

A Gracie Barra student asks “I’ve been training in the gi and have been thinking about doing some no-gi training. What is the biggest difference between gi and no-gi training?”

This is actually a big question and has a number of different facets to attempt answer it.

Master Carlos Gracie Jr., when asked about the difference between self defense jiu-jitsu and the more sport oriented training replied that he felt there was only one jiu-jitsu. That is to say the core techniques, positions and principles of jiu-jitsu are mostly the same despite a different rule set for competition or a street self defense situation. A back mount position is dominant with or without the gi. The fundamental jiu-jitsu technique – the rear naked choke is as effective in a self defense situation as it is training no-gi at the Gracie Barra school.

Now that we have made that point, what ARE the main differences between gi and no-gi?


1) The grips

This is the most obvious difference between the 2 styles of jiu-jitsu. At the higher levels of competition, the black belts wage fierce technical battles to secure their own preferred grips and deny their opponents grips. Switching from gi training, you might be surprised to discover your favorite gi grips have disappeared entirely!

Students who have only no-gi experience, when putting on the gi quickly become frustrated with the numerous grips their training partner has to control them.

A number of black belts I’ve spoken with shared the opinion that it was easier for a primarily gi based jiu-jitsu student to transition to no-gi than the other way around – the no-gi adapting to training in the gi.

These grips tend to make training in the gi a slower, more tactical game. Conversely, no-gi rolling is generally faster with more scrambles for position.

2) The gi has more choke attack variations. The number of gi strangles alone are a significant difference in submission threats between gi and no-gi. Add the creative uses of the lapels to control and chokes like Baseball Bat Choke, Brabo Choke and Breadcutter Choke and the no-gi student suddenly has a whole lot more to worry about!

Interestingly, the most successful submissions in professional MMA are the no-gi chokes – the rear naked choke, the Guillotine choke, the Anaconda and Darce chokes and the Arm Triangle (Kara gatame) are all available in gi training as well.

3) Leg attacks. Since the rules of sport competition will strongly influence the primary strategies of the competitors and how they train every session, the difference in rules between IBJJF gi competition regarding legal leg locks and the no-gi / submission only format where all leg locks allowed (especially heel hooks!) have created a big difference in the way leg locks are approached.

Now one can certainly train heel hooks with the gi in your school – provided the rules of training in the school allow it and the training partners are sufficiently experienced to train heel hooks safely. That said, most gi jiu-jitsu schools adhere to the IBJJF rules regarding legal leg locks (according to belt rank) as the rules of rolling in the class. Much less emphasis on learning leg locks generally speaking.

No-gi focused students spend much more of their training time on leg attacks and have contributed greatly to the evolution and sophistication of the leg attack aspect of jiu-jitsu. Fans of competitive no-gi jiu-jitsu have seen the biggest innovations in leg locking systems in the last several years.

What do YOU feel is the biggest difference between training gi and no-gi?


Master Carlos Gracie Jr.’s Philosophy on Jiu-jitsu Self Defense

Master Carlos Gracie Jr.'s Philosophy on Jiu-jitsu Self Defense

Credits: Mark Mullen 

Gracie Barra Black belt based in Asia