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Leigh Simms
Leigh Simms's picture
Training without a Gi.

Hi all,

Solo training without a gi. What are your thoughts?

I have shared the reason why I like to do so on my blog - ,https://www.leighsimms.com/single-post/2017/08/13/Why-I-train-without-a-Gi. In summary, I think it is a great idea to get an honest evaluation of your technical ability without the distraction/covering-up the gi can provide.

But I would like to know what your thoughts are on this topic.

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Hi Leigh

Interesting article, for me it seems that it is more psychological not technical problem. Some people get used to the sound and feel of the gi and as you said without it feels wrong. In Karate that I was taught we always have been training in different outfits, gi, t-shirt, combat trousers, shorts with shoes without shoes in different terrain. I don’t pay too much attention how kata looks most important for me is if it works on partner, doing that in whatever clothing.

Kind regards


Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Great article! I started training without a gi when I was around 13 years old. I only had one suit and it was impossible to have it clean for class if I also wanted to train at home. I recall finding kata and kihon weird at first due to the lack of noise that the gi would make.

Over 30 years later and the majority of my training is without a gi. When solo training I don’t wear a gi, and pretty much all of my partner and group training is without a gi too. Peter Consterdine 9th dan is my main teacher these days and I’ve only seen him in a gi three times in all the years I’ve known him (twice to teach, and once as an experiment where we all decided we preferred training out of the gi).

I will put on a gi to practise dealing with clothing grabs and using the clothing against the enemy, but that’s about it. In the dojo, it is more efficient to have a larger group kitted out in clothing that is suitable for such practise, so my club trains in gis. As a result, I normally always wear a gi to teach too.

Being a “stocky” individual, I heat up quickly (comparatively low surface area for my mass) so having my skin able to breathe (letting my sweat evaporate) makes training out of the gi more comfortable. So, shorts and t-shirt are my standard training attire.

I like the gun analogy too by the way:

I ha​d spent years polishing and cleaning a gun, which when it was on display looked the part, but on the inside, there were no bullets and no ​​mechanisms that worked. The substance was missing. The punches, whilst had snap at the ​​end with a nicely weighted (and sometimes starched) gi, were not designed to hurt anyone. The shuto uke was now missing key elements of the motion that were intrinsic to its application against an enemy in a non-consensual violent situation.

I recall a conversation with a leading Shotokan instructor (not naming him in case he does not want this shared publicly) where he said his Japanese instructor told him that kata should be like your mother’s baking … “it may look like s###, but it tastes fantastic” and not like a store-bought cake that “may look fantastic, but tastes like s###”. It’s all about the right mix of ingredients, and remembering cakes are for eating not looking at. Likewise, kata is for application, not looking at. The proof is in the pudding :-)

Good mechanics will give the kata an appealing aesthetic (not necessarily the one that many karateka modern karateka seek), but seeking an arbitrary aesthetic won’t automatically lead to function. That would be Mistake 2 in this old article: https://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/article/karates-three-biggest-mistakes

All the best,


AllyWhytock's picture


Apparent innocuous changes do make a big difference.

As a youngster (13), beginning my karate learning, I was easily put off by "differences" i.e. things that were outwith my familiarity zone or comfort zone. Going to a seminar, a change to the club training location, changing line up direction, changing the class routine all seemed to be amplified. As I grew up and experienced real life changes then these small amplifications were lessened. 

When I stopped solo training in my gi and started wearing shorts/t-shirt, I soon discovered the differences Leigh describes and also the need for shoes (trainers/sneakers), as I was training on concrete or monoblocks. Depending up the style of shoe (wide sole or narrow sole) I noticed my balance was off. Again, a physical difference causing a uncertainty.

I realised that this would happen during a real encounter. I then realised about stairs, kerbs, grass, concrete, snow, ice, upward slopes, downward slopes etc and realised that the amplification of differences was still there. 

There's lots of stories about training impacting reality. Training room habits can occur in reality and hinder the outcome.

It worries me at times that routine and too much familiarity with dojo practices can be echoed outside the dojo. Therefore, I do my best to introduce variation to interrupt the "tick tock tick" rythmn of dojo life.

Kindest Regards,


Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

AllyWhytock wrote:
I then realised about stairs, kerbs, grass, concrete, snow, ice, upward slopes, downward slopes etc and realised that the amplification of differences was still there.

Coincidentally, at the recent residential in Germany we practised kata outside on grass slopes, in stairwells, in enclosed spaces, etc. It was for exactly these reasons. As Rory Miller so succinctly puts it, “Fights happen in places”. If we always practise in wide open, perfectly flat spaces we are ignoring a major component of self-protection.

Kata in alternate locations gets us to consider movement and stability. Partner drills, and even thinking about bunkai when doing kata, gets us to consider how the environment can provide both threats and opportunities.

As Morinobu Itoman wrote in 1934, “Karate is a martial art that completely and freely uses the entire body, objects to hand, and a person’s surroundings.

We should not ignore the last one.

All the best,


Neil Babbage
Neil Babbage's picture

After starting Krav Maga, where I train in shoes and something approaching normal clothing, I took this back to our karate club. The difference between training on a mat, in a gi, with bare feet v's training on a solid floor in ordinary shoes and ordinary clothes is quite remarkable. Everything feels wrong and to start with, nothing works. Everybody should try it now and again.

Chris R
Chris R's picture

I don't like the gi when it comes to striking, as it doesn't serve much purpose other than being an interference. For grappling I can see the benefits of wearing a gi. I think one of the main issues people have with wearing a gi for striking training is that it messes with their biomechanics, because their priority changes from doing damage to instead making a snapping effect. The solution to this (if you train in a gi during classes) is to learn proper biomechanics by hitting things, such as a heavy bag or pads, or maybe a makiwara if you use that tool in your training. Try to punch as you would against a real target while wearing your gi, rather than focussing on the snap. You will still create a snap like this anyway, but don't focus on it. Basically, if most of your training involves hitting the air while wearing a gi, then you will struggle without it because you have not developed ideal technique for actual hitting.

Another advantage to no-gi training is that it is easier to see and correct the technique of yourself and others. There is a lot that cannot be seen through a gi. If you ever use a mirror for technique practice, try it shirtless. Every little imperfection can be spotted and corrected doing this.