Email Question of the week:

I am an advanced student of Krav Maga and I would like to improve my grappling and ground fighting. From a self defense perspective is no gi grappling or gi grappling better?

Hi there, before answering the question, it’s important to note that whether you train Gi or No-Gi, the real question for self-defense is whether your grappling is designed to take strikes into consideration.

A good Jiu Jitsu school should take strikes into consideration when teaching and will integrate striking offense and defense into their syllabus; both standing and on the ground. It is important to ask the instructor this question before beginning your training.

Secondly, a good Jiu Jitsu school will also include No-Gi training in order to ensure that the students are able to adapt their game to MMA and Submission wrestling, but also in dealing with untrained opponents.

Unfortunately with the popularity of sport Jiu Jitsu, this is often not the case anymore.

Now onto the original question:


There are a few important points to look at when deciding to train with or without the Gi. :


At first glance is seems like training no-gi would be more practical for self defense than training in the gi. Unless you lived in feudal Japan it would be unlikely to be attacked by someone wearing a heavy kimono. When learning a gi art, such as Gracie Jiu Jitsu, around 70% of the techniques are not applicable when the kimono comes off. So why train in the gi?

As most self-defense instructors know, one of the most common assaults is the grab, stiff arm and punch. Not only can the cloth be a useful tool in self-defense but it can also be used against you. Training in the Gi will raise your awareness of both the pros and cons of it.

Also, with a few adaptations, most of the Gi techniques can be performed on a singlet, T-shirt and Jumper.

Quality of instruction:

The simple truth is that No-Gi ground training is not yet as refined as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, both in system and in transference. That’s not to say No-Gi isn’t effective, it’s just that the quality of coaches and programs available for the Gi, are simply much higher due to the decades of development, competition and education. This may change in the near future as schools like 10th Planet are working hard to catch up and develop a progressive system based off the principles of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Learning curve:

Due to the smaller range of handles and techniques, the art of No-Gi can be learnt much quicker than Gi arts. They tend to be more submission orientated, because pinning is much harder without the friction. Generally they tend to focus on leg attacks because passing the guard is much harder without the jacket to hold onto as well.

Being submission focused, particularly on the lower half, is a problem in self-defense because of the danger of strikes. Attacking the feet often ends up with you on bottom and underneath the assailant and can be a fatal mistake. However practicing submission with the aid of the kimono means you may not be able to adapt to the grips and slipperiness of a sweaty limb.


Gi versus No Gi Takedowns:

For self defense it is important to learn takedowns that work without the use of the cloth, because the clothing worn by the assailant may be flimsy. It is important however to take into consideration that the cloth can also be used against you; to keep the distance and to break your control. So it is important to understand gripping and entries in order to close the distance.

Distance control against strikes:

The most important aspect of standing grappling is distance control. Regardless of the takedown you choose, it is important to understand how to create entries against strikes, maintain and control the clinch against strikes and exit the clinch when considering self-defense.

Cross training:

A good Jiu Jitsu Academy should also provide cross training in either wrestling or judo.  Although Jiu Jitsu does have effective standing strategies and techniques, cross training in these arts is by far the most effective way to become efficient in standup grappling.


In weighing up the factors discussed, learning in the Gi is by and large a better choice for the self-defense practitioner. It is however wise to select a school that provides a well-rounded program that covers no-gi training, cross training and takes strikes into consideration.

See you on the mat,

Liam Resnekov

BJJ/Gracie Jiu Jitsu/Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, MMA, Muay Thai and Self Defence in Sydney, Crows Nest, Cammeray, Hornsby, Lindfield, Killara, Roseville, Chatswood, Willoughby, Artarmon.

VT1 Martial Arts Academy Chatswood

19B/390 Eastern Valley Way Chatswood
New South Wales 2067

Phone (02) 9417 1001

Chatswood | Gordon | St Ives | Willoughby