At Arashi-Do St. Albert we have several classes in the gi during the week, both mixed and ladies only. Fridays we do submission wrestling in the evening with no gi. One of the more common questions I get from perspective members is what the difference is between gi and no-gi (besides the obvious) and why one might choose one or the other.
- Self-Defense – Jiu-Jitsu has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years as a sport, but at its core it is a real world self-defense martial art forged in street fighting and vale tudo first and foremost. This was the first and most important reason for training both with and without the gi. Since we generally not choose the time, place and opponent for a self-defense situation, we never know what kind of clothes they’ll be wearing or if the clothes they may be wearing are strong and durable enough to be used the way a gi might be. Gi’s are essentially designed to simulate normal clothing but also be durable enough to withstand day to day training where normal clothes may survive being used to throw or choke once or twice in a single fight. If your self defense is based purely on being able to grab clothing, you’ll be at a disadvantage against a person wearing light or no clothing so no-gi experience and techniques will be needed.
- Sport – When both opponents are wearing a gi, there is a great deal of added friction between them as well as a great deal of different reliable grips available. This generally makes it easier to pin an opponent in a position as well as set up submissions, and as a result it’s much more difficult to simply explode out of something. This sharpens up the defenses and escapes and requires them to be technical. On the flip side, the lack of friction in no-gi makes it much easier to escape so your attacks need to be much tighter and better set up. People who do both will typically have more well-rounded games as a result.
- Fitness – The friction and grips of the gi serve another purpose as well – to slow the game down. This means that both fighters will typically spend longer in a given position than they would in no-gi, so you must develop the strength and muscular endurance to maintain your frames, holds and grips. No-gi on the other hand is much faster paced, so it will demand a higher level of explosiveness and aerobic fitness. Training in both will yield the best results for overall jiu-jitsu conditioning.