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[EXPLAINED] Gi Vs NoGi BJJ | 16 Things To Know Before You Start

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NoGi is an evolution of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that’s taken the world by storm.

In this post you’ll discover:

  1. What NoGi is and if it can still be considered Jiu-Jitsu
  2. What you wear when training Gi and NoGi
  3. Which is harder to learn and which is most popular
  4. Which is best for self-defense and MMA
  5. What you should start learning first
  6. Differences between Gi and NoGi competition
  7. The best gyms to learn NoGi

Let’s get into it.


What Does NoGi Mean?

The name NoGi came about because people needed a way of distinguishing between training with the traditional gi or kimono, and without. NoGi simply stands for “without a gi”, where training and competing are done in shorts and normally a rash guard or barechested.

In NoGi you can’t use your opponent’s clothing to grip like you would in the gi.

Training and competing in NoGi requires its own unique set of grappling skills and even has a slightly different ruleset which I’ll come to in a bit.

ALSO READ: [ULTIMATE CARE GUIDE] How To Wash Your Jiu-Jitsu Gi Without Shrinking It

Is NoGi Still Jiu-Jitsu?

NoGi shares many similarities to martial arts like Luta Livre from Brazil, the Soviet martial art called Sambo, and even traditional freestyle wrestling with added submissions. However, NoGi can still be considered Jiu-Jitsu because it evolved as a form of BJJ and uses many of the same techniques.

NoGi is even taught as a separate class in Jiu-Jitsu gyms.

Most have embraced it as a fun variation of the art, with some even deciding to specialize in it.

Does NoGi Have Belts?

Belts in Jiu-Jitsu are the way we grade experience and skill, and we use this same grading system in NoGi. Even though you don’t wear a belt while training, you’ll still receive a ceremonial belt as a way of tracking your progress. If you’re a blue belt in Gi, you’ll also be a blue belt in NoGi and vice-versa.

Yet another reason why NoGi is still considered Jiu-Jitsu and not a completely separate art form.

It’s taught by the same coaches in the same gyms, uses the same ranking system, and you’ll often train with the same people in both Gi and NoGi.

ALSO READ: [BEGINNERS GUIDE] How To Get Your BJJ Blue Belt Faster

What Do You Wear In Gi and NoGi?

The one distinguishing factor between Gi and Nogi is what you wear when you train.

What you wear influences the techniques you use, the level of control you can achieve, and the overall pace of the fight.

Gi BJJ Uniform

For Gi Jiu-Jitsu you’ll wear a traditional kimono or gi which consists of trousers and a gi top.

You also wear a belt around your waist to keep your gi closed, and indicates your level of progression from white belt to coral belt.

Normally a rash guard is worn under your gi, but some opt to train and compete without one.

Important: Most gyms now require you to wear a rash guard under your gi

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NoGi BJJ Uniform

In NoGi Jiu-Jitsu you’ll wear either shorts or tight spats and a rash guard.

Some practitioners opt to do NoGi without a top, preferring to train and compete bare-chested.

By doing this their sweat provides a slippery layer on their skin, making submissions on them difficult.

Rash guards have a wicking effect, absorbing and evaporating your sweat.

Important: Rash guards are a requirement for most gyms now

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What’s Better: Gi or NoGi?

Deciding which is better between Gi and NoGi BJJ is very much a personal choice. Each one has its own set of skills, with its own pros and cons. Objectively, NoGi is the better form to learn if you’re going into MMA or want to learn to control your opponent without the use of grips and friction from the gi.

Forcing yourself to be more effective at controlling an opponent without grips helps you grasp important principles like:

  1. Defensive framing to avoid being controlled
  2. Using your limbs as wedges for control
  3. Dominant positioning and transitioning between these positions
  4. Effecient use of technique to avoid gassing out

You’ll also learn these principles in Gi, but you’ll learn them faster in NoGi.

ALSO READ: [EXPLAINED] 6 Reasons Why You Need A Rash Guard For BJJ

Is Gi or NoGi More Popular?

With the introduction and rapid growth of tournaments like ADCC, EBI (CJJ or Combat Jiu-Jitsu), and the emergence of MMA, NoGI Jiu-Jitsu has overtaken Gi in popularity. NoGi is a faster, more casual version of Jiu-Jitsu that’s applicable to a much wider field of sports than Gi.

Many practitioners will tell you they prefer NoGi because of the freedom and variety of techniques it offers.

Most notably, techniques like heel hooks and knee-reaping which are normally illegal in the gi are completely legal and even encouraged in NoGi.

Is NoGi Harder Than Gi?

NoGi tends to be a higher cardio output than Gi because you’re constantly moving and slipping in and out of positions. However, training in the gi introduces it’s own unique challenges. Increased control, reduced movement, and the variety of submissions using lapels make Gi harder to learn than NoGi.

This is not to say that NoGi isn’t difficult to learn.

Both disciplines require a lot of commitment and time on the mats to improve and develop as a complete fighter.

The good news is: With time, you can get really good at both.

ALSO READ: [ULTIMATE GUIDE] Use Video To Learn BJJ Faster Online

Is NoGi Better for Self-Defense?

The debate between Gi or NoGi being better for self-defense has been ongoing for years.

Since you never know where or how a self-defense scenario will present itself, it’s best to train both Gi and NoGi. Gi develops skills for fighting someone wearing a jacket or garment strong enough to use for submissions. NoGi is used when grips are limited, like someone wearing a t-shirt.

Learning only one or the other limits your ability to defend yourself.

When it comes to self-defense, you want to be as effective as possible in most situations.

I suggest training your least favorite Jiu-Jitsu (Gi or NoGi) a couple of times a week to at least be proficient at it.

Is Gi or NoGi Better for MMA?

MMA uniforms closely resemble what we wear for NoGi training, simply a pair of shorts and a top for women. Meaning the control and submission techniques you learn in NoGi are perfect for transferring to MMA. Most MMA fighters train NoGi exclusively, supplemented by wrestling for additional control and takedowns.

NoGi submission techniques combined with the takedowns and power of wrestling are often the deciding factor for who’ll win a fight.

If you’re getting into MMA, make sure you’re building a solid base of NoGi BJJ from the start.

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Does NoGI Help Gi?

Training exclusively Gi BJJ makes you too reliant on using gi grips for control and submission. If you supplement your training with NoGi, you’ll start seeing many of the same control and submission opportunities in the gi. So training NoGi definitely helps to improve and develop your Gi Jiu-Jitsu.

Understanding how to control and submit someone without grips also helps to fool your opponent.

They might think they’re safe in certain positions by denying you grips, but you can often use this to your advantage and go for techniques they wouldn’t be expecting.

Should Beginners Start Gi or NoGi First?

Starting BJJ as a beginner you should be trying to learn the fundamentals of grip fighting, positional dominance, transitions, and submissions which are all more pronounced in the gi. Starting with Gi gives you a more complete grasp of the BJJ concept you’ll use in both Gi and NoGi.

Often people will start with NoGi and avoid the gi altogether.

This is the worst thing you can do if you’re looking to be the most effective BJJ practitioner possible.

Learning to manage your energy under heavy opponents, dealing with sticky control positions and the wider variety of submissions in the gi is important for your development in both Gi and Nogi.

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Are There Any NoGI Only Gyms

The 10th Planet gyms started by Eddie Bravo focus exclusively on NoGi Jiu-Jitsu. Eddie’s reasoning is that he wanted to develop a NoGi system that would work for both BJJ and MMA. His positions like Mission Control from the guard and crazy submissions like the Twister are used at all levels in BJJ and MMA now.

Eddie’s brand of BJJ is very unique, even starting his own tournaments like EBI (Eddie Bravo Invitational) and CJJ (Combat Jiu-Jitsu) to showcase it.

Interestingly, CJJ is a hybrid of MMA and BJJ where competitors can palm-strike (slap) each other once they’re on the ground.

Many Jiu-Jitsu athletes use this as a learning step before moving into MMA.

Some MMA athletes looking to take things a bit easier (because they’re near retirement or between fights) also enjoy competing in CJJ.

ALSO READ: How Eddie Bravo Develops His Jiu-Jitsu

Gi Vs NoGi Competition

The biggest difference between Gi and NoGi competitions is the use of your uniform for grips. In Gi, you can use lapels and sleeves for grips and submissions. In NoGi you can’t grab hold of the uniform at all. The use of knee-reaping and heel hook submissions are also exclusive to NoGi Jiu-Jitsu.

Professional BJJ athletes will often train exclusively NoGi if they have a NoGi tournament coming up.

This is to get used to the differences in rules and techniques which can often be the deciding factor in a match.

Does IBJJF Do NoGi?

The IBJJF has been hosting NoGi divisions in their tournaments since the inception of their World NoGi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championship in 2007. In October of 2020, the IBJJF went further by announcing the inclusion of heel hooks and knee-reaping in their ruleset for brown and black belts.

This was met by widespread approval in the BJJ community since the IBJJF are the largest Jiu-Jitsu tournament organizers in the world.

Are we going to see NoGi overtaking Gi as the dominant style of Jiu-Jitsu?

Maybe not, but I’m sure happy it exists.

READ MORE: [ULTIMATE CAREER GUIDE] How To Make Money In Jiu-Jitsu Without A Gym