This has been and will continue to be a never ending debate with the popularity and growth of the sport worldwide, as training with a gi is the traditional method of learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The best fighters agree that it is crucial to train with the gi to refine technique. Many advise to supplement your gi training days with occasional no gi days to broaden your skillset and avoid developing a dependency on specific techniques that only a gi can afford (like better control of your opponents arms or wrists). Here are some points below on both sides of the issue of only training with a gi and switching it up a little every now and then by supplementing your training with a little no gi training to learn to “think outside the cloth”. If there is one point that experts can agree on, it is that you should ultimately choose the method that you enjoy the most.
Most jiu jitsu instructors (including multiple world title holders) recommend that fighters develop a certain level of experience in a gi first before they ever begin to train with without one. They say it is easier for beginners to learn with a gi and training without it should only begin later on, after mastery of the initial gi training.
Gi training helps to develop and refine technical fighting skills through slower motion and allows fighters avoid the sweat/slip factor. There are also a much larger number of moves available.
Scrambling, dynamic action and transitions are sped up when a fighter who has trained with the weight and friction of a gi fights without it. Some have explained this phenomenon as similar to what happens when in baseball, a batter practices the motion of swinging using several bats at the same time so that when he steps up to the plate with just one bat, the bat feels lighter and enables him to swing faster when it really counts.
Grappling is also safer since the gi can help prevent the spread of infection as it covers your entire body.
Gi training allows fighters to develop a greater awareness of how the gi can be used to their advantage with its many handles as well as how these same techniques can also be used by their opponent. This familiarity and awareness from training in a gi becomes useful when fighting without it to heighten ones understanding of how ones street clothes or body can be used against them.
While it is true that the no gi proponents argue that no one will be wearing a gi if they are ever involved in a street fight, they must remember that clothing can be used against an opponent and is similar enough to favor gi training.
Training Without a Gi
Allows for quicker transitions, submissions and response time to opponents errors
Traps and escapes are easier to apply without the added weight and friction of a gi
The cloth from a gi increases the circumference of limbs making it more difficult when quickly clinching in submissions tightly.
The sleeves, collar and belt from a gi can be used to ones advantage for sweeps and submissions