Gi vs. No-Gi

Remember, I started like a brand new jiujitsu baby a short nine months or so ago, and this blog offers my insights. To many, these will seem infantile, but we all start somewhere, and my hope is to make that start a little more gentle than it otherwise would be.  Feel free to move along to the next thing in your day if you’re already clear on the differences in gi vs. no-gi grappling.

If you are going to a class where everyone looks like they’re wearing pajamas, that’s a gi class. The “pajamas” are gis, and the belts that keep the tops closed show the wearer’s rank.


The gi tops should all have the left side of the kimono over the right one. I’ve heard that this stems from Japanese tradition and tendency toward order. In death, the right side of a kimono or gi drapes over the left–in my understanding. Most belts are tied in a square knot, with the belt wrapping around the wearer twice. I could try to describe for you how to do this, but honestly, asking someone in the class how best to tie the belt is a great way to break the ice with another white belt.

While the gis look like pajamas, they’re not quite as comfortable, and all the crazy contortions of class often have them slipping around. Brand new belts are notoriously difficult to tie and often come completely untied at the most inopportune of times. “This sounds like a bad combination,” you say? Well, you’d be right. To keep from flashing the world, a lot of folks wear undergarments of some sort–rash guards, compression shorts, spats, or plain old t-shirts. Being a chubby gal, at first I blew off the idea of wearing a rash guard and wore a t-shirt instead. Figuring out the advantages of the rash guard didn’t take me long, though. The t-shirt has a way of sliding around just as badly as the gi top, and rolling around on the mats with people wads both up in a hurry, exposing a little too much flesh. So, the longer the rash guard, the better, and I’ve found that tucking it into the pants tends to keep it in place a little bit longer. Under my bottoms, I wear capri pants or leggings. The combination seems to be the best way of not showing the world what my naked back and/or rear looks like.

No-gi is just what it sounds like, workouts or class without a gi. People who like to look cool in no-gi class wear long board short type bottoms (like the Agogue shorts from Rogue American Apparel ) along with their rash guards. Again, I always wear an under layer, and even when I wear shorts, I wear capris under them to cover my knees. Somehow my knees are always scraping along the mats and getting all raw and irritated. I’m pretty sure if I were ever brutally murdered without an ID, the coroner would look at my knees and think I was either a devout catholic or a prostitute. And since my looking cool is pretty much hopeless, I just wear my regular workout shorts over my capris.

Each way has its advantages and disadvantages. The gis are a bit restricting, but they provide a plethora of hand holds to manipulate. Rolling without a gi allows an amazing range of motion but very few places to grab and hold. Most people feel like the no-gi classes teach them more about self-defense, but if you live in an area where people where jackets, that isn’t necessarily the case. Tournaments come in both flavors.

I’m still figuring out which one is my favorite.

Wondering which gi to start with is a natural progression of the thought process. One of my next posts will be about how I chose my first couple of gis and what I think about them now that I’ve spent some time in them.


One thought on “Gi vs. No-Gi

  1. Pingback: Seriously? | whitebeltnostripe

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