Should Nogi only Guys Receive Belts?

BJJ Belt

In Jiu-Jitsu we have 3 general camps of thought. The first is the old school mentality that Jiu-Jitsu should always be trained in the Kimono. The Second is the more modern thought that we should train both in the gi and nogi. Lastly we have the idea that we should only train nogi. I do not want to argue over which school of thought is the best, however I do want to dive into a related topic. The one thing many people find odd about the nogi only grapplers is that they are still awarded “belts”. These belts are presented upon promotion, but never really worn.  Many people have been discussing this lately so I wanted to present an argument for why nogi grapplers should not be awarded Jiu Jitsu “belts”. This is not an attempt to bash the nogi only guys. I highly respect what they do, but I do think that presenting belts is both pointless and raises a few issues within the community.

  • Like I said, it is pointless to award actual belts. The belt is realistically what holds the gi together and in nogi it is unnecessary and not used. I understand that it provides a sentiment to the level of achievement, but a certificate would do the same thing.
  • The belt idea comes from traditional martial arts, which nogi only training really abandons. The Nogi only style is closer to wresting/catch wrestling in many ways than a traditional martial art.
  • This one is going to start some debates for sure…. Awarding belts to nogi grapplers provides a false representation of the art. What I mean by this is that when someone says they are a black belt nogi, most new students don’t understand the difference and this can raise some issues. Further a black belt in nogi does not usually have many of the gi techniques at their arsenal and thus this raises further issues. What does real Jiu Jitsu require we know?  In my eyes a Jiu Jitsu black belt should be able to teach both gi and nogi. But in some cases this cannot be said for those who train strictly nogi.

What do you think? Should nogi only grapplers still be awarded belt or is it better to just provide some type of certificate to their level of advancement?


  1. I tend to agree overall. Gi and No Gi Jiu Jitsu should be practiced/trained simply for completeness. If you wear clothes, you’re wearing a Gi. The Gi serves a two-fold purpose; 1) to mimic/represent clothing you wear every day (Jacket, trousers etc) and 2) to provide sturdy material for learning/using/practice that would otherwise rapidly destroy common, everyday street clothing.

    No-Gi represents in general REALLY casual clothing; T-shirt and shorts etc. Yet even the rash-guards and spats are designed, again, to withstand training techniques/practice etc.

    Many of the techniques in both branches of the art are exact duplicates of each other. A choke is a choke, an arm bar is an arm bar, an omoplata is an omoplata, a leg lock remains a leg lock. Yet these two branches still mimic/represent different styles of clothing.

    Why is this important or of interest? The roots of the art go back to the overall purpose of the art: Self Defense. Each ‘style’ of clothing has different advantages as well as disadvantages. One gives you ‘handles’ and places to grip for technique while the other removes those ‘handles’ thus necessitating alteration of technique/adjustment of approach for differing self defense situations and even virtual elimination of some effective techniques.

    AS such, it is painfully evident (to me at least) that in order to be Complete and Competent in Self Defense one needs to practice both branches. It’s Jiu Jitsu, you’re learning things that can save you or a loved one in dire circumstanses, WHY would you not practice both? One (No GI) comes DIRECTLY from the other and is, at least in my opinion, an adjunct to the original (Gi) Practice both. You get a belt when you practice Gi, when you practice No Gi, there is no belt involved.

    Finally, IF one practices No Gi EXCLUSIVELY and to the complete and utter exclusion of Gi Jiu Jitsu, I also think there should be no ‘belt’ involved. There are ‘Rash Guard rank equivalents. Let those be awarded, maybe, but again, No Gi EXCLUSIVELY? Your art is incomplete, you don’t have or won’t acquire the technique or the knowledge of the complete art. Thus you don’t need a Jiu Jitsu belt.

    Wear a rank approximating Rash Guard if you do No Gi exclusively. That should suffice as it gives you a general idea of where on the Sport scale you may be. But to ignore one to the exclusion of the other (and this applies to BOTH schools) is to practice an incomplete Martial Art. IF your art is incomplete or ignores other thought and technique, perhaps you shouldn’t have a belt at all. Just get a piece of rope. 🙂

  2. For your last point I believe it’s all up to the professor awarding the belt. Many gi black belts are a bad representation of the art just as nogi guys could be promoted prematurely.

  3. If your jiu-jitsu doesn’t work on the mats,the street or help you survive in a cage our wasting your time Gi or Nogi . I promote both because is for the person whos doing it.

  4. Here’s a scenario…

    I never trained grappling before walking into my Instructors Gym. He is a Brazilian from Sao Paulo and one of the first to come to California and teach BJJ. His gym is very busy, and offers a full schedule starting at 6am and the last class ending at 9pm During the day they offer 6 classes, 6 days a week. 3 gi and 3 nog everyday.

    Because of my schedule, the nogi classes fit into my training routine better, and before I knew it I had invested over a decade training in my Brazilian instructors ‘Submission Grappling” program….

    Now after a decade of training, and an accomplished grappling resume I started looking at opening my own school…

    When I first went to my instructor to tell him I was finally looking at opening my own gym, I explained to him it wasn’t going to be a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school…because I didn’t want to run Gi classes.

    My instructor was offended, saying that even though I was not wearing the Gi…I was teaching his techniques, his moves, after almost a decade of training twice a day, 6 times a week with him.

    While I was willing to name it my own fighting system, my instructor was even more offended at that prospect, because of the amount of time he spent developing ‘my style’—(in reality his style of teaching developed my style of grappling)

    ,,,Long story short—I explained to him that if he expected me to represent him after a decade of training, then I expected to be belted under his lineage.

    ….And thus, if a guy only trains Nogi, but it is at a Brazilian BJJ school, under a brazilian BJJ instructor, during scheduled BJJ training….then I don’t see how you can refuse to promote him…unless you don’t mind him teaching your techniques without giving the lineage credit.

  5. There is way too much attention spent on belts. Master Helio wore a blue belt. I trained in wrestling for 10 years. Now I train in Jiu Jitsu. I have one stripe on my white belt, yet I am able to take down and control every brown belt in my class, which no blue belt can do. The belt system is a riddle wrapped in an enigma. Everyone should just chill the fuck out and train.

  6. The “certificate” idea is nonsense, ranks earned are directly associated with the equivalent belt. You earn the promotion, you earn the belt.
    But if you’re going to consider no gi essentially incomplete and not grant belt promotions, then the parallel of those who train exclusively in the gi should not be granted belted promotions as they’re training is missing the no gi/casual clothing aspect.
    Then we can split hairs on percentages. If you live in a hotter climate, should you train more no gi as REALISTICALLY you’ll probably be fighting people in lighter clothing? Train more gi if you live in Alaska since you’re more likely to fight someone in cold weather gear? To paraphrase George Carlin “Anyone who drives slower than you is an idiot and anyone who drives faster than you is crazy” Do what’s good for YOU and don’t try to impose what’s best for you on others.

    This should be a non-issue as it spreads divisiveness instead of reinforcing a sense of community and family. As David put it in his response “…just chill the fuck out and train” ???

  7. Agree 100% but NoGi is legit if taught correctly and most schools are business’s and a belt system is important for recruitment and retention. This is double true when teaching children. Maybe they should have a promotion system that does not mirror the GI system but they should not abandon a promotion system all together. I was only NoGi for my first three years then added two Gi classes 2-3 times a week and I will say Gi really improves your NoGi game. In defense especially as when you spar or compete in Gi you have so much more to defend against that when you spar NoGi it seems so easy then. On the offensive side so much of it applies to NoGi but I admit their are moves you will drill that you will never attempt in NoGi or a real fight but are just fun to pull off.

  8. Years ago, I was part of a small team that only trained nogi. When our group feel apart, one of my teammates went to a BJJ school and continued to train nogi. After several years and many absolute championships later, he was asked to represent the school in a gi competition. He was “ranked” purple so he could compete. He is now a BB, with legit lineage and has earned every bit of it.

  9. I personally have to disagree with this article. To assume that wrestling isn’t a traditional martial art is to forget that it came from Ancient Greece, a time way before feudal Japan, and way way WAY before Mitsuyo Maeda arrived in Brazil. So to say that a traditional martial art must revolve around wearing a kimono of some sort isn’t exactly accurate. Look at the way black belts are dished out in karate, I’d say most black belts in BJJ (both gi and no-gi) have worked 10 times harder than many of the karate black belts. Like you said, the belt is symbolic. No-gi jiujitsu has had influences from wrestling and catch wrestling but let’s not pretend that it isn’t directly derived from BJJ without the gi. It’s still jiu jitsu, and let’s be honest, rashguards can cost $50 each so imagine doing a full belt promotion for a large class? I think that negates the concept of handing out ranked rash guards as not every club can afford to do that. Lastly, it negates the idea that there aren’t legitmate jiu jitsu teams, such as 10th Planet, who have very high level technical blackbelts who could submit many black belts who have trained in both gi and no gi. At the end of the day, a no gi grappler being awarded a belt does not affect the next man WHATSOEVER, so I agree with the notion that we should all shut the **** up and train!

  10. In that case Gi practitioner’s should never earn a belt just stay white belt the entire time because the belt is only to hold the gi, so why even move up in rank when it just holds the Gi closed😄, the belts are to show your years of dedication, your argument is void.


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