Fight the Funk: Health and Hygiene for BJJ

Fight the Funk: Health and Hygiene for BJJ

When we talk about fundamentals, we usually think of scissors sweeps and upa escapes. But there’s another kind of fundamental that everyone needs to learn: cleanliness and hygiene. This guide will help you stay healthy and (relatively) clean so you and your training partners can get the most out of your training and not be hung up by unnecessary setbacks like skin infections.

Let’s start with the first three rules of staying clean in BJJ:

1. Wash your gi and other gear after every class. You should never reuse a gi across several days without washing it. Speaking of washing gis, I wrote a guide to gi care, too.

2. Shower as soon as you can after training. Don’t give any nasty bugs a chance to proliferate on your hot, sweaty, and likely bruised and scraped up skin.

3. Keep your nails trimmed short. We don’t need you slashing up your training partners like Freddy Krueger. Also having your long nails bent backwards when gripping the gi is an awful feeling. Cut them short for everyone’s sake.

Those three simple rules will do most of the work to keep your clean and safe to train with. We’ve got some more advice for you though to help you cover all your bases:

Shower before training if you get dirty or sweaty at work. This may be tough to do if you head straight to class after work, but it’s courteous to not be covered in grease, dirt, or sawdust when you train.

Don’t leave your dirty gear around to ferment. This is a sure way to get a nasty funk on your gear. Work out a routine so you never forget your gear in your gym bag, car trunk, or laundry hamper. If a lingering odor develops on your gear, you may need to do vinegar soaks or buy professional odor-removing detergents (as covered in the gi care guide linked to above).

Wash your gym bag, too. As the holder for your stanky gear, it provides a dark, damp space for funk to grow.

Don’t let your pets sit on your gis or gear. If you have a cat or dog, be mindful of where you lay your gear out at home so they are not getting on it. You don’t want to get to the gym and start “shedding” loose pet hair onto your partners.

Wear a rashguard and spats to protect your skin (and keep your chest hair out of your partner’s mouths). You don’t need to wear spats under your pants unless you just like how it feels.

Wear spats or longer athletic underwear under your no-gi shorts. North-south is intimate enough without anything hanging out of your shorts. Spats are good if you find yourself getting mat burn or ingrown hairs on your knees.

Don’t leave your mouthguard lying around the mats. I get that it’s annoying to swap your mouthguard in and out between rounds or when someone wants to talk to you, but keep track of it so you’re not leaving it sitting on the mats.

Don’t leave loose junk like water bottles or lost socks at the school. Whoever has to clean up at the end of the night will be cursing your name if they have to clean up after you like you’re a messy toddler.

Don’t pick at skin blemishes like pimples, ingrown hairs, or “spider bites”. You are just opening up a wound for germs to get in. Find topical treatments and skin care products to treat them properly. Even if it was “just a spider bite” to start with, it can turn into a serious staph infection if you pick at it and open it up to germs.

Learn basic first aid for scrapes and small cuts. Having a few products like Neosporin, rubbing alcohol, band aids, cotton swabs, etc. will take care of most of this.

You can use liquid bandages on mat burns. If your feet, elbows, etc. get “burnt” on the mats, putting a bandage over them can be annoying. Try a product like NuSkin, but be warned; it stings like crazy.

Know what the signs of ringworm and staph are. I won’t gross you out with a bunch of close-up photos (you can Google that on your own), but in short:

Ringworm starts as a little dark reddish itchy spot, often at the base of a hair, where it may just look like a small bruise. The spot will grow into a distinctive red ring as the center gets scaly and the hair in it falls out. You will need an anti-fungal treatment to cure it.
Staph can look like a pimple, a boil, or a rash, depending on the type of infection. Warning signs are redness, tenderness, pain, and inflammation. Staph can be very dangerous if untreated, so keep an eye on any odd bumps, pimples, or scrapes, and get medical treatment if needed.

Taping over a skin infection is not enough to prevent it from spreading. You will be eager to get back to training, but wrapping an infection with some athletic tape after a little Lamisil treatment is not enough to protect against contagion. Do the right thing and take enough time off for it to clear up completely.

If you get a skin infection, tell your instructor. They will likely want to give the gym an extra thorough cleaning and know to keep a closer look out for others showing symptoms.

If you notice skin infections on someone else, say something to them, and tell your instructor. Hopefully, they were just oblivious and not knowingly training with the scuz on them. Your instructor will want to know so they can ensure the safety of the school.

Here’s to hoping this guide will keep you healthy and on the mats!

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