Why Should You Train in the Gi if you Prefer No Gi?

By Christal Montoya

One of the never ending debates within BJJ is: why should you train in the gi if you can learn jiu jitsu without it? Each side has their argument regarding the utility of the gi. The one you’ll hear most from the no gi only camp is: “Well, what about in a street fight? I’m not going be able to rely on gripping someone’s lapel to collar choke them!” I don’ think this is necessarily true. Jackets and shirts have collars and sleeves and I’m pretty sure John Wick has used a collar choke in one of the movies. Jokes aside; just because training in the gi may seem impractical to some, it doesn’t mean that it’s not useful or that you can’t learn something from it.

Personally, I think both methods have a lot to offer in addition to their own challenges and it often seems that preference comes from which method you start training in. I started training jiu jitsu in the gi and was very resistant to no gi. It seemed gross, way too sweaty, and too intimate. Yes, jiu jitsu is nothing but constant physical contact but at least with the gi, there is essentially a five pound cotton sack that creates a barrier between you and the other person and provides tons of places to grip. No gi takes away those grips and creates a problem: what do I do with my hands?! Because of this background, I can’t really comment on what it’s like to go from no gi to training in the gi besides what I’ve observed and that almost always is that it comes back to the fight example and how the gi creates unrealistic expectations.

So if the real world expectation is that the gi won’t save you in a real fight, why should you bother training in it? To get an answer with more substance than my personal opinion and observations, I asked my coach, Chris Cariaso. He has fought MMA professionally in the UFC and because of this background it’s easy to assume that he would have a preference for no gi. However, he is actually an advocate for training in the gi! Chris said that it is important to train in the gi simply because it makes you more technical. Since the gi creates friction and removes the slickness that no gi provides, you have to really rely on your technique. Training in the gi removes your ability to use strength to force your way out of a bad position from the equation. It creates a challenge and forces you to slow down and make sure you really understand what you’re doing. Even if the gi is not your thing, it’s important to train in it for this reason alone. At the end of the day, it provides you with an opportunity to improve your game, regardless of whether you are training only jiu jitsu or are looking to compete in MMA.

With four more AZBJJF tournaments remaining in 2018, there are opportunities to compete in both gi and no gi divisions. If you are looking for an opportunity to compete in No Gi, be sure to check out the inaugural AZ State No Gi Championship on August 11th at Phoenix College!