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Gi or No Gi for Self Defense?
Even greater than the sport vs self defense BJJ debate is the question of what is more realistic for self defense training, gi or no gi. Both styles of training have their own merits and depending on the context one may be more ideal than the other. Let's examine the benefits as well as the negative aspects of each.
Gi: The gi is the cornerstone of nearly all traditional martial arts stemming from Japan. It was worn not only as a standardized uniform to differentiate practitioners of differing martial arts, but also as a means to replicate clothing worn at that time. Common clothing then would be traditional style kimonos or western suit and jackets.
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Now, you are probably saying OK that is great, but I do not wear a kimono nor do I wear a three piece suit and jacket in my normal day to day life. Well if you are like me and live in a place with a colder climate, come the winter months nearly every time I leave my house I am wearing a “gi”. By this, I mean I am wearing a coat or a jacket or some type of thick sweat shirt along with jeans or sweatpants or even snow pants when it starts to snow.
So for me and the environment that I live in, a gi is more practical most of the year for my personal self defense training because I would rather have my partners pulling on my thick cotton gi that I can reuse than run the risk of them tearing my personal clothing.
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No Gi: Whether you come from a style of wrestling or plan to fight in MMA, you may feel more comfortable in no gi attire (board shorts, maybe spats, and a rashguard). You also may claim that it is more realistic for self defense because A.) nobody walks around wearing a gi and B.) it teaches you not to rely on gi grips that may not be there in a real fight should your opponents clothes rip or should they possibly be missing that particular article of clothing.
I agree with these statements halfway. Because of where I live most people will have on a thick jacket once it gets cooler (literally most of the year for us) but come summer time people will be wearing significantly less clothing and I should not build a reliability on being able to control someone through their clothes. So training in no gi is a must as well.
So we have a good argument for and against gi and no gi. What it really comes down to is training in them both equally and being able to recognize the advantages and disadvantages of each style of training and being able to base your training regimen off of your own personal needs. If you live farther north, maybe more self defense training in a gi will be of importance to you whereas somebody living closer to the equator may place more significance in their self defense training in their no gi attire because more people around them are wearing lighter clothing that can very easily rip.
Finally, I think another important aspect of our self defense training is to periodically train in our everyday clothing. Like I mentioned above I would prefer to have my training partners pull on my gi rather than my personal clothing but from time to time it is important to train in something you actually wear. That way you can truly see if the techniques you are training can be done in the clothes you wear on a daily basis.
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