The Gi vs No-gi Debate (Part I)


There is an ongoing debate between gi and no-gi grapplers. In case you are new to this let me lay out the basics of the debate. First there are those who think that gi grappling is essential to grappling skill development and that training with the gi will enhance your no-gi ability. On the other hand there are those who claim that grappling in the gi offers no advantage to no-gi or mma competitors. These folks claim that you should train the way to intend to compete and there is little or no carryover from gi to no-gi. There are some other points of course but this gets at the heart of it.

It seems the lines are clearly drawn and each camp has some big names behind it. Both have arguments that make sense. I’ve thought about this question for many years so let me give you my take on it.

First here are some first-hand observations that I have made regarding the connection between gi and no-gi grappling:

  • Gi-grappling is slower and more methodical. No-gi is faster with more scrambling.
  • Gi-grappling forces a more technical defense due to greater friction. You can’t simply slide or slip out of holds.
  • No-gi grappling tightens up your offense. Not having material to grab means you have to hug and squeeze more.
  • Students seem to become proficient grapplers faster when they start with the gi.
  • It is easier to get someone to transition into no-gi grappling from gi grappling than vice versa.
  • Both are equally applicable to self-defense. People don’t wear gis on the street but they do wear pants and jackets for part of the year.

To be continued…

Brian Jones, PhD

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