As the weather starts to get warmer the need for proper hygiene really starts to become apparent due to most gyms acting as breeding grounds for nasty skin conditions (dirty, uncleaned mats that are warm and moist with sweat).
I remember in high school our wrestlers constantly had ringworm and other skin conditions (MRSA a few times) due to unclean training surfaces (these mats got cleaned maybe three times a year) and bad hygiene (young men are notoriously gross creatures); being the person who is in charge of taking care of the gym I vowed I would never let our place of training become such a festering cesspool as my high schools wrestling room was. And because of diligent cleaning and strong personal hygiene habits from our classmates, any skin conditions our people have gotten have not been from our gym (usually gotten from being outside or visiting other gyms) and anything that has possibly been brought in from the outside is immediately killed that night when we clean the gym.
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The first tip to keeping your body healthy and clean is the making sure the mats are clean. It still surprises me that I have never had a new person coming to our gym either with or without Brazilian Jiu Jitsu experience ask if our mats get cleaned regularly. I highly implore you to be vocal at your gym and ask if your mats are cleaned at the end of every night and I highly recommend that if you have the time in your schedule, stay to help clean it. Something as simple as clean mats will reduce the harmful bacteria that can be brought in from the outside world during classes, rather than leaving it unattended and allowing all the nasty stuff to sit there and grow.
Next, shower. If you have had a long day at work, shower before you train. Maybe not right before you train because that will strip your body of the good bacteria, but if you can manage an hour or two before training that would be great. That way you know you are not contributing to bringing the gross stuff into the gym. Then as soon as you are done training, go home and shower. You do not know what could have been brought into the gym by somebody else, what you could have come in contact with, right when you are done training take a shower and thoroughly wash your body. If you are really concerned about your skin, there are several companies out there who make Brazilian Jiu Jitsu specific soaps.
Clean your gi and no gi gear including braces and sleeves, supports, etc. Nothing is worse than training with the stinky gi guy, actually maybe even worse than training with the stinky gi guy is being the stinky gi guy! Watch as the whole gym avoids eye contact with you during drilling and rolling, not because you are a phenom that just destroys everybody’s fragile ego, no, you just smell and no one wants that touching their skin. Every day you should have a clean gi. If you trained in the morning and plan on coming back to train at night, either clean that gi immediately or have a brand new fresh one ready, no reusing stinky gis please.
No bare feet off the mat. If you need to walk off to check your phone, grab a water, get some fresh air, it does not matter, put on shoes or even better, a pair of flip flops that you ONLY use when you are at the gym. A quick tip for those special Brazilian Jiu Jitsu sandals, wipe them down with a Clorox wipe from time to time, that way nothing nasty lives on those sandals.
DO NOT and I repeat, DO NOT GO TO THE RESTROOM BAREFOOT!!! Why do people do this? First off, not wearing shoes off the mat is gross because now you are stepping on who knows what and bringing it on the mat, now stepping in the restroom with no shoes is even worse! I do not want to get into specifics, but no matter how clean a bathroom looks, there are still little particles or urine and fecal matter all over the place, when you step on in and track that onto the mat, now peoples faces are touching those spots, that is disgusting. Please wear your shoes or designated Brazilian Jiu Jitsu sandals to the restroom.
Clip your nails and remove jewelry before training. Scratch marks from people nails or jewelry are pretty easy to recognize because they almost always turn a gross shade of yellow and take way too long to heal. Be courteous to your partners, clip your long nails, file the sharp edges down, and remove your jewelry. With the jewelry it is not just about you cutting your partners with it, but if your ear rings for example get snagged on a gi and gets torn out of your face, now your blood is everywhere, all over your partners and the mat. Simple solution, take them out or cover heavily with tape!
Hand sanitizer, deodorant and fresh breath. We talked about showering to rid our body of bad bacteria but our hands touch everything, constantly. A quick squirt of hand sanitizer before your training session and you will take care of 99.9% of the new stuff you touched on your way to the gym. Deodorant is a quick way to make sure you smell good and continue to smell good without being obnoxious and using tons of strong perfumes and colognes.
Also, fresh breath. Brush your teeth before training and why take a mint or piece of gum before hopping on the mat? Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is about as close contact as it gets, do not let your breath be the difference between having a partner and being the lone wolf awkwardly looking for a group to hop in with, let your personality be the reason people do not like you, not your breath. (Parents, do not let your children chew gum or eat mints during class time, we do not need them choking from anything that is not a rear naked choke or collar choke during class time).
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Bring a gym towel. Some people sweat more than others and that is OK. There is nothing wrong with being a heavy sweater but you must take into account how other people may feel about it. Simple solution, bring a towel to wipe off your excess sweat in between rounds. If you sweat only kind of a lot, a small towel should do, if you are the kind of person who can drench three separate heavy weave gi’s in one training sessions, bring a whole shower towel just for your sweat. Your partners will appreciate it!
Blood. If you have an open wound, cover it before training. Here is the thing though, bring your own tape! If you have wound that you did not notice, I am sure your coach will not mind letting you use some of their precious tape, but, if you know you have a cut please purchase your own tape. As instructors, we are not rich (usually), please do us a favor and purchase your own roll of tape to keep in your gym bag. Now lets say your training and the new spazzy white belt busts your nose open on the mat, what do you do? Do not ignore it for someone else to slip in, do not smear in around with a paper towel. Get some Clorox wipes or some kind of mat friendly disinfectant and clean it up.
Clean up your sweaty gear. Do not leave your sweaty clothes lying around the gym, stick them in your gym bag and as soon as you get home, get it out of your bag and into the washer. We understand accidents happen and sometimes you forget stuff in the changing room or something slips out of your gym bag, but if it can be helped please do not leave these gross articles of clothing laying around for your coaches to have to pick up after you.
Skin conditions. If you have anything on your skin that is not normal to you, DO NOT STEP ON THE MATS!!! Talk to your doctor and see what it is. A lot of times simple things like ingrown hairs or a scratch can be susceptible to infection. Do not bring it on the mats where others can come in contact with it. Take the necessary time off for it to be treated, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is not going anywhere, a couple weeks off may absolutely suck but the health of you and your teammates is not something to gamble with.
I hope these guidelines help you maintain a healthy and clean body. Do not be afraid to share these tips with others, some people do not know these, not because they are bad people who do not care but because they simply do not know the proper hygiene for the culture of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. If you are an instructor, coach or professor I highly recommend sending these tips via email or paper handout to new students just starting out at your gym that way they learn right away what is acceptable before something comes up in real life and must be addressed. An ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure and if all practitioners are on the same page about the hygiene your gym will continue to be a safe and healthy training center for all people, or all ages and walks of life, which is what we strive for as martial art that claims it is for everybody!
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