Like most jiu jitsu players in the US, I predominantly practiced jiu jitsu in the gi. I was never really opposed to nogi, it just wasn’t available. Jiu jitsu was taught the “traditional” way it was taught in Brazil. We all donned the gi and never questioned it because these guys with the funny accents could kick our ass while chatting with their wife/mother/girlfriend in brazil while on speakerphone.
So that’s how it went years on end. It was so long ago, we didn’t even wear rashguards under the gi. Our classes were about 10% “Judo” 15% “Self Defense” and about 75% essentially sport jiu jitsu.It’s not like we didn’t know about nogi, we just didn’t train it until one day they offered a nogi class; one day a week. It just so happened to take place on a day I didn’t plan on training so well, I didn't train without the gi. Once in a while, I’d make it into the nogi class and walk out a bit disappointed. I wasn’t very good at it and man was my neck sore! The excuse I made for not really going was the inconvenience and the lack of classes. The honest truth was that I sucked at Nogi. I spent years training with the gi; grabbing collars, pistol gripping sleeves and constantly tying and untying belts and in Nogi I felt kind of clueless. I had come quite proficient in the gi but without it I was lost.
Flash forward to present day. I’m now a brown belt in the gi (probably an ok, non competitive brown) but a very good blue belt at best without it. The thing that kept me from the gi was not that I didn’t have time or any other random excuse I could think of, its because my ego wouldn’t let me lose. It’s quite humbling to train with some relatively new blue belts and have a hard time. I won’t lie, they sometimes get the best of me and yes I’ve been submitted by white belts. These guys are young and full of piss and vinegar. Without the gi to slow things down, the playing field has been equalized.
So now I don’t really care about how terrible my gi game is or that I risk getting choked by a 21 year old blue belt. Taking off the gi is like starting jiu jitsu all over again. I have to learn a lot of new tricks and break old habits. When you don’t take things too seriously, it’s a lot easier to have fun. I’ve got nothing to lose and a whole lot to learn without the gi.