No-gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has a wide variety of clothing options and it can be confusing to choose what to wear to class. So I set out to understand what the ideal choices of apparel actually are for no-gi BJJ.
You should wear grappling shorts without pockets or spats alongside a rash guard to no-gi BJJ class. This gear minimizes friction and helps with mobility while protecting your skin from minor cuts and abrasions that might happen in the course of grappling.
Let’s dispel the mystery about what you need to wear to your no-gi BJJ class and go over each article of clothing and why we need to wear them during training.
What Should I Wear to My First No-Gi BJJ Class?
When you are stepping into your first no-gi BJJ class expectations are a little bit more relaxed. Typically you are just expected to wear athletic clothes that have as tight of a fit as you can manage. You aren’t expected to buy special gear just to try out a few classes to see if you like it.
If you already have gi pants just wear those, alternately you can wear athletic shorts or sweatpants free of zippers and pockets. Keeping yourself free of zippers reduces the chance you scratch yourself, or your partner, or damage the mat by accident. Pockets also represent a small chance of injury for yourself and your partner if you get toes or fingers caught in the middle of a drill or grappling round. If you are a woman it is pretty standard to wear leggings to no-gi classes.
If you have a tight-fitting rashguard designed for running or surfing you can wear that, but any normal shirt you might wear to the gym will also suffice for your first class. If your shirt is loose, tuck it into your shorts or pants to reduce the chances of injury or the shirt getting in the way.
Ideal Clothing for No-Gi BJJ Class
If you’ve decided it’s time to pick up some specific gear for no-gi BJJ class it’s important to make sure you pick up the right pieces of gear. Let’s take a look at each article of clothing individually to assess the specifics of what we are actually looking for in each piece of clothing that we wear for no-gi BJJ.
Grappling/MMA Shorts or Spats
Picking up the right shorts for no-gi BJJ is relatively straightforward. At a minimum, they need to be athletic shorts free of pockets and zippers.
If you want to keep it simple you can buy shorts that are labeled as MMA shorts, grappling shorts, or fight shorts. Another solid option is wearing leggings or spats with or without those shorts.
I personally wear gear ranging from these higher-end spats to these more affordable generic compression pants which are both available on Amazon and feel happy with both options.
I like to wear spats because it offers additional protection for your skin in regards to preventing ringworm, staph, and other things you can pick up from the mats. It also reduces the likelihood of minor cuts and abrasions that might otherwise happen.
Rashguards are moisture-wicking short-sleeved and long-sleeved shirts that are made with spandex and originated in the ’70s for surfers.
Buying a rashguard specifically branded for MMA or BJJ tends to be more expensive but can sometimes be a bit more flashy and are often of higher quality. If you’re looking to pick one up for a bit cheaper you can look for rashguards intended for surfing or general use.
My favorite rashguard that I own is this one available on Amazon but I often just wear any school-branded rashguard that is offered as a show of support for my home BJJ school.
I generally tend towards buying long-sleeved rash guards because of the extra skin coverage to avoid mat diseases and cuts and abrasions.
For more information about rash guards for BJJ check out my post Do Rash Guards Matter in BJJ?
Optional Protective Gear for BJJ
Now that we have the no-gi uniform out of the way let’s look at some optional equipment that may be worth picking up to add a bit more protection for BJJ training. These are not required pieces of equipment but can be very situationally appropriate.
Knee Sleeves / Knee Pads
If you have an existing knee injury or plan to practice a lot of wrestling-style takedowns where you will be hitting a knee it might be a good idea to pick up a cushioned knee sleeve.
I personally only wear a knee sleeve when I have a minor injury going on for my knee. The sleeve is really more about creating awareness for both myself and my training partner that we should try to work around the knee injury as carefully as we can during drilling and grappling.
Since I personally don’t tend to do takedowns that involve taking shots where I hit a knee for the takedown I don’t personally value using a knee pad for that purpose. That being said many of my more wrestling-oriented training partners swear by them and often wear them every session.
Mouthguards are in my opinion the most vital piece of protective equipment you can use in daily BJJ training. It helps absorb accidental impacts that occur during normal training and will reduce the likelihood of chipped teeth and other dental issues. Considering how cheap a mouthguard can be and how expensive dental work is, it just seems like a good idea to me.
If you want more details about whether or not mouthguards are necessary and how to choose the right one for you, check out this article that I wrote on the topic here.
Anecdotally I chipped my front tooth in my second week of training when I got caught in a poorly executed choke from another white belt that put a lot of pressure on my teeth and chipped it. I bought one the next day and haven’t had any similar issues since.
Groin Protectors and Athletic Cups
It’s not hard to imagine why you might want groin protection while training BJJ. Accidental slipping during grappling or a simple knee-cut pass gone awry can easily make your training day quite a bit worse. I personally do not use a cup, but many of my training partners do.
I find that using a cup is uncomfortable and the negatives in how it feels while I’m playing jiu-jitsu and feel that these accidental contacts are rather infrequent and rarely severe.
If you are interested in learning more about the use of athletic cups and whether or not they are a good idea for use in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training check out this article to learn more.
While some grapplers and fighters consider cauliflower ear a status symbol, most of us hobbyists that like to train BJJ would much rather avoid that situation altogether. Wearing headgear is one of the most effective preventatives to getting cauliflower ear.
In jiu-jitsu, cauliflower ear is mostly a risk from the shearing force on your ear that happens when pulling your head through tight headlocks. In this situation, the skin is separated from the cartilage and blood will fill the space between the skin and the cartilage, which if untreated causes a somewhat mangled looking ear condition that can be painful and impede hearing in some cases.
I don’t personally use headgear, but I compensate by being very aware of protecting my head and ears. I would rather tap out than fight out of a position that might lead to the dubious honor of cauliflower ear.
If you want to know about the real effectiveness and value of headgear and what your alternatives might be to prevent cauliflower ear check out my post on the topic of whether or not wearing headgear prevents cauliflower ear.
If you are serious about getting into practicing no-gi BJJ frequently, it is well worth it to pick up the appropriate clothing and gear to meet your needs and potentially pick up multiple options.
You really can’t go wrong showing up with a rashguard and a pair of inexpensive fight shorts or spats. Tune your additional protective gear to your personal needs and preferences, but I would highly recommend at least picking up a mouthguard and being careful to prevent situations that could lead to groin injury or cauliflower ear.
For more check out Should I Do Gi BJJ or No-Gi BJJ? | To Gi or Not to Gi.