There are two schools of thought regarding training in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, with a Gi or Kimono, or without.
Nowadays, most people interested in BJJ training will opt to go to no-gi classes to save the expense and hassle of wearing one.
However, you need to understand that no-gi BJJ has some different rules, mostly revolving around the attire and equipment that you will need to get the most out of class, and also some technical rules.
Not grabbing your opponent’s clothing
This is in stark contrast to traditional BJJ. Any item of clothing is fair game to grab to gain leverage over your opponent.
Different style of control and choking.
As a result of being unable to use your opposite’s lapels or sleeves, etc., to gain control, wrist and ankle grips are more common.
A faster pace of fighting
In standard BJJ fights, stalling an attack is possible due to gripping onto the uniform to slow down the fight. However, as this isn’t possible in no-gi fighting, you will find that the pace is much quicker. It will be easier to escape from specific holds, and you will have to up your reaction times when it comes to defending against attacks.
Regarding attire, you will find that many no-gi classes will still require you to get the correct clothing to be able to train more effectively and so that there is some semblance of uniformity in proceedings.
It can be a bit daunting to know what to bring to your first no-gi class if you are just starting out. Here I will go through some of the more commonly recommended items of clothing.
What to Bring to a No-Gi BJJ Class
These are essentially compression tights that have been designed with rolling and grappling in mind. They are made from a thicker and much sturdier type of material than regular compression tights to stand up to fighting rigors. BJJ spats will usually be made from a blended mixture of nylon, spandex, and polyester. They can be worn underneath your grappling shorts or even a Kimono if you ever decided to continue traditional classes.
This type of compression shirt, in a similar vein to spats, will fit your skin tightly. The purpose of a rash guard is kind of self-explanatory, i.e., they are worn to prevent skin burns and rashes from the mats when rolling and grappling. If you are serious about getting into no-gi training, then a rash guard is an obvious choice and a decent pair of spats. A rash guard is a good idea not only for the injury reducing benefits, but often no-gi classes will not allow simple T-shirts. This is due to t-shirt material being to stretchable and creating pockets of material that could bend joints back in ways they shouldn’t be bent!
These are shorts that are made specifically for BJJ fighting. They are made from thick materials and can be worn over your spats. The material is designed to keep up with intense training. Still, it is often a high tech textile that can soak up sweat and can dry quickly, giving you a much more comfortable experience. As a result of no-gi style being about explosive movements, you will need to make sure that any grappling shorts you are interested in can provide a high degree of motion. You should also make sure that the material in the crotch area is flexible and durable.
If you have ever been victim to a stray knee in the groin area (or even if you haven’t!), I am quite sure that you will understand the need for a groin guard! Otherwise referred to as a cup in other sports, this piece of equipment is vital if you want to stay in the game and not have to quit early due to your softer body parts being mangled. It should be noted that some tournaments don’t allow them, so before you rush out to purchase one, make sure. However, with that said, most training sessions shouldn’t have an issue.
This is an item of protective equipment worn inside the mouth to protect your teeth from blows. Even though no-gi BJJ rules are slightly different from standard BJJ, it is still very much a contact sport. In fact, as a result of its higher pace, injury can be more common. Therefore it is vital to protect yourself correctly. If you have a typical job, it isn’t really a good look to be showing up to work with missing teeth. You should look for mouth guards made from a high-quality thermoplastic blend (EVA) to heat up and bite down on to get close as close to a custom fit without the more substantial expenses involved with custom fitting. The cheaper options are made from rubber, but are uncomfortable and are often a poor fit. You can get custom fitted guards, but these are a bit overkill if you are just starting out.
Similarly to a mouth guard, a respectable head guard will prevent any unflattering injuries like cauliflower ear from ruing your promotion prospects. Finding a well-fitting head guard can prevent some gnarly injuries to your ears that can arise from some floor grappling techniques. One of the more painful blows you can receive in BJJ, no-gi or otherwise, is to the ear. It is excruciating and disorientating and can ruin your class if you are hit with sufficient power.
This is one that is really up to you. You can use a specialized gear bag, or you could use just a regular backpack. However, the benefit you get when you buy a more specialist pack is that these bags usually contain areas for your gear to always know where your things are when you need them. Some of them even include specific waterproof sections where you can throw you sweaty clothes in, and it separates them from your clean items.
Some of the items on this list are not really 100% necessary, but they will all make your no-gi lessons go much smoother. While nothing can guarantee you won’t get injured, you will find that everything here can reduce the chances of serious injury.