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Jiu-jitsu: Gi vs. No-Gi & the Belt System

Struggling to decide whether to train Gi or No-Gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? Here we discuss the differences and advantages of each and talk a little bit about the belt system.

To Gi or not to Gi? That is the question.

Gi and No-Gi are two forms of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training. Gi is wrestling and grappling while wearing a traditional Gi, and No-Gi is combat without the traditional Gi. For years, there has been a classic debate over the superior advantages of training in jiu-jitsu with and without the traditional, standard uniform. Developed from Japanese jujitsu, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a ground-fighting sport and art featuring self-defense techniques with occasional striking. These techniques include traditional joint locks, chokes, and takedowns meticulously taught through intense training and sparring. Mirroring clothing commonly worn by the Japanese at the time it was introduced, the Gi was mainly adopted from Japanese traditions to align with training standards of jiu-jitsu schools.

So, what changes when you train without the Gi?

Differences in Training and Technique

Changes in combat are the decrease in friction and less, weaker ways to grip, apply strangleholds, and tackle your opponent. Without the option of gripping the Gi worn by your opponent to control their body movement, there are fewer variations of effective ways to apply grips and strangleholds that are hard to escape. However, there is no drag during combat that is often generated by the cut and design of the uniform.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Triangle Setup
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Triangle Setup

Techniques change when training without the uniform. Because there are less ways to grip your opponent without a Gi, No-Gi training heavily focuses on speed, relying on a faster pace. In No-Gi training, strength and speed are the key advantages in moving into dominant positions; however, it is harder to pin and hold your opponent down to achieve submission, compared to Gi training.

Techniques change when training without the uniform. Because there are less ways to grip your opponent without a Gi, No-Gi training heavily focuses on speed, relying on a faster pace

Using a Gi lowers the need for natural strength and speed, and it decreases attention to the development of those skills. Grips and friction can slow competitors down. Instead, Gi training engages in more complex techniques within the art of leverage and force used to take down opponents. The Gi can be used for subduing opponents through lapel, sleeve, and collar grabs and for manipulation of their clothing against themselves.

Using a Gi lowers the need for natural strength and speed, and it decreases attention to the development of those skills.

In No-Gi training and grappling, competitors wear a rash guard and shorts without a belt. Advantageous when one is rolling, the Gi is a thick jacket, similar to a kimono top, that is worn with thick pants and a belt. According to progression of levels within the belt system, the belts range from white to black accompanied by stripes.

The Belt System

Brazilian jiu-jitsu takes a longer time to master than other martial arts because of the strict ranking system. There are different belt systems for children and adults. Children advance through a belt system consisting of the colors white, gray, yellow, orange, and green, and they begin their adult training with the blue belt. Adult students are promoted through the belt system in this order: white, blue, purple, brown, and black. Symbolizing life and death in Japanese culture, white is designated for beginners, and black symbolized mastery of the art. The color white symbolizes death, meaning the beginner student is prepared to embrace a martial arts lifestyle as a form of sacrifice. Black is the symbolic representation of maturity and triumph over a fear of death.

Jiu-Jitsu White Belt with 2 Stripes
Jiu-Jitsu White Belt with 2 Stripes

Belt Levels

Characterized by five levels, each belt comes with four stripes signifying rank in areas of behavior, performance, knowledge, and time. The belt will come loose when training and competing. Tying the Brazilian jiu-jitsu belt is learned during your first weeks of training because it is a sign of respect, a fundamental attribute in Japanese culture, to have a belt tied properly. It is also important because a loose belt can be disadvantageous when grappling and rolling.

Characterized by five levels, each belt comes with four stripes signifying rank in areas of behavior, performance, knowledge, and time.

A student is promoted when they have met the requirements of expected competency levels and abilities, as well as belt integrity, which is a direct reflection of the dynamic knowledge and skills of the art that the student demonstrates. Once a student is promoted, they can no longer compete in the previous belt level.

Advantages of Gi and No-Gi

Training with the use of a Gi creates further opportunity for more sweeps, submissions, and defense techniques. It also concentrates on and cultivates ability in maintaining positions, such as strangleholds and lockdowns. Training in a Gi builds a solid foundation in defense in students because of the unrestricted myriad of options. This upholds the groundwork of the art of jiu-jitsu: self-defense.

No-Gi training creates less friction and more freedom in movement. Students who train without a Gi master their skills more effectively because they have less techniques to learn to execute with precision. Because strength and speed are more important in No-Gi training, these students become better at offense.

Training in a Gi builds a solid foundation in defense in students because of the unrestricted myriad of options.

There are disadvantages and advantages to both forms of jiu-jitsu, but training in both helps one better understand both defense and offense skills in the rigorous practice of this martial art.

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