Whether you’re brand new to the wonderful world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or you’ve been training for years, one thing I hope that you have picked up on by now is the immense importance of keeping up good personal hygiene. It’s not only good for you as a practitioner of BJJ to be hygienically clean, but it’s also good for your partners when you’re clean (and when they’re clean it’s good for you too!).
Oh, I’ll tell you the big deal/s friend! How about ring worm? How about pink eye?! HOW ABOUT STAPH?!?!?!
Due to constant skin-to-skin contact, skin infections are unfortunately too common in the realm of jiu jitsu players. In my humble opinion, this is usually a sign of poor hygiene practices but, to be fair, there are some circumstances where a skin disease just finds a way to get you (NOTE: I’ve been training for 6 years and the school I train at has never had any student nor school-wide outbreak of ANY skin infections. I attribute this to their evangelism of hygiene to the students and parents of younger students!).
As a borderline hypochondriac and obvious germophobe, I might come across at times as taking this issue TOO serious but… I admit… I’m OK with that because I’d rather be safe than sorry!
What we’re going to cover now are some tips for staying clean and infection free! You’ll thank me when you’re done reading this or you’ll laugh at me until you come home with ring worm. 😉
Washing your gi (kimono) seems like an obvious thing to do when you’re home from class but you might be surprised by how many of your peers let their gis fester in their sweat (and the sweat of their training partners) for DAYS before it gets washed.
In fact, open up a new tab within your web browser and head on over to Google. Start typing out “How often should I wash my jiu” and it will auto fill the rest of the “jitsu gi?” in the sentence, showing that this is a way more commonly asked question than it should be. You know what the answer is? WASH YOUR GI AFTER EVERY TIME YOU USE IT!
I’m serious! Don’t wear your gi more than once if you drilled or rolled in it already that day/week. Don’t let your gi sit in a laundry hamper for days before getting to it. Besides the grotesque smell of your own body odor, you’re letting bacteria fester in your hamper too and you’re also increasing the chances of needing to use a vinegar bath to rid your gi of the funk you allowed to build up (NOTE: it isn’t uncommon for gis, even those that get washed immediately after every class, to build up a “funk” smell. I usually soak my gis in a vinegar bath twice a year to ensure that I’m not “smelly gi guy” at class).
Furthermore – I don’t care what person of what lineage told you that you don’t need to wash your belt because you should. It collects sweat and germs just like your gi does and, despite what you may have heard from any person saying OSS while eating their acai bowl, there is no magical powers collected in your belt that will be lost upon washing the belt. I don’t want to step on any person’s superstitious toes, but it’s gross when bjj practitioners fall for the old lore of “don’t wash your belt, it washes the knowledge blah blah blah”. Elementary science would respond that the only thing your unwashed belt collects from day 1 until your next belt promotion is germs and dust and probably a good chunk of the body hair from that one guy every school has who touts a forest of chest hair but still chooses not to wear a shirt or rashguard under his gi top.
Again, this section may seem unnecessary but I’m going still going to cover it because it’s important!
Showering immediately after you train (or as immediate as you possibly can) drastically decreases your chance of skin infection. There are also a gazillion types of soaps marketed as specific for grapplers that often have very good reviews on the various BJJ accessory retailers’ websites., so feel free to shop around if you feel like you need what those types of soaps claim to offer! Personally, I always shower within 30 minutes of training and I have always used my old-trusted DuDu Black Soap. It isn’t marketed specifically as some magnificent-germ-fighting-grappler’s soap BUT I’ve used it for a while and have been infection free the entire time I’ve been training. I’m confident that any adequate body soap will also do the job, so don’t feel like you need to go spend lots of money on jit jitsu specific soap.
The last topic I’ll cover is one often neglected: nail trimming. Of all the things I’ve covered in this article, this is the one where I tend to fall most. You’ll never catch me with a laundry hamper stuffed full of smelly gear, and you’ll always be able to find me in a shower immediately after class… but sometimes I forget to trim either my finger nails or my toe nails.
Trimming your nails is a good thing for everybody that will be on the mats that class. It’s good for you to have trim nails because you won’t possible slice open your training mates or yourself! Same goes for your training mates to have their nails trimmed. It’s also important to trim your nails because you decrease your chance of your fingers or toes getting caught up in your opponent’s gear! I’ve had a finger nail before (one that wasn’t THAT long) get oddly caught in my buddy’s sleeve and my finger ended up getting twisted in painful way that all could have been avoided if I had kept my finger nails neatly trimmed.
Not to beat a dead horse (re: this is all about germs, guys!) but finger nails harbor some nasty germs. I’m no scientist, but I imagine the logic of “the longer the nail, the more opportunity for festering germs” is solid. Trimming your nails keeps your fingertips clean and as germ free as your fingers can be (assuming you practice good hygiene)!
I hope this didn’t come across as some kind of fear-mongering but I also hope you understand the significance of practicing good hygiene. Being clean not only keeps you and your training mates safe on and off the mates, it also prevents you from receiving the (in my opinion, well deserved) criticism of being the smelly guy in class. Smelly guy doesn’t find himself with many folks volunteering to partner with him. Smelly guy has a hard time getting people to roll during open mat.