Sartorial Choices in Jiu-Jitsu

I have made many changes in my life because of my participation in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I have quit jobs, moved across the U.S. and back, traveled widely, and revised my life priorities. With all this, though, the most unexpected impact jiu-jitsu has had on my life has been the havoc it has wrought with my clothing choices. Due to the domino effect of me being on the mat for a lot of my life, changing my life around so I can spend more of it on the mat, and finding ways to make a living that do not require me to be face-to-face with anyone (thereby increasing the amount of time I can spend on the mat) or that do require me to be suited up for training, I have relatively little need for business or dressy clothes these days.

On the other hand, I do want to appear presentable, and the demands of training can make this difficult at times. Training is a grimy, sweaty proposition, and sometimes I do not have the opportunity to shower immediately afterward. I am not happy about it, but such is life with jiu-jitsu. (Even if I can shower directly after training, that means I must pack a towel, clean clothes, and shampoo and the like, and I must also still pack up my dirty training clothes to take home.) This means that if I do not want to stay in my soggy training gear, which quickly goes from warm to freezing, even in summer, I must choose something to change into. Since whatever I choose will 1) go on my grimy self and 2) likely be stored in the same gear bag that will soon contain the dirty training gear I just changed out of, I am not going to want to choose something dressy or expensive. Sure, I can put my dirty clothes in a plastic bag inside the gear bag so they are separated from my nicer clothes, but that still leaves the problem of wrinkles.

Speaking of wrinkles, there are others that complicate the clothing-between-training-sessions scenario. For instance, if I train twice in a day and/or cross-train in weightlifting or interval workouts or some such, that amounts to more sweat and more decisions to make about what to wear and when. Depending on the weather, I usually opt for some permutation of a t-shirt, shorts or yoga pants, flip flops when possible and boots or sneakers when not, and a fleece or hoodie if need be.

Let me give an illustration of the complications involved, using what for me is a typical Tuesday or Thursday. The alarm goes off at 5am. I am wearing the yoga pants and jiu-jitsu t-shirt I put on the night before. I take them off to put on a sports bra and compression shorts and put them back on again. I throw a gi, a rash guard, a regular bra, and, if I remember (I usually don’t), another sports bra and pair of compression shorts into my gym bag, as well as socks if it is warm enough for me to wear flip flops. If not, the flip flops go in the bag as well, and the socks go on my feet, followed by boots or sneakers. I add one or more jackets and coats as needed.

I teach a morning jiu-jitsu class, for which I lose the t-shirt and yoga pants but add the rash guard and gi. When it is over, I am a little bit sweaty if I have only taught that day and very sweaty if I have taught and trained. After class, the gi, rash guard, sports bra, and compression shorts come off, and if I did not remember to bring extras, the shorts and bra get spread out to “dry” in the trunk of my car. The regular bra, t-shirt and yoga pants go back on my now not-so-fresh body, along with the socks and boots or sneakers if it is cold out, or the flip flops if it is warm.

I go to a coffee shop for a couple hours to get some work done, and then I go to my physical therapist’s office to lift weights—squat, deadlift, or power clean. At this point, I usually curse under my breath because I have discovered I forgot spares of the sports bra and compression shorts. So, the already used ones go into my weightlifting bag, which is different from my gym bag, and contains my weightlifting shoes and notebook, and then those clothes go back on my body. If I have remembered that I forgot
spares, I have already spread out the originals to dry in my trunk, which makes them less damp. If I have not remembered that I forgot spares, then they may be damp and, shall we say, fragrant. In those cases, I try not to stand too closely to anyone.

Eventually I make it home where one of two things happens: Either I shower and do some work in preparation for going out and training again, or I spend the rest of the day doing laundry.

I know others are more skilled at being “mat rats” and looking good doing it. What are your secrets? Also, am I the only one who struggles with balancing the clothing requirements of jiu-jitsu against those of a respectable person’s life? Post your experiences to comments.