GI or no GI? Redefining an old question


I am often asked which is better, training Jiu Jitsu with or without the Gi or Kimono?  This is an excellent question, but I also hate the answers most present to this question.  People tried to answer it ten years ago, and then they revisit it again and again with perpetual black and white statements and emotionally charged opinions. We will explore the logic behind several popular answers, and then I will give you a simple interpretation of application. 


The Jiu Jitsu GI seems to be best used as a friction device.  This is obvious.  I’ve had access to successful people in Jiu Jitsu, lots of them, and have seen how they perform differently with or without it.  People often obsess about which was the core of their training, and then their other obsession is who is better at GI and no GI Jiu Jitsu.  Which has a higher vertical leap, Cows or Llamas?  Both are classified as Ungulates and often observed ruminating, meaning they have four separate stomach chambers, and by geographical climate have different shaped feet despite their shared classification.  Still not enough information to answer the question?  Don’t even mention world class competition.  Few will ever be able to relate to that level of understanding and performance.  Who is usually asking the question on GI or no GI training?  A world champion?  Not at all, often a beginner who is looking for a training path.  That was one of my first questions.  I wanted to choose the best one and stick with it.  If you don’t think the answer has changed in all of these years…  You just might be wrong. 


Your average no GI school follows the typical Jiu Jitsu format, with a variable level of instruction.  Depending on how many hours it has been since they last showered, will affect how much oil is on their skin.  When it combines with sweat, it is even more slippery.  There may or may not be air conditioning.  Some schools are well air conditioned, and students dry off quickly.  It is sometimes very slippery, and sometimes not at all.  They are used to fewer moves compared to a GI Jiu Jitsu practitioner because the GI allows there to be finishes when there aren’t any true openings for chokes or arm locks.  You could argue that training methods, degree of technical knowledge or instruction, cognitive potential and reserve, and realm of submissions are all factors.  If we were to be critical of only no GI practitioners and say that they are less technical because they use less moves, then maybe they would consider replacing what would have been GI submissions and sweeps with leg lock mastery, additional repetitions of naked arm chokes, wrestling techniques, and judo techniques.  Maybe at this point they will have enough moves to be technical.  Will the GI make their escapes better?  Sure.  But do they know how to defend against judo and wrestling techniques?  Or do they know how to escape and reverse all versions of leg locks, or defend against someone who has more naked arm choke finishes than they have escaped?