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Just How Important is Proper Hygiene in the Academy?

Just How Important is Proper Hygiene in the Academy?

Let’s talk about the importance of good hygiene in the jiu jitsu world.  Let’s start with, what all constitutes good hygiene?


First and foremost, clean training gear is a must.  Let’s just start with the basics; wash your Gi and belt after every use.  This is s simple task yet is imperative, especially in the warmer weather to keep the germs and smell under control.  The longer you wait to wash your gear after class the more time bacteria has to grow making it more difficult to kill in the wash cycle.  Bottom line, wash ALL of your gear (belt included) immediately after each training session.

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If you are doing this consistently your gear should last you a long time, however, if you can’t seem to get the smell to come out, it’s time to replace your that item.  The smell is a sign of bacteria that is alive and growing inside of the fabric of your gear. If this happens, throw it out, and replace it and be more diligent in washing your gear right after training. You may also want to use a laundry detergent specifically designed for sports that specializes in killing bacteria.

Now that the gear is clean, the next key is to make sure we have good personal hygiene.  When you’re preparing for class make sure that you have showered regularly and are using some sort of a deodorant.  This is especially the case if you like to workout or do Crossfit prior to coming to class, or have a job you where you get particularly dirty.  Showering more than once a day is ok, and it may be appreciated. Use your best judgement on this one. It seems to me that this is fairly common, and I feel like most people do this naturally, but nevertheless, it is a crucial component of good hygiene in any sport, especially jiu jitsu.  

The next part of good hygiene is your nails.  Make sure to keep your finger nails AND toenails trimmed so we can prevent unnecessary scratching while training.  This is quick and easy and should never be neglected. Pick up a pair of nail clippers and toss them in your bag as a backup in case you forget.  There’s nothing worse than having to stop a training session because you or your partner got scratched and now you’re bleeding. Be respectful and keep your nails trimmed.

Let’s talk about breath.  The reality of it is in training we are often times breathing in each other’s faces from a close distance.  Just like you’d make sure your breath didn’t smell bad for a date (we hope) make sure it doesn’t smell bad on the mats.  Brush your teeth, chew some gum, eat mints, find something that works for you, smokers, this includes you too. No one wants to train with someone who’s breath smells bad.

Just as important as good hygiene prior to class, we have to focus on good hygiene after class.  The sooner you can shower after class the better. A general rule of thumb is to make sure to shower within three hours of completing your training.  

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Let’s clarify, just because you got into the shower and quickly put some soap on your body doesn’t mean you had a effective shower. First, you should be using a quality soap product, ideally something designed for our sport, like Defense or Arm Bar Soap.  Secondly, if you want to kill the bacterial, you have to put soap on it, so be diligent in scrubbing your entire body with quality soap to ensure you are staying clean. This is not only for smelling clean, but actually being clean.

Failing to shower well, or soon enough after training can result in you contracting ringworm.  Ringworm is a fungus that can take weeks to show signs on your skin, and can also take weeks to get rid of.  You can not train while you have it, and it spreads easily from scratching it, using the same towel or washcloth over it and then other parts of your body, and also from using a razor over it and then other parts of your body.  

Lastly, let’s talk about bare feet.  It seems so natural to not wear shoes on the mat, obviously, we know this is the expectation.  However, it seems the culture and expectations are much different when it comes to ensuring everyone is wearing shoes off the mats.  The thing is, walking barefoot off the mats and then walking back on the mats transfers bacterial from all of the surfaces you walked on.  

Wearing shoes in the bathroom is a must.  It’s gross. I’ll say it again, wear shoes in the bathroom!  As a general rule of thumb, there should be no shoes on the mats, but absolutely wear them off the mats.    

When we talk about shoes off the mats, a lot of time flip flops or slides seem to be a common choice.  I agree these are perfect. Something to consider however is ensuring that whatever shoes you decide on are made of a material you can easily clean with a Clorox wipe from time to time to ensure there isn’t any unwanted bacteria or germs on your shoes.  

Last but not least, someone in the academy should be cleaning the mats diligently, and regularly.  Depending on the structure of the academy they may have students volunteering to clean the mats. If this is the case, make sure you do your fair share and volunteer to help on occasion.

In summary, this is mostly common sense.  It’s an important reminder from time to time to check our hygiene.  It only takes slipping up once to really interrupt your training. Remember to wash your gear immediately after training, shower regularly and use deodorant, shower immediately after training, keep your nails trimmed and lastly, always wear shoes of some sort when you’re off the mats.

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