There are just a few specific items you need when it comes to practicing jiu-jitsu, and we've made a handy checklist outlining everything you must have (and some things that are optional) in your day-to-day jiu-jitsu training.
The gi, AKA kimono, is the single most important piece of equipment when it comes to practicing jiu-jitsu (unless of course you intend on practicing no-gi only). The gi is so much more than just a uniform; it is a tool, used in any number of ways, to control and submit your opponent. It also acts as a jiu-jitsu fashion statement, with innumerable brands, designs and styles available on the market. Many of us have more gis than we probably need, but if you are someone who loves jiu-jitsu, then having a few extra gis in your wardrobe isn't a bad thing, rather it shows your dedication and appreciation for the Gentle Art.
Your belt is the item that you will hold onto the longest. It is the thing that represents your rank, your progress, and your place in the jiu-jitsu world. Every several years, you'll earn a new one, which means that when you choose a belt, you will choose it wisely, with great care and attention. That being said, it is still one of the least expensive items you will need in your jiu-jitsu life. You must choose a belt that suits you in terms of look, feel, thickness, length, brand and overall style. And no matter what the superstitious folks tell you, make sure to wash your belt regularly! It gets just as dirty as your gi does.
A rashguard is a great piece of equipment in both gi and no-gi jiu-jitsu. It's useful to wear underneath your gi jacket for general hygiene and also for warmth when training during the colder months of the year. It's an almost essential garment for practicing no-gi jiu-jitsu, as it protects your skin from both microbes and mat burns while you roll. Since most rashguards are made of comfortable, fitted, stretchy, synthetic fabrics, they are easily produced with high resolution, photorealistic designs and artwork, making for some very widely ranging styles. You can't have too many rashguards in your drawer, and many are not particularly expensive.
A good pair of grappling shorts will serve you well in your no-gi training, but you must make sure to pick a pair that offers you the features you need, such as a comfortable waistline that won't slip down or ride up with sweat or pressure, a belt closure that will stay locked through your rolls, fabric that will keep you cool and dry, a cut that will allow for maximum mobility and flexibility, and lastly, an attractive design that goes well with your favourite rashie!
These full-length, skin-tight elastic pants keep your skin protected and keep your body warm. Much like your rashguard, spats are useful for both gi and no-go jiu-jitsu, and can be worn under your gi pants, under your grappling shorts, or all by themselves. You can even find spats that match up with your rashguard, although the full bodysuit look may not be to your taste. A very useful, although optional, part of your jiu-jitsu wardrobe.
An important and inexpensive item to add to your training kit, a mouth guard can protect your teeth from unavoidable hits during rolls, and can also help in avoiding concussion from head trauma. Many of us have a hard time keeping the mouth guard in due to sensitive gag reflexes, which can take a bit of getting used to. Mouth guards can also sometimes limit our breathing ability during intense rolls, but we should all be trying to practice controlled breathing through our noses while rolling in any case. The best way to ensure you have a mouth guard that is comfortable enough to want to use during every session is to get one custom-fitted by a professional, which may be a bit more expensive than a store-bought 'boil & fit' mouth guard, but probably worth the extra investment.
What most people don't know about Auricular Hematoma (more commonly known as 'Cauliflower Ear') is that it's a choice! If taken care of properly, your ears can remain in normal shape even through decades of training and competing (if you've ever seen Royler Gracie's ears, you'll notice that they are pretty much completely normal, with no cauliflower). If you get your ear smashed during a roll and it swells up, ice it right away, then ice it some more. In fact, keep icing it for a couple of days. You'll be able to effectively take down the swelling before the viscous, bloody fluid in your ear between the skin and cartilage solidifies permanently. But the single easiest way to avoid cauliflower is to simply wear an ear guard. Most ear guards are not particularly expensive, and they can come in handy when you've already hurt your ear, but want to keep training in the following few days.
There are cheap and effective joint braces available for your ankles, knees, elbows, shoulders, wrists, and more. Having these on-hand is always convenient, since, as we all know very well, minor joint pain and injuries are super common in jiu-jitsu training. If you don't have these types of pads and braces around when you need them, then you find yourself scrambling to find and order the right one when the time comes. Do yourself a favour and think ahead, select a few pads and braces, order them and put them away for when you might need them. If you have a pad or a brace that you never end up using, that's great! At least you had it available just in case. For such a small investment, it's worthwhile.
Ahhh, fingers... the part of your body that suffers the most abuse during jiu-jitsu training. Cotton sports tape is really the only effective form of protection and relief from sore knuckles and aching, swollen fingers. We all love to play DLR, Lasso and Spider Guard, but sometimes it takes its toll on our hands, and we have to spend 10 minutes before each class mummifying our fingers just so that we can bear the grips. Choosing the right tape is a matter of trial and error, and it's a bit tricky to find one that has just the right tensile strength, flexibility, tearability and adhesive strength. Buy a few rolls and then stick with what you like best.
It's no secret that hydration is of paramount importance when it comes to intensely physical sports like jiu-jitsu, so make sure that you always have drinking water on-hand. Disposable bottled water is both expensive and bad for the environment, and you're better off choosing a great drinking bottle that you love, and sticking with it. Plus, you can refill it infinite times from the water filter at your academy. Some people prefer transparent bottles made from BPA-free Tritan, while others like the convenience of stainless steel, which allows them to put their bottle into the dishwasher, and also keeps your drinking water colder for longer. There are also a ton of spout options, ranging from open-tops to sport spouts to bite spouts. The choices are really endless, and so are the design options.
For the vast majority of us, nutritional supplements play a part in our overall training regimen. Pre-workout, protein, recovery, greens, and many more types of supplements can greatly boost your training results, even if they can often be pricey. When choosing your supplements, keep in mind that the Nutritional Supplements product category is NOT subject to FDA regulations, so the information provided on supplement packaging is not policed. Same goes for the contents and ingredients of the actual supplements. All this means is that you have to be your own advocate when it comes to choosing your supplements, and you should always make sure to select supplements from companies that you know and trust, or that credible publications recommend. It also helps to look for any types of official certifications, such as USDA Organic Certified, for example. But when it comes to nutritional supplements, more so than most other items on this list, you get what you pay for, and when you cheap out on supplements, you might not really know what you're putting into your body.
You might also want to bring your protein supplements with you to the gym, so having a protein shaker bottle can be pretty convenient. There are many on the market that come with a whisk-ball included, which makes blending your protein quite a bit easier.
There's nothing more frowned upon that stepping onto the mats with long, sharp toe nails or finger nails. It is both dangerous and unsanitary. So do yourself a favour, and keep a pair of small nail clippers and/or a nail file handy in your gear bag, so that in a pinch you can trim your nails and avoid injuring yourself or, more likely, your training partners.
One of the best investments you'll make is in soap that is specifically formulated for jiu-jitsu training. There are now a handful of brands that make a wide variety of soaps and shampoos that target and kill all sorts of bad little microbes that you pick up on the mats, including bacteria, fungi and surface-borne viruses. So keep yourself free of Ringworm, HSV, Staph, MRSA and whatever else you probably don't want settling in your epidermis, simply by using some jiu-jitsu-specific soap! When choosing, make sure to look for soaps that include active ingredients such as tea tree and eucalyptus essential oils, which are well-known to effectively fight all those bad microbes mentioned above.
Practicing jiu-jitsu will give you strong grips, there's absolutely no question about that. But sometimes we want to supplement that with some grip-specific conditioning, and for that, there are some great grip trainers available on the market. Some come in the form of gi-sleeves that include attachments to workout equipment, while others come in the form of stress balls, resistance rings, elastic bands and spring handles. Keep in mind that strong grips come from strong hands (and not just strong fingers), so employing various different kinds of hand and grip exercises, including squeezing closed and also stretching open, will help you to develop unbreakable grips.
Probably the most personal, fashion-centric item on the list aside from your gi, a great gear bag will help you keep all of your equipment handy in a practical and convenient manner, while making sure you're looking good. Gear bags can range in style and shape, from backpacks to duffel bags and all kinds of other options in between. Luckily, you can find a great quality gear bag of almost any style or shape for under a hundred bucks, so you don't necessarily have to break the bank. Look for features and details like additional pockets, separate compartments, padded straps, lockable zippers, water-resistant materials, places to store valuables and water bottles and adjustment options. Remember, you'll ideally need to be able to fit all of the items from this list into your gear bag, so choose one with a volume capacity that will do the trick.