What's better for fighting? Gi or No Gi? The Answer may surprise you!
Short answer: do whatever you want, train in a suit and tie if that makes you happy.
Long Answer: It depends…answer is below.
Let’s say you’re an aspiring cage fighter. Chances are spending time in the gi won’t take away from your ability to fight in the cage, but the time you spend in the gi is time you’re spending not working on other aspects that will make you a better cage fighter (ie Boxing, Kickboxing, Wrestling etc.). When you look at other sports, you will never see a professional athlete spend time playing other sports. You won’t see NBA athletes practice in a 3 on 3 street league at the beach court on weekends, and you’ll never see NFL athletes practicing off the ice. If your chosen discipline is cage-fighting, your time is best spent practicing how you play, which is not in the gi.
At the end of the day, one should tailor their practice to their goals, and have fun training. As well you fight how you train. Also keep in mind that punches and kicks completely change the dynamic of how things play out in the street. I understand that you are great at top and bottom games on the mat but what if while you're trying to armbar someone from the guard you get cracked across the face and blinded by white light and pain because your nose just got disfigured? The real question is which is more street effective? To Gi or not to Gi? That is the question.
Let’s say you have aspirations of being an EBI or ADCC champion. If the likes of Gordon Ryan have demonstrated anything, it’s that Jiu Jitsu also follows the specificity principle of sport. If the ruleset you’re competing under doesn’t have the gi, you’re most likely wasting time by practicing in the gi. The metagames of Gi Jiu Jitsu and No-Gi Jiu Jitsu have diverged far from one another. I will concede that there are champions in both such as Marcelo Garcia and Andre Galvao; however, could they have been better at one form of Jiu Jitsu if they didn’t split time between the two? Could Galvao have been an even better no-gi grappler if he didn’t spend any time in the Gi and focused only on no-gi, similar to Gordon Ryan?
In the case of someone looking to be more street ready… you probably won’t go wrong with training with either uniform. The gi provides a unique opportunity to fight in an outfit that is closer match to street clothes (a T-Shirt + Jeans is WAY closer to a gi than a rash guard + spats, fight me). Spending some time in the gi can allow you to experience the sensation of having your movement restricted by someone else gripping your clothing. In a lot of street fight videos on YouTube, you can see any schmuck grab a T-shirt and use it as leverage against an opponent. In no-gi you won’t be able to replicate the feeling of someone gripping your clothes, and you might even fall out of practice with dealing against cloth grips.
You should once again train how you plan to defend yourself. Not to say that if an average person who for the benefit of the doubt hits the gym regularly confronts you and you happen to be a competition level blue belt. It's safe to say it would not end well for the gym rat however if the gym rat strikes you across the face and you aren't used to or familiar with taking a punch it may confuse you and give leverage to the gym rat who could perhaps come out victorious.
The moral of the story is you should decide if you're a sportsman or a martial artist. This may or may not be the deciding factor to how things end up in a confrontation.
Yours truly, Anonymous White Belt