How To Train Martial Arts With Long Hair

For anybody who has long hair and has done athletics, they understand that you’ll have to take certain measures to keep hair out of the way, and martial arts is no different. For both training martial arts and actually fighting, long hair can be disadvantageous, so finding a way to train martial arts effectively with long hair is rather important.

In order to most effectively train martial arts with long hair, you will want to use more practical hairstyles like ponytails, buns, knots, and braids. Other practical options include using hair bands, bandanas, and other elastic hair products to keep your hair out of the way.

Many fighters like to keep long hair, so it isn’t uncharted territory to train in martial arts with long hair. Let’s go over some tips on how people like to deal with training martial arts and fighting with long hair.

Is Long Hair a Liability in a Fight?

In a fight, it is a definite disadvantage to having long hair. In fact, many people opt for shorter hair when they get into martial arts or combat sports to sidestep the difficulties and disadvantages of training with longer hair.

Long hair can be a liability in a fight. In a self-defense situation, hair pulling and control through hanging onto hair is a real issue, and long hair can also impair your ability to see. In competitions, hair pulling is usually a banned technique, although it can still impair your vision.

These reasons have led many dedicated martial artists or fighters to stick to short hairstyles. Still, many have chosen to keep their long hair, learning to tame it and leave it in place.

Others find long hair to give some advantage to the fighter, as it can be distracting for your opponent. Long braids can also whip opponents—however, that may be hard to do purposely, and it’s not clear whether that is even fair in a fight. 

What Are the Easiest Ways To Deal With Long Hair During Martial Arts Training?

Here are some of the tricks people across martial arts forums have been sharing for some time.

The easiest way to deal with long hair during martial arts training is to tie it in a tight ponytail, bun, knot, or braid. You should also keep products such as hair ties, headbands, and bandanas on hand. You can also somewhat secure your hair by putting it inside a gi. 

Tie Hair in a Ponytail, Bun, Knot, or Braids

Learning what tighter hairstyles are most comfortable for the individual is the best way to deal with long hair long-term. Simple, typical styles such as ponytails, buns, or knots may be suited for non-combat fighting. Be sure to keep your bun or knot up your head so that it doesn’t limit your movement. 

That said, the most effective style to keep your hair out of the way is to tie your hair in braids (e.g., French braids). They are tighter and stick to your head, giving you complete freedom of movement. This is more involved and maybe more practical to simply use in competitions and fights and not everyday training. Check this YouTube video for a hands-on demonstration on how to make braids for practicing martial arts.

Keep a Constant Supply of Hair Products

You’ll want to keep a reliable supply of hair products at all times. When you train for hours, your hair is bound to get loose at some point, and you won’t want that to be too much of an interruption.

Keep common hair products at hand, and have plenty of them in your home. Elastics may break or get lost. Other products you’ll want to have include mousse, gel, or spray.

It’s recommended to have multiple hair ties to secure one ponytail or hairdo. It’s best to use elastic, soft hair ties to avoid damaging your hair.

Do Not Use Hard Hair Pins or Clips

Hard hairpins and clips should be avoided when fixing your hair for martial arts training. These push against your scalp, and cause damage to yourself and your training partners in the form of cuts. There is also a possibility of damaging the mats, which is not going to make you popular with your gym owner.

In fact, hard pins and clips are almost always banned for safety reasons.

Use a Bandana, Headbands, or Hairnets 

Bandanas, headbands, and hairnets are especially useful when paired with a bun or ponytail. These are also great ways to keep bangs off your head.

Most of my training partners like to use a product like this headband available on Amazon alongside keeping their hair tied back in either a bun or a ponytail.

Here’s a practical way to use a bandana: pull your hair up to a ponytail and wear a bandana on top of it so that it stays close to your head. You can then use an ear guard to secure it. The only disadvantage of headbands is that they have a higher tendency to come off your head during training. 

Place Your Hair Inside Gi

If you decide to keep your hair in a low ponytail, you can also put it inside your gi to secure it. This keeps the ponytail from swinging around and from being used by your opponent against you.

Naturally, this advice only applies to martial arts that use gi, which includes all traditional Japanese martial arts, such as Karate and Aikido, and many of its derivatives, like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

How To Secure Long Hair for a Combat Sport Fight Event

Leaving your long hair as is during a martial arts training or fight is not a good idea. In some rulesets, your opponents can use it against you, but mostly you can end up with impaired vision or damaged hair. You can also end up with hair in your mouth, which can be distracting at the wrong moment.

Using more involved methods to secure your hair is very valuable for important, but less frequent events like competitions and fights.

Tying Hair Into French, Dutch, Boxer’s, or Cornrow Braids

The best way to secure long hair during a fighting competition is to tie it in braids. Dutch braids or cornrow braids are the hairdos you’ll find more often. These styles are tight and stick to the scalp, making your hair less likely to come loose and harder to pull.

Dutch braids are similar to French braids but are done with a different pattern: left under middle, then right under middle and repeat. A boxer’s braid is composed of two dutch braids. 

Using Hairspray, Gel, Oil Wax, or Mousse To Secure Stray Hairs

Products like spray, gel, oil, wax, or mousse can help secure stray hairs. They also help strands from escaping your chosen hairstyle. Hair oils also help make the process of braiding easier. 

You’ll have to figure out which products are best suited for you. Some find wax too much of a hassle to clean up afterward, while others find the alternatives not secure enough. It’s normal to go through some trial and error.

Can You Do Jiu-Jitsu With Long Hair?

Jiu-Jitsu is an intensive martial art involving a lot of gripping and close contact at almost all points of training. With that in mind, is it possible to practice it with long hair?

You can do Jiu-Jitsu with long hair. However, since it can involve some gripping where your opponent may pull your hair, it’s essential to secure it with a proper and tight hairstyle. Tying your hair also stops it from blocking your vision or getting pulled.

Buns and braids are considered the most efficient hairstyles for Jiu-Jitsu. On top of being a practical hairstyle, buns and braids also keep your head and neck from becoming too hot.

Another not insignificant factor to keep in mind is that long hair can also be hard to maintain and wash after a training session, which is absolutely mandatory to do well considering the risks of mat diseases like ringworm and staph. Also, you may accidentally rip off some of your hair during training.

Why Do Fighters Braid Their Hair?

You have probably noticed that, throughout the article, braids are the most recommended hairstyle for martial arts fighters, and there’s a good reason for that.

Most fighters tie their hair into braids because it is the best way to secure them. The strands are unlikely to come loose and block your vision and are generally kept out of harm’s way. They also don’t swing around or get caught as easily.

Many professional fighters even have their own hairstylists to help make intricate braids. Certain hair products like hair clips, hairpins, even bandanas, and headbands are not allowed in competitions, which restricts your alternatives.

However, because of the intricacy of braids, they can be hard to tie again when they come loose. To avoid this hassle, many avoid complicated braids during training. Choose relatively simple braids or ties that you can redo in a pinch.

What Do Boxers Do With Long Hair?

In boxing, hair must be kept away from the face, where it can block your vision. On top of that, long hair bouncing from a punch may help make your opponent’s punch look more impactful, which can make the judges count strikes they might not have counted otherwise.

Many boxers with long hair tie their hair into boxer braids. Boxer braids are made of two Dutch braids. Cornrows are another common hairstyle for boxers with long hair. They are composed of several braids that are then braided tightly and close to the scalp. 

While these braids can be very efficient for boxers and fighters from other disciplines, they can be difficult to pull off on your own, especially if you want to have many rows of braids. For this reason, they are often used only during actual fights. Many fighters have their own stylists, but they may also have one assigned to them during organized competitions.

Final Thoughts

While many athletes who practice martial arts and combat sports keep their hair shorter for practical reasons, there is a large minority that keeps long hair. With some thought and preparation, training with long hair is very reasonable at any level.

With the combination of some simple solutions like using headbands to keep hair out of your face alongside selecting hairstyles that keep your hair secure and out of the way, training with long hair is quite approachable.

For more important and less frequent events like combat sports bouts or competitions, it is a good idea to do a more complex braid, often outsourcing to a professional stylist.

For more check out How Important Are Women’s Only Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Classes?


Hi, I'm Andre and I am the author of this website. I have always been fascinated with martial arts and train them as often as I can. I currently train primarily in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and train judo and wrestling as secondary martial arts. I help to coach a kid's grappling program that blends all three martial arts. I hope that you find the value that you are looking for in the articles on this website.

Recent Posts