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Transitioning from no gi to gi

I’ve been training a lot of no gi and wrestling lately.

It could be for a few days or even weeks but there is still a little adjustment period in which I feel off transitioning from my no gi game back to my gi Jiu Jitsu game.

Sometimes I feel like I’m trapped in the gi. Unable to move as freely as I would like.

Other times I forget that my opponent can use my own gi to attack me.

Needless to say I’m very careful when I put my gi back on. Unless I want a sneaky lower belt to take my lunch.

I think that this stops a lot of no gi guys from trying out the gi. It is harder to move in.

This and they figure that they might not be as good at Jiu Jitsu with the gi on.

I understand that everyone has a preference. But to limit yourself to one or the other is a doing a disservice to yourself and your development.

If you’re worried about losing if you put the gi on then you have the wrong mindset.

You should put the gi on to further develop your skills.

Key differences

The main differences between no gi and gi is the level of friction and the gripping system.

While wearing a gi I am able to grab a hold of my opponent’s gi and belt while taking care not to grab within their sleeves or pant legs.

Pretty simple right?

By its design the gi allows for a lot of friction. Slowing your opponent down and allowing you to exert more control.

This means that it is easier to control most positions such as side mount, mount, and guard while being able to set up and finish more submissions since the level of sweat is no longer a major determining factor.

You also have more grips with the gi on too.

You can apply all the same no gi grips and controls with the added bonus of using your opponent’s gi and your own gi.

The options are limitless!

Modern Jiu Jitsu players have taken this to the next level. Using the gi to entangle their opponents within their own gi with the introduction of the worm guard and other lapel guards.

I think that the friction and the continuously developing gripping system allow for a lot more creativity with the gi on.

The more options you have the more likely a submission will occur.

I would really like to see the stats on a lot of the no gi submission only events. Not only are most of the athletes at a high skill level but also the less friction offered by no gi makes it harder to get submissions and to finish them. Which might explain why a lot of those matches end in a draw.


There at are a lot of upsides to adding the gi to your no gi Jiu Jitsu game.

The two I really want to focus on is having an established system of ranking and the level of technical ability that you develop with the gi on.


The fact that there is a standardized ranking system in gi Jiu Jitsu is really important for any students looking to own their own academy one day or to have a career within the martial arts industry.

Unlike other combat sports, Jiu Jitsu relies heavily on the idea of lineage and having a clear traceable line from you to your instructors and their instructors.

The most far reaching and well know organization in all of Jiu Jitsu is the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation or IBJJF.

Most people know them for running tournaments.

But did you know that they also serve as a database for all the athletes that compete within their tournaments.

If an athlete wishes to compete in an IBJJF tournament. They must register under their team. Which means that their instructor and academy must also be registered with the IBJJF.

Federations also serve as an official source of black belt certification and rank.

This is especially important if you decide to have your own academy and wish to promote students to black belt and above.

Not only do you receive proof of your rank but you also join an internationally recognized organization.

Being a part of a governing body is also important for your students as well. Through this, students can guarantee that their instructor is in fact a legitimate instructor. Not just some guy who decided to put on a black belt and teach.

Again, Jiu Jitsu is very big on lineage. Systems like these paint a clear picture of who graduated from who.

Often times in no gi this gets a lot harder. Unless you come from one of the few no gi centric academies or teachers like a Danaher or a Bravo.

There is always controversy when an mma fighter is awarded a black belt when they have never worn a gi.

I’m definitely going to write a post about this in the future.

But it’s not just mma fighters being promoted with no actual gi experience. We are reaching a point where even a few academies are completely forgoing the gi entirely. Yet still awarding the black belt.

It’s not my place to say whether this is right or wrong. However it does bring up a lot of questions.

Technical Ability

The major downside of transitioning from no gi to gi is again the use of grips to slow you down and the learning curve of getting used to wearing and using the gi.

Even after a few sessions of doing no gi only, it takes time for me to readjust to wearing the gi.

Your timing and movement skill from doing no gi will be great. As will your conditioning.

But the gi will slow you down.

What you could do with speed and power, you will now have to do with technique

There are a lot of technical no gi practitioners. But the addition of the grips makes it more difficult.

You won’t know true frustration until you’ve almost passed someone’s guard but their big toe gets stuck in your gi. Keeping you from moving forward.

The learning curve will suck. You might get in caught in many submissions that simply do not exist in no gi. You also might forget the leverage that the gi gives too.

Escaping an armbar in no gi is a lot different than escaping an armbar with the gi on. Where your opponent has a number of options in keeping you from escaping your arm.

But once you get used to the gi. You realize that there is so much that you can do. There are so many grips and different ways to use the gi that it is really exciting.


Transitioning from no gi to gi is not easy. There will be a learning curve.

The gi will feel hot, heavy and slow you down at first.

But if you stick with it you will get better.

There is a reason that the top guys do both regularly.

In fact they complement each other really well.

With your no gi game you will have a good base of conditioning and movement skills honed without the use of friction or grips. That will immediately carry over.

In fact, many gi focused academies are adding more no gi to their programs.

With all the wrestling and mixed martial arts with in the U.S. I think it will only become more common for people with no gi experience to make the leap to wearing the gi.

So I say to you. Don’t be afraid of the gi.

Give it a try!

P.S. I working on growing my email list. It’s a lot faster for me to write an email with more exclusive content than to post a long article so please subscribe. No spam. Just value. 

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