Is Jiu Jitsu done without the gi still Jiu Jitsu?

stinky gi

Does jiu jitsu exist without the gi?  Recently BJJ Eastern Europe posted an article (Carlos Gracie: ‘Jiu-Jitsu Without The Gi Is Not Jiu-Jitsu’) about Carlos Gracie saying “For me, Jiu Jitsu without Gi can be everything, but not Jiu Jitsu.”  I saw this article reposted by BJJ black belt and owner of a Team Crave facility, Yaniv Rosenberg.  Yaniv was making the argument that jiu jitsu outside of the gi is submission grappling, and NOT jiu jitsu.  I certainly do not purport to know even a fraction of what the cofounder of BJJ knew, but I have some thoughts on this matter that I’d like to explore.

For starters, the moves and techniques we learn that do not rely upon the presence of the gi can be done in the absence of the gi.  A triangle choke is a triangle choke whether or not I am wearing a heavy cloth garment.  If I am competing and my gi top falls off but I am able to somehow secure and finish a triangle choke before the ref can get the gi back onto me, did that match somehow go from being a jiu jitsu match to NOT being a jiu jitsu match?

The moves that we learn do not exist in a vacuum.  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu emerged from Judo, and the Judo gi is very similar to the BJJ gi.  Also, Sambo uses a gi top but not gi pants.  If a Judoka or a Sambo practitioner uses a move that is also taught in BJJ is it BJJ?  Or is it Judo or Sambo?

By Carlos Gracie’s purported logic in this quote, the uniform defines what is being done.  However, Carlos and his brother taught a method that was intended to be used for self defense.  Most people do not wear their gis outside of training/competition, if a jiu jitsu practitioner gets into an altercation in the street and uses the techniques they were taught in BJJ while NOT wearing a gi, are those techniques not BJJ?

An argument I’ve seen made is that jiu jitsu traditionally was done in the gi, and in order to get a legitimate promotion one must train in the gi.  The reality is that there is a whole world of technique that cannot be learned in the absence of the gi.  There are chokes, sweeps, and entire styles of guard (lapel guard, spider guard etc) that rely upon the presence of a gi.  One cannot possibly learn the full range of moves that BJJ offers us without training in the gi.  They may have amazing arm bars and triangles but chances are their ability to address or deliver a bow and arrow choke is non existent.

I would say that if you do not train in the gi, you might be learning jiu jitsu, but you are also not exposing yourself to an entire set of moves, positions and situations that are crucial to a complete understanding of the art.  Jiu Jitsu is a set of moves and concepts that transcend any garment, but the full, traditional jiu jitsu experience includes training in the gi.

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Emil Fischer is an active black belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training at Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center near Cleveland Ohio ( and teaching at Ararat Martial Arts and FItness Center. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at and Emil is sponsored by Meerkatsu (, discount code EmilKatsu), Eddy's On Coventry, North Coast Cryo ( NottaRookie, YM ( discount code COOKIES), Defense Soap ( discount code COOKIES) Impact Mouthguards ( discount code EMILIMPACT), and North South Jiu Jitsu Underwear


  1. As a guy who trains in a gi, the gi can transfer to everyday self defense easily as a gi mimics jackets and clothing. Where no-gi has its place. Traditional bjj is do e in a gi.

  2. Is Judo done without the gi still Judo? Is Karate done without the gi stil Karate? Is Tae Kwon Do done without the gi still Tae Kwon Do? Is Sambo done in street clothes still Sambo? Of course they are, as is Jiu Jitsu.

    The Gi is designed to mimic clothing but able to withstand the rigors and stress of practice, training and competition which everyday, normal clothing cannot if subjected to it repeatedly. If you wear clothes, you’re wearing a gi.

    Ask yourself this: If you’re attacked on the street and you use any martial art to defend yourself, is it still Judo/Karate/Tae Kwon Do/Sambo/Jiu Jitsu? OF COURSE THEY ARE!!! Figure it out.


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