5 Tips for Better Mat Hygiene

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Recent events have made humanity far more aware of our filth and poor hygiene, and no community could use a refresher course on hygiene more than the grappling community…  I kid, but one can never be too cautious! Here are 5 ways that you can improve your hygiene and your gym’s hygiene immediately (or when you get back to training after the quarantines and social distancing end).

1. Wash all of your gear including your belt.  A large part of the jiu-jitsu world thinks that washing belts gets rid of their magic juju.  The fact is that belts harbour the same things as any other piece of fabric and you need to wash them.  Seriously. Wash all of your gear, but those of you who wash everything but your belts need to start washing your belts as well.  Washing your stuff helps a lot, but you can do a lot to improve the quality of the process by which you’re washing your stuff. There are various detergents and additives that will improve the ability of washing to kill microbes that your gear may harbour.  Personally I like to use a detergent cup full of white vinegar with each load as well as a drop or 2 of tea tree oil, I find that this kills odour when detergent fails. But to my original point: wash your belt.

2. Self check for lesions and speak up when you see lesions.  I don’t know about anyone else, but when I train I always give my partners a bit of an ocular pat-down.  I look for ringworm and other suspicious marks, and am not shy about asking about them if I see something I don’t like.  The most common maladies in grappling are skin borne illnesses, and a big part of the reason for that is that people do a poor or sloppy job of checking themselves.  Every time I shower after training I look at myself in a mirror to make sure I don’t have ringworm or other lesions in places I don’t see or necessarily feel yet. Don’t be the one that spreads ringworm or staph around your gym.  If you discover that you have something take immediate steps and precautions to get rid of it and halt its spread.

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3. Don’t train sick, and if someone is sick avoid training with them.  Far too often I’ll talk to someone after training and they’ll say “Oh yeah this cold is kicking my butt”.  Sickness affects different people differently. If there’s anything that the current global situation is telling us, it’s that just because something won’t harm you doesn’t mean it won’t harm a loved one.  Spreading sickness around a gym is a bad thing, don’t do it. If you feel under the weather, one option is to train by yourself at home, there are all sorts of solo drills and ways to train that isolate you from other people.  People prioritise training over health sometimes, don’t, or if you do at least limit the number of people you train with.

4. Disinfect the gear that doesn’t often get disinfected.  People always talk about washing gis, belts and rash guards, but what about gear bags?  What about knee pads and headgear? If you do striking: what about gloves and hand wraps?  If it comes on the mat with you, it needs at least an occasional scrub down. Some items are hard to wash or need to be washed separately.  One option that my coach, Sean Daugherty, came up with is a mixture of rubbing alcohol and tea tree oil. Mixing these two will disinfect just about everything, put them in a spray bottle and have at it.  There are all sorts of products available for this, but the bottom line is: spraying your equipment with something designed to kill microbes is essential to your health.

5. Don’t walk off the mat without shoes on, and if you do, clean your feet.  People always talk about how forbidden stepping off the mat barefoot is, but sometimes it just happens.  Sometimes we’re in the bathroom with flipflops on and somehow wind up stepping barefoot on the ground. I have a simple method of dealing with this: I clean my feet before stepping back on the mat.  This can be done by slathering them with hand sanitiser or a disinfectant spray, or if all else fails, I’ll wash them in a sink. But stepping on the ground barefoot and stepping back on the mats is a no no.

These are 5 off the beaten path, not often thought of ways to improve your hygiene on the mat.  There are plenty of things people do to try to be cleaner, but ultimately each person is responsible for their own cleanliness.  Don’t be shy about calling out poor hygiene, but also be polite about it. What are some tips or tricks YOU have for better hygiene on the mat?  

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Emil Fischer is a brown belt competitor training under Pablo Castro at Strong Style MMA in Independence Ohio. Emil writes for various jiu jitsu related blogs and magazines, is a brand ambassador for Ludwig Van and Vanguard Kimono and is sponsored by Trap And Roll Soap, Impact Mouth Guards, The Terphouse, Cleveland Cryo, Nottarookie, Eddys on Coventry and Meerkatsu You can check out more of his work and his competition footage at www.facebook.com/emilfischerbjj.

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