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Why good hygiene is essential in BJJ

The line between a game and a sport can be blurred, but most people would agree on one thing; sport makes you sweat.

No one is doubting the skills of Ronnie O’Sullivan, but do you ever wonder how many push-ups he can do?

A good sport gives you a good sweat, and things are taken to another level if it’s a contact sport.

But not all contact sports are the same, and the ante is upped once more if the sport is a martial art.

As great as rolling with someone on the mats is, there is a health element that everyone needs to be aware of.

Basic hygiene should be everyone’s norm, but when it comes to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, then you need to really take it seriously – for your own health as well as others.

bjj good hygiene

Don’t be that guy

We’ve all experienced it; having to sit beside or work with someone who stinks. It may not be their fault – some people have medical conditions while others were simply never raised right and bad habits developed.

But while it’s bad enough having someone in your office that the rest of the staff try to avoid, it’s much worse to roll with them.

Imagine someone who has bad hygiene habits, but then goes to the gym, works out, and doesn’t wash themselves or their clothes afterwards!

Now images that person lying on top of you.

No one wants that.

Don’t be that guy.

Shower before and after you train.

Skin infections and diseases

If it was just a question of smelling bad, then people might turn a blind eye (or nose), but not following basic hygiene rules can be dangerous.

Diseases, viruses, and infections can easily be spread through skin to skin contact, and when everyone’s sweating on top of each other, this makes the perfect environment for contagion.

The two most common skin issues with BJJ are ringworm and staph infections.

Ringworm isn’t actually a worm (thank god), but a type of fungal infection which shows as a little red circle on your skin. It spreads by contact, either through direct skin-to-skin exposure, or even from the mats.


Ring worm sounds scary, but is easily treated with anti-fungal cream, tablets or shampoo. The key is not to train if you think you might have it! Even if you suspect a small spot on your skin might be ringworm, ask someone about before getting on the mats.

Staph infections are more serious than ringworm. The staphylococcus bacteria itself isn’t the problem, it’s when it gets into a cut or break in the skin, that’s when the issues start.

Sometimes early detection is missed because it looks like a bug bite or an allergy rash, but things can soon get out of hand.

Staph infections can range from minor skin problems to life-threatening issues, so it’s important to spot the warning signs and begin treatment as early as possible.

The deeper the bacteria invade into your body, the more serious the issues become, entering your bloodstream, joints, bones, lungs or heart.

How to prevent health issues

As bad as these skin infections sound, there’s a really easy way to avoid them, it’s called basic hygiene.

First of all, shower. Well, duh you might say, but you’d be surprised. People get home from training, and maybe have something to eat first, or decide to shower before they go to bed. No! Have a shower first. The longer you leave them, the more the bacteria will spread, and those wee bastards grow exponentially. And when you do shower, use anti-bacterial soap.

Secondly, wash your Gi! If you train regularly, then you should have at least 2 Gis, one ready to go while the other is in the laundry.

Washing your Gi is essential, and if you don’t wash it, the smell will soon let everyone know not to roll with you. Even if you do wash it after every class, remember you also need to dry it properly. There’s nothing worse than the smell of damp and it’s in these wet, humid conditions that bacteria and fungus thrive.

Thirdly, looks after your personal hygiene. Cut your nails (fingers and toes), brush your teeth (no one likes bad breath during training), and if you’re sick don’t come and infect everyone else! We know BJJ is addictive, but take a week off and let your body recover. Training while sick will only prolong your illness while spreading it to others.

Common sense will take you 99% of the way

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is generally practiced by healthy people, but by its very nature can bring its own unique health problems.

These health problems can be avoided if everyone plays by the same rules, and remember, it’s up to you to follow those rules. It’s not up to the instructor to keep tabs on the health and hygiene of all his students.

Don’t be selfish, think of your training partners, and think of your life outside the gym; a staph infection could mean some hospital time.

Here at Gracie Barra Belfast, we clean and sanitise our gym every day, from the showers to the mats, keeping the risk of infection to a minimum.

Your health and safety is our utmost priority, as it should be with any good BJJ school.