Is No-Gi Better For MMA?

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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a fighting technique that became popular among mixed martial arts (MMA) fans when Royce Gracie won the first UFC, and many MMA champions use Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. With this martial art, fighters learn to use their opponent’s weight against them by various holding techniques to successfully put the opponent into submission by bringing him to the ground. It’s now recognized as one of the most efficient martial arts you can use during an MMA fight.

is no gi better for mma

In MMA, almost every single fighter trains in Jiu-Jitsu; however, practitioners struggle to reach an agreement when discussing techniques to apply during training. These expert’s debates can be summed up in a single question: Is no Gi better for MMA, or should fighters practice with a Gi?

We’ll explore the differences between the two styles, so keep reading to find out which style you should adopt for your practice.

Gi Vs. No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu

If you already practice another martial art, you’re probably already familiar with what a Gi is. For those who don’t know, it’s the official uniform for the practice of many Japanese martial arts. It resembles a kimono with a belt, and like in any dojo, and you train barefoot. However, no gloves or pads are needed in BJJ since you are not allowed to strike the opponent.

no gi

The use of a Gi helped the martial art develop by making it more institutional with a rank shown by the belt you wear. It helped Jiu-Jitsu to get recognized as a respectable form of martial art at a time when all other disciplines were about punches and kicks. It was hard to grant BJJ an official reputation as it used techniques considered unsportsmanlike back then. 

This martial art is all about wrestling your opponent to the ground and incapacitating him until he gives up. So, contrary to many other martial arts, you can only win with a submission; there are no knockouts since striking isn’t allowed. Moreover, bringing an opponent to the ground first doesn’t mean you’re winning. There’s almost always a way to escape or reverse a BJJ technique if the fighter possesses the necessary skills.

Later on, some people started to doubt the practicality of gi-based Jiu-Jitsu, which gave birth to the no-gi style. This style is more aggressive, with an emphasis put on speed and strength. It quickly became a staple of MMA, with the greatest UFC champions using BJJ to beat their opponent. However, both styles present some differences due to their very nature, and fighters develop unique techniques depending on whether they practice using a Gi or not. Here’s how they differ from one another.

Gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is all about using your opponent’s weight to bring him to the ground and submit him. With a Gi, the training relies more on technique and being able to place yourself right to hinder your opponent. You can use the collar, the sleeves, and any piece of clothing you’re wearing or that your opponent is wearing to achieve your goal.

Techniques specific to gi practice

When practicing Gi BJJ, you’ll learn unique techniques. These techniques will develop your defensive and reversal skills. Here are a few techniques that are only possible when you have a Gi.

  • The Lasso Guard: The lasso guard is a versatile technique where you wrap your legs around an enemy’s arm. It’s an excellent technique to reverse a hold when you’re pinned down and on your back.
  • The Ezekiel Choke: With the Ezekiel choke, you use your own sleeve to create a lock around your opponent’s head. When well-executed, it can completely block his movements, and you can even slide it inside the opponent’s guard.
  • The Spider Guard Sweep: When you’re on your back with legs around the opponent’s torso, this sweep gives you an incredible palette of movements to turn the situation to your advantage. By grabbing the opponent’s sleeves and pushing on his quadriceps, you can slide to the side and break his arm guard. It’s a devastating technique that leaves the opponent defenseless and open to a counter.
  • The Clock Choke: This technique sees you pass your arms around your opponent’s torso when he’s kneeled and with the head facing the ground. You can then grab his sleeve and use the power drive from your leg to spin on your back and bring him in a choke hold on his back. This is such a devastating technique that JT Torres won the gold in 2014 at the American Nationals Championships using it.

No-Gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

When training without a Gi, your grabbing opportunities are reduced, so you must rely on your strength and speed to win. The absence of clothing you can grab means your techniques will focus on immobilizing the opponent’s limbs and often reaching for the neck for a quick submission. 

Moreover, you’ll fight shirtless, and this implies sweating. This makes the fight more challenging as you can slip while holding, or your opponent can escape your techniques more easily. This makes the combat more about adapting to the escapes and switching positions more often until you successfully trap your opponent.

No Gi’s most efficient techniques

Without a Gi, your fighting style will be very different, and here are the best techniques you will learn.

  • Lateral Knee Bar: This technique is often used as a defense mechanism to get out of a saddle position, yet it can be successfully used to submit the opponent. To perform it, you need to get the opponent’s leg with yours and lock his ankle while on the side to incapacitate. 
  • Floating Guard Bar: The floating guard bar can be tricky to learn, but it’s a technique most fighters won’t see coming. When your opponent is on his back, get each of your legs around one of his thighs. You then use his hips to rotate and get into a headlock. It’s an unexpected twist on the classic body-lock pass.
  • Saddle Control: It’s one of the most used leg entanglements, and for good reasons. Fighters like Garry Tonon or Eddie Cummings use this technique to secure the knee and hips of an opponent. It puts your opponent’s leg at an unusual angle, preventing them from using their hips to escape.
  • Ashi-Garami: As you may have guessed from the Japanese-sounding name, Ashi-Garami is a Judo technique that has evolved since it was incorporated into Jiu-Jitsu. It consists of a leg-lock with your foot on your opponent’s lower abdomen. You can then spin to get your opponent on his stomach and submit him.

Benefits Of Training With Gi?

mma with gi

Gi practice offers a different way of approaching grappling with techniques relying on grabbing your opponent’s apparel in the most effective way to submit him. If you consider training with a Gi, here are the main beneficial aspects you can expect.

It Offers Real-Life Applications

Let’s not forget that Brazilian jiu-jitsu is first and foremost a self-defense art. If you get threatened in real life, you’ll know immediately how to defend yourself against someone by using his clothes. Belts, shirts, trousers, and vests become weapons you can use to submit someone who comes at you aggressively, and you can hold them down to get out of harm’s way.

You Will Develop More Upper-Body Strength

Gi practice will strengthen the tendons and ligaments of your hands and forearms. This is due to the constant tight gripping you exert on your opponent’s gi. You’ll also develop your shoulder and back muscles since a lot of pushing and pulling is used in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Technique Is More Important Than Explosiveness

The friction of the Gi makes the fights slower, and you won’t slip as much as you do without the Gi. Less speed means you can’t rely on your explosiveness, and you need to be methodical in your way to grapple your opponent. That’s why you’ll get better results by training with both styles. Gi training will provide more advanced techniques, and you can combine them with the more strength-based no-gi training.

Escapes Are More Technical

Since you’re grappling by grabbing clothes, you work with strangulation by the collar and various holds with multiple possible angles. This means that if you want to escape a hold is much more complicated than with no-gi. You can’t use perspiration to slip through your opponent’s hold, and getting technical is crucial to getting out of tricky situations.

Benefits Of Training With No-Gi?

Practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with no Gi means you won’t have anything to grab except for the body of your opponent. You’ll develop a different approach to your takedowns, and holding down an opponent implies more explosiveness and strength rather than technique.

You’ll Get Better At Holding Down An Opponent.

Since you can’t rely on your opponent’s gi to grab, you’ll develop techniques to grab body parts. The fight gets slippery fast because of perspiration which means it’s more challenging to hold the opponent down. The techniques you’ll learn will make you better at holding down any opponent.

You’ll Be Ready For An Octagon Fight.

If you’re practicing to fight, the conditions with no-gi are closer to an octagon fight. In such fights, you’re only wearing shorts, so practicing without relying on a gi will prepare you better for an MMA exhibit.

You’ll Develop Your Explosiveness

No-Gi BJJ will make you develop your explosiveness since the actions are executed at a much faster pace. Sometimes, because of the sweat, you can’t hold a position, and you need to be quick on your feet to change to a new position to submit your opponent successfully.

No Reliance On The Gi

Practicing without a Gi gives you fewer opportunities to grab your opponent, and you will have to change your approach to the fight. Your takedowns will rely more heavily on the limbs of your opponent, and you will need to adapt to his physical condition. For instance, if an opponent has more reach than you, maybe instead of grabbing his sleeve, you can use his wrist to reverse his grab with pure strength.

Is No-Gi Training Better For MMA?

When MMA became a legitimate sport, BJJ was introduced to mainstream audiences as one of the most efficient ways to beat an opponent no matter his fighting style. However, in MMA, to give each fighter the same chance, any official uniform has been removed. 

Fighters are wearing shorts, gloves, and nothing else. Naturally, Gi BJJ becomes inefficient in this setting as it relies on the opponent’s apparel. Then, claiming that practicing with no-gi seems like a logical conclusion if you intend to fight in an octagon since you’ll be in the same conditions.

Yet, the two styles are different, and both bring something to your fighting style. Gi practice can help you develop some essential defensive skills and develop upper body strength. During the learning curve, it also provides slower-paced action allowing you to get technical and develop your takedown methods. 

Ideally, if you’re looking to strive as an MMA fighter, training using both styles will help you build a unique set of skills. You can conjugate the explosiveness and brute force of no Gi BJJ for your attacks with the methodical and technical approach of Gi BJJ to defend yourself and escape your opponent’s hold.


So after this analysis, which is better for MMA? Gi or no Gi? The answer is both, kind of. Training without a Gi is essential to develop offensive techniques and be in the same conditions as a real MMA fight. However, you’ll develop defensive methods with Gi training, which can get you out of a tight choke hold or another submission technique.

Both styles can help you learn valuable lessons and will give your fighting style more versatility. No-Gi training will still take the better part of your practice sessions since it will help you get as close to real conditions as possible. For more articles about martial arts and to improve your knowledge, don’t hesitate to come back to our site.

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