This debate is a forever continuing circle and I have come to shed some light to it. As Brazilian jiu jitsu is a rapidly growing sport – both in competition and fan base, many newcomers that come to our BJJ school in Norwich, Norfolk, and professionals for that matter, might be getting the wrong idea about this whole gi vs no gi discussion. I believe the debate is quite a touchy subject that needs to be focused on and resolved as quickly as possible.
Ever since the no gi competitions have come around, this debate has existed and with good reason too. The no gi rule sort of breaks the traditional aspect of BJJ martial arts. The gi was worn by Japanese and Asian workers for centuries and, if anybody knows anything about history, martial arts was designed by the working class to help defend themselves against foreign invaders. This form of wear is essentially casual clothes for the culture. In fact, samurai would train heavily in their undergarments which closely resembled a gi.
The gi does have some modifications depending on what martial art you are in. For example, the jiu-jitsu gi is a lot heavier in weight and can not tear easily compared to the karate gi. Wearing the gi simply shows respect for the tradition and the art. However, like most debates, there are two sides to the story.
The pro gi-wearers say:
Many traditional and very important BJJ instructors mention that fighters need to have a certain level of experience with the gi before training without a gi during MMA and submission wrestling. They are simply able to better hone their grappling skills and choke holds. When a Gi is worn, it helps develop a slower and skilled game.
Many players have stated that their grip is far better when trying to generate leverage in a gi. When BJJ training; the handler is able to fine-tune his skills in a more compact and quicker way. Those who wear a gi are much more technical fighters and actually hold a greater number of no-gi titles. The prefect example of this is Marcelo Garcia, a black belt who holds multiple ADCC championships and is a heavily participator in Gracie Jiu Jitsu. He has completely crushed his weight class and won the entire division. This is an amazing accomplishment once you know that most of the opposing fighters completely outweighed him.
The no gi-wearers say:
Usually this is more in reference to MMA fighters. There are many players that rely extensively on the gi and this is their major downfall, especially during games that do not require the use of a gi. Eddie Bravo states that many prominent gi players are constantly at the mercy of ground’n’pound techniques. Another key point is, using a gi is a lot slower and when you are facing a MMA game that requires fast plays, it doesn’t make sense to train in it.
In reality, it is not an either/or scenario. Both are equally important for what you want to do. Learning both techniques can really open your mind to becoming a better and faster player. In fact, it is important to train with both. The gi can show you methods you wouldn’t have been able to learn without it and vice versa.