Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has evolved so much in the past decades that some members of the community now have preferences on the way they train.
Traditionally BJJ is practiced using a Gi, a uniform adapted from Japanese martial arts (where Jiu-Jitsu originally came from), however, there is a growing group of practitioners who seem to favor removing the Gi and training with just a pair of shorts and a rashguard.
In fact, some of the more popular BJJ groups like 10th Planet exclusively train No-Gi.
There has been a lot of discussion on which approach is better, but before that let’s differentiate how training is different between Gi and No-Gi:
Gi BJJ: Is old school is still the best school?
Gi BJJ is unique in the sense that a big part of training is learning how to manipulate the Gi to one’s advantage.
Gi training as a whole is dependent on grips, meaning that there are a number of techniques that can only be done with the uniform.
The fact that you can switch between Gi and No-Gi grips when training in the Gi adds an additional layer of complexity that’s normally not found in No-Gi based styles.
The standing aspect of Gi BJJ is especially different because there’s a number of grips you can do to off-balance the opponent, this is the reason why most competitors use Judo (a precursor to BJJ and also use the gi) and not wrestling when doing standup.
Gi BJJ is typically slower because of all the grip fighting and can be admittedly boring at times to watch.
No-Gi BJJ: A more explosive game
No-Gi has fewer options because the Gi grips are not available, but that doesn’t mean that the game is easier though.
Removing the Gi lessens the friction when grappling, which gives the practitioners more space to explode in and out of position.
This generally means that No-Gi matches are typically faster and has more action. Rules are a little more relaxed in No-Gi BJJ especially with using leglocks and the like.
No-Gi BJJ also has a nice overlap with wrestling, a sport that’s based on taking opponents down.
This overlap is the reason why many wrestlers experience great success when transitioning to No-Gi competition, as shown in major grappling tournaments such as the ADCC and No-Gi World Championships.
Which is better then?
It depends. If you are looking to be more proficient in the Gi then obviously it’s better to train more in the Gi, the same can be said if your focus is No-Gi.
I personally prefer a combination of both even if I prefer Gi to No-Gi, I believe it’s necessary to be adaptable to the two styles as both have their benefits to training.
There’s an argument that training both at the same time makes you less of an expert in one because your time is practically split in two.
It may be true to a certain extent but I believe that the key is all about how you plan your game.
What I recommend is to simplify your game to just a few core positions so that it’s easy to switch from one style to the other.