Hygiene Tips for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, MMA, and other Combat Sports
Martial arts training requires a lot of hard work and consistency to be successful. While the main focus of training is to improve one’s skills, another important focus is the daily hygiene routine that every practitioner should have.
If you have trained BJJ, Muay Thai, MMA, or any form of martial arts, you understand that people are in constant contact with other people and equipment. Contact between training partners and equipment inevitably allows bacteria to spread. If bacteria is ignored, it will grow. In gyms, this growth of bacteria can lead to skin issues and other nasty stuff. Fortunately, there are simple preventative steps that can be taken so that you can continue your martial arts training and avoid skin infections.
Shower everyday - or at least the night before and immediately after you train. Showering on a consistent basis is one of the easiest ways to prevent skin infections such as ringworm or staphylococcus (staph). Use shampoo, soap, and anything else you deem necessary to clean yourself from bacteria you picked up in the gym. It is recommended that you shower within four hours of activity, allowing the lathered body wash of choice to remain on your skin for at least 30 seconds before washing it off. If you are unsure about what to use after training, there are specifically designed soaps and body washes aimed at preventing skin infections for contact sport athletes (see links). Shower as soon as possible after training sessions, to keep you and your training partners safe from skin infections.
2) Clean Your Equipment
Your skin isn’t the only thing that picks up bacteria during training. The clothes you wear and equipment you use also pick up bacteria, when they come into contact with other people and equipment. Bacteria breed anywhere they can, so it is very important that you keep your clothes and equipment clean. Try to do laundry for your training clothes as often as possible and avoid wearing previously worn training clothes, if they have not been washed before you put them on again. The same applies to your training equipment.
Laundry for training clothes: gis, belts, rashguards, shorts, compression items, jockstraps/cupholders, hand wraps, joint braces, ankle supports
Any clothing worn during training MUST be washed before wearing again!
Disinfecting wipes/spray for training equipment: gloves, shin guards, gym bag, mouthguards (soap + water)
Any equipment used during training MUST be cleaned before using again!
3) Clean Your Gym
Usually the head coach, owner of the gym, or other instructors will take care of this part so that students don’t have to. If you are part of the staff at a gym, ensure you have a routine for keeping your gym clean. For those who may not know, a basic cleaning routine for a gym includes:
1) Disinfect the mats by spraying them with a bleach solution (ex. one gallon water, ¾ - 1 cup bleach)
2) Let this solution sit on the surface of the mats for at least one minute (this will ensure that everything gets killed and has no chance of spreading afterward)
3) Mop around the solution to ensure all parts of the mat get cleaned
4) Let the (now disinfected) mats sit for at least a minute, before anyone gets back on
Aim to clean the mats after training sessions and always clean it before closing the gym for the day.
If blood gets on the mat, let the blood sit on the mat for at least one minute. After this, follow steps 1-2. It is very important that when you spray bleach solution on the blood, you let it sit for at least a minute; doing so will kill anything that could be inside the blood. After letting the solution sit for at least one minute, wipe it up with a napkin or wipe and then properly dispose of it.
For students: it never hurts to ask the staff if they need some help spraying and mopping the mats or spraying and wiping down gym equipment (gloves, shin guards, heavy bags, Thai pads, boxing mitts, fitness equipment, etc).
4) Keep your shoes off the mats
Throughout the day, our shoes pick up a lot of bacteria. We step on many different surfaces everyday - surfaces that many other people also step on. Every floor surface has bacteria, especially commonly used indoor and outdoor surfaces (ex. bathrooms, sidewalks). If you step on the mats with your shoes, you are now bringing bacteria from outside onto the mats - the same mats you roll on, lie down on, and touch constantly throughout training sessions. For example, say someone uses a very filthy gas station bathroom. Later in the day, they stop by the gym for BJJ class. For some crazy reason, they decide to walk on the mats without taking their shoes off first. Now everyone is unknowingly rolling in the filth of the gas station bathroom. This is the consequence for not removing your shoes before stepping on the mats. Same logic applies when you’re off the mat. You wouldn’t want someone using the gym’s bathroom barefoot, then immediately stepping back on the mats. You might as well just roll in the bathroom, since the germs from the bathroom floor have now spread to the mats. These are just two people. Could you imagine a whole class spreading germs from random dirty floors?
On the mats, shoes off. Off the mat, shoes on.
5) Maintain Good Gym Etiquette
Having good gym etiquette is a win-win-win. Everyone involved wins from proper behavior: you, your training partners, and the gym itself. Here are some general tips for maintaining good etiquette in a martial arts gym:
Cover any and all open wounds. This will reduce the chances of getting and spreading infections.
Don't train when sick. Training while sick delays your body’s recovery, which means it will take longer (1) for your body to recover from training and (2) for your immune system to fight the illness. In addition, very few people will appreciate you getting them sick. Just take a few days off, then go back when you’re as close to 100% as possible.
Don’t train with any skin infection. See the point above.
Trim your nails: fingernails and toenails.
You and your teammates should hold one another accountable for basic hygiene standards. Do the simple things to stay clean and keep the gym clean.
If you suspect one of your training partners has a skin infection, speak to them privately about your concerns. If you feel uncomfortable bringing it up to them, respectfully ask an instructor to talk with them. If you feel uncomfortable training with someone who you suspect may have a skin infection, you can always politely decline for the day and work with someone else.
Thank you for reading - we hope this helps with staying clean and preventing skin infections!