Gi or No Gi? This is a question I’ve been asked a lot over the years and depending on who you’re talking to, you’ll get different answers.

Turns out, the question is not so simple, but I will give my 42 cents.

I trained only gi from white to black, and have now trained an equal amount of time in no-gi.

There are differences of course, but there were several points that made V.O.W. a mostly no-gi school. First, the importance of the gi. It is true, you will develop better defense to a certain degree. Much of this is due to there being more threats and control due to grips and the uniform itself. There are more guards, more throws, more submissions, more ways to off balance your opponent. So it would make sense your defense would need to be much better since you cant scramble or slip out of positions as easily.

The consequence of such control, typically means a slowing down of the game and less movement. Less movement doesn’t mean less skill is needed, some would argue even more is needed since one small moment of not addressing a grip could make all the difference. So there is a hyper awareness of grips specifically, especially in the beginning stages of a roll in the traditional uniform. All of this is great and extremely fun and interesting. I loved studying the gi all those years and thankful I did.

In no-gi, we lose the grips and we lose a bit of control and submissions the gi provides.

Control and grips need to be modified and we lose some guards and submissions all together! Spider guard, lasso guard, worm guard, and collar chokes just to name a few. This loss however leads to something interesting, a modification of the game. We gain MORE movement and a better understanding of positional control. This is huge and a major component to understanding Jiu-Jitsu. Because we don’t have grips, we need to know where to place our hands and when and how to lock them for optimal control.

Space management is critical for both top and bottom. When offensive in rash-guards, we are trying to eliminate as much space as possible since it’s much easier for our opponent to recover. In the traditional uniform, we can play a collar sleeve guard or spider guard while still maintaining control and connection.

In no-gi, you can make the argument you do more Jiu-Jitsu simply due to transitioning.

There is more opportunity for it because we don’t have the grips that traditional uniform does. In one roll I may change positions 30 times or more, in the uniform, I could hold and stay in a position for half the roll. This is apparent when studying tournaments and super fights. I once watched two 3rd degree black belts spend the first 10 minutes of a super fight grip fighting from standing.

This was interesting for me to watch since it is extremely important to establish good grips. But I noticed there wasn’t much “Jiu-Jitsu” being done. Yes, that is a major component to it, but I had to ask the question of whether or not grip fighting for 10 mins was better than actually rolling for 10 mins.

All that being said, there are certainly matches in the gi that move at a fast pace and change position and there are certainly no-gi matches where not much movement happens.

I believe technically we need both. Which is why I’ve kept a few gi classes at VOW and still encourage people to do both if they can. I don’t believe one is better than the other. I believe they both have their qualities and should be studied if you can.