Jiu-jitsu — there’s no way you’re going to be able to train without being up close and personal with other people. When you’re involved in such a close contact sport, having good hygiene is essential. The last thing you want is to catch some sort of infection or pass something you caught along to your teammates. [A simple online search of infections caught as a result of bad hygiene on the mats should be enough to scare you.] Following a few basic hygiene practices can help you avoid such disasters and help you continue to train in a healthy, clean environment:
- Wash your gi after every training session. Don’t just air dry it and spray it with some fabric freshener or odor neutralizer. Wash it after every single training session. Remember, just because it’s dry doesn’t mean it’s clean! If you’re training back to back sessions, have a second gi on hand in case you need to change. Nobody likes to train with a sweaty partner. [Note: Soaking your gi in white vinegar and water can help disinfect it and eliminate odor.]
- Wash your hands (or at least disinfect them) before and after you train. Use wet wipes or another type of reliable disinfectant product. Using them on your feet before slipping on your socks and shoes is also a good idea as you inadvertently accumulate sweat and dirt as you roll on the mats.
- Don’t train if you have an infection or you are ill. As tough as it is to miss training sessions, trust me, you’ll feel worse if you find out you’ve passed your illness or infection on to your teammates. Stay off the mats and only rejoin class when you’re better.
- Cut and file your finger nails and toe nails. I have been on the receiving end of several scratches, some to the point of drawing blood. It’s not fun nor is it nice. Not only does a scratch hurt, it could cause an open wound (or open a healing wound). Respect the safety and training of your partners and cut your nails. Besides, how are you going to get a good grip with long fingernails?
- Don’t wear jewelry on the mats. Any jewelry with sharp edges, e.g. earring studs, should definitely not be worn. They could hurt your training partner and/or cause cuts or open wounds. I see many people training with their wedding bands on, I understand the desire to show your commitment to your spouse, but in a training environment, is it really necessary? If you really want to wear your wedding ring, perhaps switch to a silicone ring instead for the safety of your training partners.
- Wash your mouthguard after every use. Wash it thoroughly in warm water; you can even use mouthwash or brush it with toothpaste to get rid of germs. Allow it to thoroughly dry before putting it back in its case.
- If you wear knee braces, ankle wraps or other training gear, wash them after each use. Anything that has sweat provides a breeding ground for bacteria and infection.
- If you have open wounds, cover them – and cover them well! Sometimes a single bandaid won’t cut it. Protect yourself and your training partners by making sure there is no exposure to open wounds when training.
- Wear sandals when off the mats, particularly when going to and from the bathroom.
- Do not linger around in clothes soaked in sweat. Change out of them immediately and shower as soon as possible. Also wash your training clothes as soon as you can – don’t let sweat soaked clothes sit in your gym bag (it doesn’t hurt to wash your gym bag either)!
- If you catch an infection like ringworm, let your coach know immediately and don’t train with it until it is completely treated.
- General consideration: Brush your teeth and wear deodorant (but not strong perfumes) before training. Nobody likes a smelly partner. Also, if you have long hair, tie it up.
- Be open to communication – if someone has a stinky gi, has open wounds, or just has bad hygiene practices in general, don’t be afraid to let them know. Also be open to receiving the same feedback should you happen to fall into that category.
Remember, jiu-jitsu is the art of self-defense — so defend yourself and help others defend themselves against illness and infection by establishing good hygiene practices.