Gi or no-gi is a polarising question in BJJ circles. Most people have a preference for one or the other. Calling it a preference is a little understated. Religious fervour would be more accurate.
The main difference between gi and no-gi is that you can grip the clothing. Essentially, gripping the gi acts as a strength multiplier. In BJJ, there is a strange hangup about strength. “You’re strong”, is a backhanded compliment in BJJ rather than a genuine compliment as in other sports. A core tenet held by most BJJers is that strength doesn’t matter, technique beats strength.
Now we can see why the gi or no-gi question raises such a passionate response. It’s touching people’s core beliefs about BJJ. People will tend to favour whichever style gives them the most success in their rolling as it reinforces their belief in BJJ being about technique rather than strength.
A grappling contest is not a contest of the athletes’ purely technical ability. It’s a contest of their technical ability combined with their physical attributes (strength, flexibility, explosiveness, etc).
Let’s see how the gi (strength multiplier) affects this contest.
If you are grappling against someone of similar skill, the contest comes down to attributes. Adding the gi will favour the stronger competitor. Conversely, removing the gi will favour the weaker competitor.
If you are grappling against someone of different skill, adding the gi will favour the more skilled competitor. Removing the gi will favour the less skilled competitor.
The gi provides a benefit against:
- stronger but less technically skilled opponents
- weaker but similarly skilled opponents
No-gi provides a benefit against:
- weaker and more technically skilled opponents
- stronger but similarly skilled opponents
Your preference for gi or no-gi is likely to be affected by the opponents that you regularly compete against. Here’s a cheatsheet to determine whether gi or no-gi will give you the advantage against an opponent. Consider your regular training partners and your preference for gi or no-gi. Notice a correlation?