Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is gross!
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is gross. It involves closer contact than most people are comfortable with, and, if you practice the art long enough, you grow accustomed to having feet, hands, and other unclean parts of the human anatomy get close to your face. Because of this, hygiene is stressed as a rule in most gyms—to try and salvage some sense of cleanliness from the abyss of grappling-based filth.
There are obvious precautions that are preached at every academy, and there isn’t a need to talk about them—always wear a clean gi, shower regularly, etc. But there are some precautions you can take that aren’t as spoken of, but are equally important.
WASH YOUR BELT
People often overlook the belt in the clothes laundering process, maybe because it’s not part of the gi itself, maybe because it always falls off mid roll, maybe because you don’t want to risk having your stripes fall off in the wash. Regardless, I used to never wash my belt when I first started Jiu-Jitsu. I told this to a friend, and had to listen to a lecture about all the bacteria that crawls around on mats—and onto your belt—during each training session.
This didn’t sink in at first. But after suffering a few staph infections, I decided to make my cleanliness as thorough as possible. Speaking of staph…
IF YOU HAVE A SKIN INFECTION, STAY AWAY FROM THE GYM, AND FINISH YOUR ANTIBIOTICS
As someone who trains two to three times a day, six days a week, it’s tough for me to step away from the gym for health reasons, and my Professor’s phone is always going off with text messages from me as my sanity slowly erodes due to lack of training. Still, you don’t want to spread what you have to other students. If word gets out that the gym you attend is dirty, it could be detrimental to its reputation. There have been gyms that have been forced to close due to students rescinding their membership as a result of this.
So, when you’re taking time off from training as a result of a skin infection, take antibiotics if your doctor prescribes them. But be sure to finish the prescription. If you don’t, the infection could come back, and it could be more difficult to kill in its second incarnation.
TAPE OPEN WOUNDS OR CUTS
Staph results when bacteria infect an open wound, causing a cyst-like abrasion on your skin. While tape is not a bacteria-proof wall, it can keep some of it out, and it also keeps it from making direct contact with the sweat on your training partners.
HAVE SANDALS EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE GYM
We put our faces on the mat, so it’s important to keep it as clean as possible. This means that, when you’re walking around the gym, but not on the mat, always wear sandals. The pair of sandals should be designated for the gym and not worn anywhere outside of it.
SHOWER IMMEDIATELY AFTER TRAINING
I hear fellow practitioners say that they live within five minutes from the gym, and they just drive home for post-training bathing. But by doing this, you’re tracking sweat from training into your car, which will dry on the vehicle’s interior. It also gives bacteria time to get into open wounds—potentially causing staph infection.
CHANGE YOUR GI IF YOU’RE TAKING MORE THAN ONE CLASS
Gis can soak a lot of sweat, and if you’re taking more than one class per night, you should change into a clean gi for the next class. This will prevent the dried sweat on your gi from the previous class from making contact with students who just started their training session for the night.
KEEP YOUR FINGERNAILS TRIMMED
This is more of a safety precaution than a health one, but dirt can accumulate underneath long fingernails, so it can be interchangeable. Nobody wants to get sliced by makeshift Wolverine claws and risk it getting infected. Do your training partners a favor; keep your nails trimmed. If you don’t have any, ask your Professor for some.
When all you want to think about is how to better set up submissions from inverted guard, or how to finally get that first place medal in a tournament, cleanliness can take a backseat in your Jiu- Jitsu thought process, but it’s difficult to accomplish any goal if you’re sidelined due to a hygiene-related illness. So do your part in keeping your gym clean; your training partners will thank you for it.