BJJ Beginner's Guide

Putting together your BJJ gear arsenal can be fun and exciting - if you know what to get. This BJJ beginners checklist will tell you about all the Jiu Jitsu Gear you will need and want to get started with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This covers both the traditional form of BJJ (with a Gi) as well as No-Gi BJJ. Have fun putting together your arsenal!

The Basics: Traditional Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (with a Gi)

For the traditional form of BJJ, you will need a Jiu Jitsu Gi and Belt at the very minimum. Rash Guards are also recommended to wear underneath your Gi - see the No-Gi section below for details on rash guards.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Gi

Also known as a BJJ Gi, Jiu Jitsu Kimono, etc. The word 'gi' is derived from the Japanese words 'keikogi' or 'dogi', which means "uniform for training". As such there are many types of gis out there for all the different martial arts that require this type of uniform.

It is very important that you get a gi that is made for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This is because BJJ Gis are made of tougher material and are designed to be durable and make it difficult for your opponent to grab. A Jiu Jitsu Gi comes with a jacket and pants, and are not usually accompanied with a belt. There are many things to consider when choosing a BJJ Gi.

BJJ Belt

A BJJ Belt is functionally used to tie around your Gi jacket to help keep it in place. It can also be used for both offensive and defensive techniques. Most importantly though is what the belt represents: your rank and expertise with Jiu Jitsu. For beginners, this will be a White Belt. From there it goes in the order of Blue, Purple, Brown, Black for Adults and Yellow, Orange, Green for Kids.

BJJ Belts are long as they are meant to wrap around your waist twice and still have excess length after you tie it. On one end there will be a patch with the manufacturer's logo. On the other end there is usually a black bar (red bar on black belts) where you put your stripes that indicate progress between belt levels. When sizing for a belt, choose the same size that you chose for your gi.

The Basics: No-Gi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

For No-Gi BJJ, you will need Grappling Shorts and a Rash Guard. Sometimes you can get away with wearing Gi Pants instead of Fight Shorts, or a t-shirt instead of a rash guard, but this is not recommended for reasons we discuss below.

Grappling Shorts

Grappling Shorts (also known as Fight Shorts, MMA Shorts and Vale Tudo shorts) are essential for no-gi BJJ. Fight Shorts are designed for the movements and technique of BJJ. First, they do not slide off easily - which is very important given the holds, grabs, and pulls that they will experience. Second, they allow for flexibility, both on the ground and for kicking if you are into MMA. Lastly, they do not have any metal objects (buttons, zippers, etc.) that can get in the way and cause damage to your opponent.

Fight Shorts come in two varieties: Board-style shorts which are loose, and Vale Tudo style shorts which are very tight and form fitting. You can also wear Gi Pants for no-gi BJJ, but keep in mind that it gives your opponent an advantage as they will have more to grab onto to control your movements.

Rash Guards

Rash Guards are important for several reasons. First, they are made with moisture wicking material. This draws moisture away from your body, while having the cooling effect of helping sweat evaporate. It also provides thermal insulation by using material that allows air to easily flow through it - essentially creating a layer of cooling air around your torso and arms. Second, Rash Guards limit skin-on-skin contact, which helps prevent the spread of skin-born diseases like ring worm.

Rash Guards are also recommended for use under a Gi for the same reasons listed above. Additionally, it limits the rug-burn like effect of the rough gi material - especially the elbows if the rash guard is long sleeve.

Protective Gear

Although Brazilian Jiu Jitsu does not involve striking, it is very intense in that you are applying a lot of force while in very close proximity with your sparring partner. The bottom line is that nobody can always be 100% accurate when executing technique, so sometimes parts of your body end up where you don't intend, which can cause damage to important areas. Wearing protective gear will help minimize this damage.

Mouth Guards

Although there is no striking/punching/kicking of any sort in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, there are takedowns and you always try to keep your opponent close as you manipulate and move around their body. This means it is likely that you will eventually get accidentally struck in the mouth by a passing arm, knee, leg, etc.

To protect against damage, it is highly recommended that you wear a Mouth Guard. It varies based on the type and brand of mouth guard, but usually they are custom molded to your teeth by boiling the mouth guard in water and then molding them to your teeth. The process is simple and it ensures a snug fit for optimal protection.

Groin Protectors

Groin protectors (aka groin cups) are highly recommended, especially since the groin is highly exposed in a variety of Jiu Jitsu techniques and movements, like passing the guard. One slip-up by you or your sparring partner and it is easy for a knee, foot, etc. to get planted where you don't want it.

Groin protectors come either with a supporter (or jock strap) or the cup standalone. It is recommended that you get a good supporter for the cup as it will ensure a snug fit to your body. This is especially important in BJJ because if your cup is allowed to shift to a bad position, the groin protector quickly becomes a groin assaulter as soon as pressure is applied. Good supporters also have convenient cup sleeves, which enables you to quickly slip the cup in and out as needed between sparring sessions.

Head Gear

One of the conditions that can be caused by BJJ is cauliflower ear. This is due to trauma to the ear by an accidental strike or repeatedly pulling your head out of choke holds. The friction on your ear can cause the skin to separate from the cartilage. The result is a mangled looking ear that is caused by the calcification of the blood that fills up the space between the cartilage and the skin.

Not only is it not painful, cauliflower ear is not very pretty and it can impede hearing. Although cauliflower ear is considered a status symbol amongst veteran fighters and Jiu Jitsu masters, it may not be for the average BJJ practitioner.

To prevent cauliflower ear, be sure to get some headgear or ear protectors. The thing to consider most when getting headgear is something that is very low profile so that your opponents cannot use it as extra advantage to keep you in choke holds.

Knee Pads / Braces

When practicing Jiu Jitsu, you will put strain on your knees. This is from frequently posturing on them, landing on them, and twisting them as you roll. Bruised knees and popped kneecaps are not unheard of in BJJ. To help prevent this, knee pads and knee braces are used.

You will want knee pads/braces that are made from BJJ and other grappling martial arts as they are very low profile and flexible. Your legs and knees need to be very flexible and unimpeded during rolling if you wish to execute proper Jiu Jitsu technique.

Last but not least...

Gear Bags

Where are you going to put all that gear? BJJ gear bags and gi backpacks are a very functional and practical way to carry your Jiu Jitsu equipment. Sometimes they are even made with the same type of cotton material and weave used in Jiu Jitsu Gis - which means they are very durable and rugged, and they look pretty cool.

There are two types of BJJ gear bags to choose from: the duffelbag and the backpack. The backpacks are usually good for carrying one gi and your protective gear. The duffelbags have more room for another gi, a change of clothes, fight shorts, etc. Duffelbags are also very useful for holding water bottles, sports drinks and snacks - which come in quite handy during long and intense sparring sessions.

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