If you’re not already sold on the ‘cool factor’ of rash guards and are still debating whether you should be wearing one, below are the 6 reasons why you need to consider wearing a rash guard for BJJ:
- Your own gym’s requirements
- Reduce the risk of staph and other infections
- Protect your gi from sweat
- Prevent mat burn and friction scars
- Prevent minor injuries and speed up recovery
- Improve your grips when sweating
If you’re like me, you probably have an ever-growing collection of rash guards.
It’s our guilty pleasure and it’s pretty easy to justify financially because they’re relatively cheap compared to a BJJ gi.
They’ve become a great way of expressing our individual personalities on the mat, with some very interesting designs out on the market today.
Let’s look into the factors you need to consider when thinking about wearing a rash guard.
By the way, if you’re new to BJJ or if you’re looking to improve faster you should definitely check out my guide to learning BJJ online with video.
BJJ - The Gentle Art
BJJ - The Gentle Art
What Are Your Gym’s Requirements
If your gym has a rash guard requirement then you will need one to train. If your gym does not have a rash guard requirement, then you are free to choose for yourself.
Before considering any other factors, we need to look at your own gym’s policies.
More and more BJJ gyms have started asking their members to start wearing a rash guard as a standard requirement if they want to train there.
This has been a topic of debate for many practitioners, some feel they should be able to train bare-chested if they want.
This is often done as a courtesy to other students.
You can imagine not everyone is going to be okay with the idea of having a sweaty, hairy chest scrape across their face.
The more students are comfortable training at your gym, the more members you’ll have to roll with, the quicker our community will grow – That’s the idea.
So the first factor to consider, and probably the only one that’s out of your control is whether or not your gym actually has a rash guard policy in place.
Help Prevent Staph Infections When Training BJJ
The use of a rash guard in both gi and no-gi reduces your risk of infections like ringworm and staph (MRSA). Long sleeve rash guards are particularly effective at protecting your skin while training from harmful bacteria can be found on BJJ mats.
The most sensible reason for wearing a rash guard would be the health benefits they provide.
Most gyms have pretty good cleaning routines, always ensuring mats are cleaned as often as possible.
In most cases, mats would be cleaned on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, not all gyms maintain this level of cleanliness, and from time to time infections of all kinds can spread. Including the dreaded staph infection.
Jiu-Jitsu practitioners would traditionally train bare-chested, on dirty mats with all sorts of funky organisms waiting to infect their open wounds.
In a gi, you would at least still have the added layer of the gi top to protect you from unwanted skin rashes.
I would still highly recommend the use of a rash guard, even with the gi.
Anyone who’s rolled at least one 5-minute round will know a gi top will rarely stay in place.
A good rash guard that fits well and stays put while you train is always going to be a good added layer of defence.
Some have even opted for the long sleeve rash guard along with a VERY tight pair of spats, also known as compression leggings.
Protect Your Gi From Sweat
Wearing a rash guard can increase the longevity of your gi by up to 50%.
The fast-drying material is perfect for limiting the amount of liquid your gi must absorb while training.
This reduces the impact of friction on the weave of your gi, prolonging its life.
Did you know that sweat was bad for your gi? Neither did I!
Having the protective layer of a rash guard, made of a fast-drying material like nylon, polyester or spandex will help protect your gi.
BJJ creates a lot of friction during a roll.
In fact, it’s an essential part of Jiu-Jitsu.
The more friction you’re able to produce, the more control you’ll typically have.
With the added liquid in the form of sweat, your gi is essentially being ground to a pulp.
A good rash guard reduces the amount of exposure your gi will have to sweat, which helps to prolong the life of your prized possession.
Considering the price of some gis currently available on the market, rash guards are a huge money saver.
Prevent Mat Burn And Friction Scars
Wearing a rash guard (and spats) under your gi creates a slippery barrier between your skin and the gi. This helps to reduce the risk of friction scars created by the hard weave of your gi while training. A good rash guard will also help to reduce the risk of mat burn when training no-gi.
One of the most common reasons for wearing a rash guard is to protect your skin while training.
Whether you roll in gi or no-gi, mat burn is going to be something you’re always going to have to deal with.
In fact, rolling in gi could increase your risk of friction scars.
The sturdy design of the fabric used to make a gi is great for longevity and strength, but not so great for protecting your skin while rolling.
For no-gi, you should also be looking to reduce the friction between you and the ground.
Not only to prevent friction scars, but the reduced friction between you and the ground also allows you to move more freely under your training partner (which is great!).
Prevent Minor Injuries And Speed Up Recovery
A tight-fitting rash guard functions the same way as a compression vest, which has the benefit of compressing your muscles while training. Studies have shown that wearing compression garments can help to reduce the risk of minor muscle injuries, and reduces the time it takes for minor injuries to heal.
If you’ve used any sort of compression garment before, you’ll know how much steadier your muscles feel when they’re being supported.
Giving your muscles an extra bit of support when rolling might just help to keep you on the mats a little while longer.
Throughout my own time training, I’ve used a compression knee brace as well as an ankle brace.
In both cases, I felt far more stable while training, and my injuries were able to heal much quicker because the compression reduced any sudden movements that would worsen the existing injury.
Improve Your Grips When Sweating
Using a full-length rash guard reduces the amount of sweat that reaches your hands, increasing your grip friction when rolling. Your rash guard works as a candle wick, absorbing and holding the sweat until it evaporates through body heat.
The more you sweat, the more slippery you get.
This is great if you’re the one defending because it’s far easier to slip out of submissions.
If you’re the one attacking, you want as little sweat on your hands as possible to finish the submission more effectively.
There is still a subset of grapplers who choose to train and compete bare-chested, especially for no-gi.
A sweaty torso will always be more slippery than a rash guard.
Get used to wearing a rash guard, they’re relatively cheap and the benefits are obvious.
Plus, they look great!
One of my favorite brands is Tatami.
Here’s A Great Q&A Session With Ramsey Dewey
Frequently Asked Questions
BJJ rash guards are usually made of one or more materials used for strength and durability to deal with the stresses of training. These materials include:
Rash guards are constructed using a special flatlock stitch. Allowing them to fit tightly while stretching.
Photo by Tatami Fightwear