A very common discussion in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is that of the merits of Gi vs. No Gi. Many people argue that No Gi should reign supreme as people dont wear Gis in street fights or in the MMA cage so No Gi is more realistic. On the other side of this debate, many people feel that the friction caused by the Gi makes submissions more difficult to escape thus making the act of escape require better technique, also there is an argument made that peoples regular clothing can be used like the Gi. Then there are people (like me) who sit smack dab in the middle and feel there are merits to both, and that both should be practiced. What is the right answer?
My coach has said on many occasions that he believes that No Gi enhances physical characteristics of its practitioners, meaning a person can use their physical attributes in a more apparent way. Ive personally experienced this when rolling against people at tournaments. People are able to explode out of submission attempts with greater efficacy when doing No Gi than when in the Gi. This is a double edged sword because when those people are wearing a Gi the friction makes them need to use technique instead of their physical strength, which can be troublesome. Ive seen people get hurt trying to explode out of techniques in the Gi that they could have easily gotten out of in No Gi. This is both an argument for AND against training No Gi. One needs to be aware of the potential for strength to be a major factor, and relying purely on technique can occasionally fail when dealing with someone substantially stronger. On the other hand, training in the Gi makes escapes much more effective and on the occasion when the Gi is not present escapes are more reliable.
The use of clothing to execute Jiu Jitsu moves has recently become part of popular culture in both the TV show Gotham as well as the movie John Wick. In both shows, we see an assailant use either their clothing or the other persons clothing to execute chokes. This skill can be very useful as people dont generally walk around shirtless, and in colder seasons people wear jackets/coats that can be used in exactly the same way as a Gi. For this reason training in the Gi is necessary to provide a full experience.
Ive heard it said that Gi and No Gi are two sides of the same coin and that if you dont train both you will inevitably have serious gaps in your repertoire. I personally prefer training in the Gi as it allows me to work more slowly and process everything that is happening, whereas I find the inherent speed of No Gi to be a bit off-putting. However I do find that given that I started with No Gi I tend to do better at No Gi competition, but thats just my experience.
Whatever you decide to do, just know that every minute spent on the mat is valuable regardless of what sort of attire you are wearing. Anyone who neglects either side of their game is missing out on part of the Jiu Jitsu experience.
Emil Fischer is an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training with Strong Style Brasa and is sponsored by Pony Club Grappling Gear. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at www.facebook.com/emilfischerbjj and www.twitter.com/Emil_Fischer