What is a BJJ rash guard? The BJJ rash guard is a practical and diverse athletic garment worn by BJJ athletes all over the world. For people just starting out in BJJ (or considering a switch from the Gi), it can be a bit confusing knowing what to look for.
Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned veteran, it is vital that you educate yourself before you decide which to purchase. In this guide, we will discuss everything there is to know about BJJ rash guards. If you’re interested in getting a rash guard, choosing the right fit and knowing the benefits of it, this guide will show you the way.
The BJJ rash guard is a relatively modern development in sport jiujitsu.
If you watch any old footage of Jiu-Jitsu legends like Rickson Gracie in Vale Tudo and Royce Gracie in the UFC you will notice that they were not seen wearing rash guards in the early 90’s. Likewise, there is still plenty of footage from no-gi jiujitsu matches from the early 2000s where just about everyone is either topless or in a shirt. So, where did the BJJ rash guard came from? The short answer is that it’s not really clear. However, it’s relatively certain that what eventually became known as “No-Gi Jiu Jitsu” is responsible for the birth of the rash guard.
Training without the gi was not entirely taboo even back in Brazil before the Gracies came to America or even as far back as when BJJ and Luta Livre had a heated rivalry in Brazil. While people from all sorts of backgrounds would train in Jiu Jitsu with traditional kimonos there was also a need for the sport to have practicality in real life where the Gi was not applicable. This type of training was often done after practice or informally.
As time passed, the concept of jiu-jitsu without a Gi developed its own identity spawning its own needs and fashions. The fashion evolved from training in full Gi to going topless with the Gi pants on. It moved on to cotton T-shirts and Gi pants. Practitioners eventually ditched the Gi pants and started wearing shorts and speedos.
As Brazil had a strong surf culture, surf rash guards were eventually incorporated in the attire. From this, the modern, specialized BJJ rash guards eventually evolved and came to more prominent and common use in the early 2000s.
While rash guards have evolved over the years from plain and simple surf rash guards to specialized pieces of clothing that are specific for the nature of the sport their purpose has essentially remained the same.
The name is self-evident, rash + guard. It provides protection against rashes from grueling grappling sessions, protects you from the mat burns caused by excessive friction between the skin and the mat, keeps you germ-free, keeps the infections at bay and your partners sweat to his/her own skin.
The lycra, nylon or spandex made cloth, wicks the moisture away from your skin keeping you cool and light throughout your session. It’s comfortable to wear and makes you look great without much effort.
Rash guards can be used as standalone clothing items to provide more mobility, a full range of motion and more durability. Not to mention, you get +10 cool points for wearing one.
There’s no need for a fitted shirt when you have a material that sticks to your skin and gives your body a light hug. Rash guards usually consist of nylon, polyester, spandex or (rarely) lycra. The garment is lightweight, quick-drying, flexible, durable, naturally antibacterial and water wicking.
BJJ rash guards are constructed with a flatlock stitch. What’s a flatlock stitch? It’s special stitching that brings the garment seams together to minimize skin chaffing and ensure a tight, compressed fit against your skin.
Instead of using a conventional four-panel t-shirt construction, rash guards use six panels, which ensures increased mobility, wet or dry. The BJJ rash guard is typically thicker and stronger than a surf rash guard and especially a compression shirt.
You can find various types and styles of rash guards on the market. The most common are short sleeve cut, sleeveless and long sleeve.
It is recommended that one buys a full sleeve rash guard to provide more safety to the skin and prevent staph infection. Long sleeves are also great at keeping you warmer in winter months. Training partners may appreciate them more because of the reduced contact with your skin. However, many people maintaining the feel of their arms (and possibly enjoy showing off), in which case short sleeve (or sleeveless) is the preferred choice.
There are numerous designs on the market, from plain designs to tuxedo’s imprinted on the rash guard. Let your imagination run wild. You can find awesome zombie rash guards or even become your favorite super saiyan inspired character.
A rash guard isn’t necessary for training, but it’s recommended. As an alternative, you can wear a t-shirt or a sleeveless depending on your preference (pro tip: never go topless), but any casual shirt will absorb sweat and feel like a wet towel after the first roll.
A compression shirt might offer some of the benefits of a rash guard, but typically it’s not built or fit for grappling and it might deteriorate with regular use.
Depending on the intensity, shirts are more likely to tear apart or get stuck during grappling. Maybe you don’t sweat a lot and don’t mind people’s sweat on you, but you should think about your partner, would you enjoy being smothered by a sweaty armpit/belly of someone wearing a rash guard or the one that isn’t?
Here are a few reasons why you should consider wearing a rash guard.
Many of these benefits also apply to wearing your rash guard under a gi, which is common in Brazilian Jiujitsu and sometimes even mandated by some clubs.
Rash Guards come in a wide range of options for you to pick from—including long sleeve, t-shirt cut, and sleeveless. The best option for you should be purely based on your personal preferences but keep the following points in mind.
Manufacturers like Scramble and Tatami make shirts in a longer length to prevent a ride up, on the other hand, Jiujitero has come up with waist cuffs creating a tighter bottom as a solution.
A high-quality rash guard is an investment that will last you years but not everyone can spend $60 on a rash guard, that’s half a GI, so what you can do is wait for the sale season and grab a few for half price. Black Friday is always a good time to buy. However, if patience is not your virtue, then you are basically left with choosing between a surf rash guard or a compression shirt.
Note, while we believe there are substantial differences, others think that surf rash guards or compression shirt are fine for grappling/BJJ.
Here are some tips to keeping your rash guard in good shape.
Rash guards are made up of very fine, short polyester fibers. A common problem is when some of these fibers work their way out of the main fabric, also known as “piling.” There is nothing to completely prevent piling, but a few tips can help add longevity to your rash guard’s life.
When washing your rash guard, keep these additional tips in mind:
The IBJJF has strict rules and sanctions concerning the type of rash guards used while competing. IBJJF and Naga do not allow a rash guard under the Gi for competitions. The respective rules for No-Gi competitors are as follows.
Rash guard brands initially catered exclusively to men. Thus, women were restricted to generic companies like Under Armour to find a rash guard that fit them. However, as interest in the sport has blossomed so too has the market for women’s BJJ gear in general and lady’s rash guards along with it.
Female fight apparel found mainstream popularity when the UFC’s female stars started rocking rash guards in training and tournaments. The SUG 2 (Submission Underground 2) battle between Meisha Tate and Jessica Eye is a well-known example.
Women can select a perfect fit from their well-known brands. Companies like Venum, Phalanx, Takami, Hypnotik are popular and make high-quality female BJJ rash guards.