Gi, No-Gi or Both?

Gi, No-Gi or Both?

Tyson LaRone, SAKC, RMT, YSAS, BJJ Black Belt

BJJ is one of the few martial arts where there isn’t a clear answer on what is worn for training in it. Some schools strictly practice only in the gi, some treat it more as wrestling and train only in shorts, t-shirts or compression gear. Some train both and may slide more often toward one side or the other, and it really boils down to the instructor and the focus of the school. If it’s an MMA gym and BJJ is being taught as only a part of the overall program then it’s more likely to be no-gi. If it’s a pure BJJ school with self-defense as part of the curriculum then the gi is more likely to be the norm. I believe that no-gi and gi are both essential as training tools no matter what your focus, and here’s why:


No-gi is great for developing your attacks and control from top positions, especially when both competitors start to get sweaty because there’s no friction to help you keep your grips and your weight on someone. If you don’t set everything up just right, it’s much easier for someone to explode out of something and escape. If someone is strong, fast or flexible it will be more of an advantage in no-gi, and since it’s easier to escape you’re also likely to spend more time scrambling which means you’ll get in great shape! Even if you like to compete in the gi, it’s good to train no-gi because all gis are different and you don’t want to base your whole game around certain grips that may or may not be easy to get depending on the fit and material of the opponent’s gi. This also makes no-gi training great for self-defense since you never know what kind of clothing an attacker might be wearing.




The gi is an excellent tool for developing the fundamentals of BJJ, especially the guard and escapes. The added friction and grips of a gi make physical attributes less effective so you must be technical to escape submissions and top positions. This also means that matches will be more even between people of different genders, weight divisions and athletic abilities. Positions are easier to maintain and the game tends to be slower-paced than no-gi which usually results in a more cerebral match where no-gi can be more instinctual. Having more time to think during a roll means you’ll be more likely be able to look back and pinpoint how and why certain things happened so you can make adjustments. Finally, since all no-gi techniques can be used while wearing a gi (though some not as well) but gi techniques can’t be used in no-gi, the total number of possible techniques and strategies is much larger when using the gi.

In closing, both gi and no-gi have their pros and cons but totally neglecting either one could lead to some pretty big holes in the game. That is why even many of the greatest MMA world champions of all time like Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva trained extensively in the gi even though they would never wear it to compete. You don’t necessarily have to split it 50/50 and every instructor will have their preference but I believe it’s essential to at least mix it up every once in a while to make sure your skills are well balanced.

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The Stages of a Threat

Street Self DefenceWhen attacked on the street, one of two things will happen:

1. It will be a surprise attack, where you need to react immediately with whatever technique you have available.

2. The threat will build more slowly, where you have some time to plan for a proper counter-attack.

If you get forewarning of the attack, try to remove yourself from the situation before it escalates to a physical encounter. If somebody grabs or strikes you, you may need to engage your opponent for an unbalancing move, but this is not always necessary. If you have thought about possible scenarios beforehand, you may be able to de-escalate the situation, even if you have already been struck. Evaluate whether this is an isolated strike or grab, or whether there is a further threat to your safety. Granted, it is difficult to make such split second decisions in the midst of battle, so it helps to have done a considerable amount of thinking about possible scenarios beforehand. The nature of the threat can also be determined by knowing your opponent’s reason for attacking you. Is he looking for a fight? Is he venting his anger? Is he out to rob or control you? If you can’t de-escalate or get away, an unbalancing technique may be appropriate.

Once you have unbalanced your adversary, again try to get away. This may not always be possible, and you might decide to stay and subdue him on the ground. If you are the only one present, and there is little chance that somebody else will come and help you, a press to a sensitive part of your opponent’s anatomy may not be enough, because as soon as you let up, your opponent may again try to hurt you. A sharp blow, a breaking or dislocation technique, or a choke to render him unconscious may be more appropriate.

If it becomes necessary to engage an adversary, your actions must be done with full intent. You must be committed and powerful. A strike, grab, or unbalancing move does not work off of “technique” alone. Even if your technique is very accurate, if there is no power or intent behind it, it will not work. In the training hall, you might see people fly yards away when you redirect the motion of their attack. But on the street, the attack is not likely to happen with so much obvious momentum that you can really send your opponents flying that far. And if you can see the attack coming from a mile away, you can just as easily flee it all together.

How much force should one use? In theory, the answer is simple: enough to subdue the attacker, without seriously injuring or killing him. In reality, however, the answer is not so simple. If the attack is unexpected, you have little knowledge of your attacker’s motive, so it is more difficult to decide just how far to go. You must ensure your safety, until you no longer perceive a threat. The more you train in self-defense and chaotic situations, the easier it is to decide at the spur of the moment how much offense to use. This is because you train yourself to be more alert to situations that might require defense or offense, and so you are more aware of your own capabilities. If you train often, your mind will constantly be on self-preservation and, as a result, you will condition yourself to being ready with a moment’s notice.

Another interesting issue is how to determine when it is necessary to defend yourself at all, especially if it is a surprise attack. If a friend or co-worker pushes you from behind in an act of playfulness, it would be inappropriate to turn around and throw him hard on the concrete floor. So, even if you’re taken by surprise, you must still give yourself a moment to assess the situation.

Fb 30 day trial profileCome down to Arashi Do Edmonton and try out one of our great Brazilian programs like Fundamental BJJ, Women’s Only BJJ or Children’s BJJ for ages 4-7 and 8-14.

All those and you get a 30 DAY FREE TRIAL!  As well as our 30 minute Fast Fitness program for FREE!