What’s the difference between gi and no-gi jiu-jitsu?
As mentioned above, the key difference between gi and no-gi jiu-jitsu is the clothing. Traditionally in BJJ, you’ll wear a gi or “kimono”. A gi is just a heavy cotton jacket with a thick collar, drawstring pants, and a cotton belt which is coloured to denote rank. When you practice jiu-jitsu in a gi, you’re generally able to grab and use both you and your opponent’s gi, including the collar, lapel, pants and sleeves in your techniques.
None of these clothing “handles” exists in no-gi, and you’re generally not allowed to grab your opponent’s clothing during your roll. Instead of using clothing to help control and submit your opponent, you’ll use body mechanics and techniques like overhooks and balance. There’s less friction in no-gi. A gi creates plenty of friction when worn, especially when it becomes wet with sweat. This affects slowing down matches and forces you to wait for the right opportunity and then address each obstacle to your goal in turn. This means the sparring round is less like a scramble, and physical speed doesn’t outpace tactics. Friction makes it harder to use speed and strength to make up for lack of technique when wearing a gi.
There are fewer grips in no-gi. A gi has a thick collar, lapel, sleeves and pant legs you can grip to help control your opponent. Training in no-gi forces students to improve the technical aspects of pinning and submissions because they can’t rely on the gi grips and friction to work for them. Instead, they must use their body positioning to help immobilise their opponents when trying to submit them. There are fewer stranglehold opportunities in no-gi.
Gi pros and cons
Additional sweeps and submissions are available in gi.
The gi might help build better defensive skills because increased friction and grips make it more difficult.
Increased friction in gi can be used to make up for poor submission techniques.
No-gi pros and cons
No-gi might build stronger offensive skills because of the lack of friction and grips forces you to develop better body positioning skills.
More relevant to MMA or self-defence training
Might not build defensive skills as well as gi because there are less grips and friction