With the rise in popularity of MMA, perhaps it is not surprising that within the grappling community there exists a fairly large contingent with a strong opposition to using the gi.
Detractors may claim any (or all) of the following:
- Wearing the gi isn’t realistic for MMA
- Training in the gi allows practitioners to rely on grips that aren’t available if the opponent is shirtless
- No-gi techniques are always applicable (regardless of the opponent’s attire)
- The gi slows the game down, making it boring
- The gi looks like a stupid pair of pajamas
While it’s true that gi-specific techniques aren’t always applicable for MMA (see “Sport Jiu Jitsu vs Jiu Jitsu for MMA”), training with the gi forces practitioners to slow down their game and focus on technique, rather explosiveness or strength. The availability of grips while wearing the gi also prevents competitors from slipping out of submissions as easily, especially once the fighters get sweaty. This, in turn, avoids reliance on sloppy, yet explosive escapes that might work in a no-gi setting.
Marcelo Garcia, widely considered the best no-gi grappler on the planet, had this to say about the gi as a training tool (and yes, I realize this is a fallacious appeal to authority. But I don’t care):
“I train every day with the gi, and once a week with no gi. It’s crucial to train with the gi to have the finest technique. An athlete who wants to be good in no gi must also train with the gi.”
-Marcelo Garcia (4x ADCC champion, 5x Jiu Jitsu World Champion) Excerpt taken from this video, beginning at 3:39.
From a self-defense perspective, the gi functions as a sturdy replacement for normal street wear. In most self-defense situations (unless of course you are fighting an oiled up sunbather) opponents will be clothed, allowing for the use of “gi techniques.” As such, the gi is an invaluable self defense tool.
As far as the gi looking stupid – well, I suppose that’s just personal preference. I personally think it looks cool, and in any case, it’s less stupid looking than the wrestling singlet.