Do You Need A Rash Guard For BJJ

March 20, 2023

Stepping into a Brazilian jiu-jitsu school, you will see most, if not all, practitioners wear tight-fitting shirts with bold colors and graphics all over them rather than regular cotton t-shirts. These special garments are rash guards, but do you need one for BJJ?

Brazilian jiu-jitsu rash guards protect the skin from rashes, mat burns, bruises, and infections from bacteria common in the gym. They are not just fashion items and play a crucial role in protecting your health and that of your training partners. 

Following the trend is not the best decision for every situation. Still, rash guards provide so many benefits that it’s best to do what everyone else does and use them yourself. But do you know why BJJ rash guards are so popular?

Do You Need A Rash Guard For BJJ?

Rash guards are relatively new to BJJ. Considering the entire history of the sport, they bring so many benefits that they have become indispensable for every training session.

The rash guard is a simple piece of clothing that protects your skin from the many dangers lurking on the grappling mats, so you need to wear one regardless if you train in a gi or without.

In a sport where your whole body is in contact with the floor most of the time, and you roll around entangled with other sweaty people, it’s easy to see how skin problems can be prevalent.

Personal hygiene is paramount to minimize health problems in the gym, followed by overall gym hygiene and cleanliness. But this is a two-way process that still depends on the personal habits of all practitioners.   

Keeping yourself clean and, ideally, taking a shower before training is a gesture towards all your training partners that should be taken seriously.

But aside from the few simple hygiene habits you hopefully have not just for training, rash guards are your best friend in the battle against germs, rashes, skin burns, and other unpleasant but very common BJJ training “benefits.”

And last but not least important reason to always wear a rash guard for training is that they are cool. They make you look cooler, more experienced, and more of a “grappler.” Getting one that matches your style will increase your confidence and motivation for training.

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What Is The Purpose Of Rash Guards in BJJ

Rash guards are tight, form-fitting shirts made from various synthetic materials. They are designed to prevent skin damage, diseases, and irritations common in close contact sports with many skin-to-skin contacts, like BJJ and MMA.

Rash guards are the leading clothing used in no-gi BJJ and other forms of submission grappling. Still, they are also universally used under the gi. Wearing one is highly recommended, even if you only train in a gi.

Here are the benefits of always wearing a rash guard while training.

Skin Protection

The most obvious one is that wearing a rash guard will protect your skin from rashes, skin burns, and scrapes created from the friction with the mats and the countless germs thriving in the humid atmosphere of the gym.

Rash guards are made from durable materials that reduce friction with the mats and will easily protect your skin from the dangers you will inevitably encounter.

Then the production materials of high-quality BJJ rash guards are anti-bacterial and will shield your bare skin against ringworms, staph infections, and other things coming out of the medical books.

You cannot control the personal hygiene of other people. Still, you can wear the right clothes to guard against the nasty bacteria they may bring.

Another slightly less important but no less annoying thing rash guards prevent is that they keep chest and armpit hair out of people’s faces and ensure everyone has a decent time at practice. Regular t-shirts also work for this but are usually baggier and neither anti-bacterial nor as durable as dedicated rash guards.


Rash guards are made from materials like lycra, nylon, spandex, and various mixes, making them very comfortable. They are light, form-fitting, durable, and sweat-wicking.

This means the fabric is non-absorbent, so the sweat from your body goes to the outer layers of the fabric, and the material itself dries out much faster. Rash guards also keep your sweat away from other people’s skin and their sweat away from your skin.

Then the unique stitching technology called Flatlock stitches doesn’t allow skin chafing and further ensures a tight fit on your skin, which may not be the most comfortable feeling for casual wear.

Still, it is perfect for grappling because it provides full mobility and zero movement obstructions.

The extra benefit of rash guards is the muscle compression they offer. This keeps your muscles warm, improves blood flow, and should reduce the chance of injuries, even if very slightly.

So, while skin protection is the primary purpose of rash guards, the comfort and compression are nice extras, making them indispensable for BJJ training and competition.

BJJ Rash Guard vs. Compression Shirt: What’s The Difference?

Compression shirts are cheaper and look similar to BJJ rash guards, so you might wonder what the difference is and if the extra money is worth it. The two products are very similar but designed for different purposes, making the BJJ rash guard better for jiu-jitsu training.

Materials and composition

Compression shirts are made from thin, very lightweight materials that allow an unobstructed range of motion and muscle support. They fit like a second skin and are excellent as a bottom layer of clothing or standalone wear.

Compression shirts provide muscle support and better blood circulation and are breathable and moisture-wicking, making them great for sports.

BJJ rash guards are all those things, but with some added features to match the rigors of BJJ rolling. The materials are thicker with better and more robust stitching to withstand the constant contact wear in grappling.

Then rash guards often have anti-slip waistbands to prevent them from rolling up during scrambles and leaving the skin open. And finally, the materials used often have anti-bacterial properties.

These enhancements over the standard compression shirts make BJJ rash guards superior and more expensive.

Style and Visuals

Compression shirts are often used as underwear to provide support and protection. Usually, not much effort is spent on style. Many have minimal designs in one or two basic colors.

On the other hand, rash guards are made to be worn on top for grappling (and under a gi) and are available in countless styles, colors, and designs.

You can still find the basic color versions. Still, most models offer bold colors, insane and beautiful graphics, logos, slogans, and team batches that all make a statement and reflect the fighter’s personality or allegiance.

Compression shirts are a significant upgrade over your regular cotton t-shirt for rolling on the mats. However, they are still inferior to dedicated BJJ rash guards.

All the features designed specifically to cater to BJJ practitioners make rash guards superior to all other forms of clothing for rolling around in Brazilian jiu-jitsu training and competition.

Different Types of BJJ Rash Guards

Aside from the countless different visuals and styles, rash guards are mainly separated by their sleeve length, being sleeveless, short-sleeved, or long-sleeved. Long sleeves offer the most skin protection, but short sleeves are the most common model. Choosing between them is all a matter of personal preference.

Then there are different combinations of materials offering different feels and benefits. Some are softer, others are thicker, and others are more durable, which is determined by the type of blend between polyester and spandex. Each fabric blend offers a slightly different feel.

For gym use, you buy what fits your preferences and budget. Still, if you plan on competing under IBJJF no-gi rules, you have to be very careful to get what is legal, which can be a hassle.

Are Rash Guards Necessary?

BJJ rash guards have been created to protect your skin from friction damage, nasty infections caused by germs, and the unpleasant feeling of other people’s sweat all over you.

Aside from that, they are very comfortable to wear, do not obstruct movement while rolling on the mats, and are durable enough to withstand the rigors of grappling for a long time.

And lastly, they are just cool looking and have become the uniform for no-gi BJJ. For all these reasons, you need a rash guard for BJJ.

About the author 

James de Lacey

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international level teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your combat training.


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