When you step onto the BJJ mat, what you wear matters. If you’re into Gi BJJ, folks can be strict about attire. But what about no-gi BJJ? You’d think it’s a more laid-back atmosphere, right? Today, we’re tackling a big question: Do you need to wear a rash guard for BJJ in no-gi?

Over the years, I went to many BJJ gyms, and I didn’t always wear a rash guard. Let’s dive into my experiences and find out if you need that rash guard for your next no-gi session. 

Rash Guard For BJJ? I'm wearing a compression shirt instead of a Rash Guard

What Are The Benefits Of Wearing Rash Guards?

No-Gi BJJ practitioners love their Rash Guards. Ever wondered why? Let’s break it down:

  • Protection

    The name “rash guard” says it all. When you’re rolling on the mat, there’s a lot of skin-to-mat and skin-to-skin contact. This can lead to mat burns and rashes. Rash guards act as a protective layer, reducing friction and minimizing the risk of getting these burns.

    Since I started wearing Rash Guards, I had way fewer rashes on my skin than before when I was only wearing my regular Gym shirt to practice.

    But that’s not all. BJJ mats often have bacteria; the last thing you want is a skin infection like staph or ringworm. Wearing a rash guard is a barrier, reducing your risk of catching something.

  • Performance

    Rash Guards offer compression, which can help with better blood flow. This means your muscles get more oxygen and, therefore, help to have more stamina during those long rolling sessions.

  • Rules

    If you’re thinking of competing, you need a rash guard. BJJ competitions, like those run by the IBJJF, have strict attire rules. In these events, you need to wear a rash guard. 

  • Durability 

    Regular T-shirts tear easily and don’t handle the wear and tear of BJJ well. On the other hand, high-quality rash guards are designed to be durable. They’re made to withstand the rigors of BJJ.

    I never had a Rah Guard rip. In contrast, some of my Gym shirts didn’t survive my rolling sessions well…

  • Fashion

    Rash guards look cool. Walk into any BJJ gym and see a sea of colorful and uniquely designed rash guards. Many gyms even have their own branded rash guards. It’s a way for practitioners to show off their gym pride and stand out on the mat. 

What Can I Wear Instead of a Rash Guard?

I sometimes have weeks where I go twice a day to practice. That means I hit the mat 10-12 times a week. And it’s important to wash your rash guards after every practice – so sometimes you just run out of them. So, what can you wear instead?

  • Cotton Sports Shirts

I like to wear the good old cotton T-shirt. While they might not offer the same level of protection against mat burns as rash guards, they’re breathable, easy to move in, and I have many of them lying around. 

They’re great when you’re running low on clean rash guards but still want to hit the mat. But don’t make them a habit. After each session, you’ll be soaked in sweat, and they don’t protect you well. I use them for emergencies when I want to train but don’t have gear. 

  • Compression Shirts

These are my go-to’s. Compression shirts are a great alternative for your BJJ training. The are comfortable and have similar benefits similar to rash guards. They fit snugly, support the muscles, and wick away sweat.

While rash guards are the traditional choice for BJJ, switching things up occasionally is okay. Whether due to laundry constraints or personal preference, both compression shirts and cotton sports shirts can serve as decent alternatives. 

What Is The Difference Between a Rash Guard and a Regular Shirt?

All the gear can seem confusing when you’re new to BJJ or any sport. Many newcomers ask: What’s the difference between a regular shirt and a rash guard? 

  • Material

    A regular shirt and a rash guard look similar, but their materials are different. Rash guards are made from materials like lycra, polyester, and spandex. 

    These materials are stretchy and durable, perfect for the demands of BJJ. On the other hand, regular t-shirts are often made of cotton. Cotton is soft and comfy but doesn’t have the same stretch or durability as a rash guard.

  • Function

    A rash guard’s primary function is to guard against rashes! Thanks to their specific materials, rash guards can wick away sweat, which means they help pull sweat away from your skin. This keeps you feeling less sweaty and more comfortable.

    A regular cotton t-shirt, on the other hand, tends to soak up sweat, making it heavy and wet during intense workouts.

  • Fit

    A good Rash Guard is tighter than your average t-shirt. This snug fit is by design. A rash guard should be tight to provide all its benefits, like sweat-wicking and protection.

    Also, it lessens the probability that fingers or toes get stuck in it. Regular shirts offer a more relaxed fit, but that loose fabric can sometimes get in the way during grappling.

Is A Rash Guard Just A Compression Shirt?

It’s easy to get confused when looking at athletic wear. Why wouldn’t you wear a compression shirt? 

  • Thickness

    A top-notch BJJ rash guard has a thicker fabric than a regular compression shirt. This intentional thickness ensures that the rash guard can withstand the rigorous pulls, stretches, and pressures of grappling. Compression shirts, while durable in their own right, are more lightweight.

  • Function and Purpose

    Rash guards are made against rashes. Compression shirts, on the other hand, are engineered for performance enhancement. They snugly fit around muscles, offering support, promoting better blood flow, and aiding quicker recovery.

  • Style

    Compression Guards are purpose-driven. BJJ Rash Guards come in all kinds of designs. You also have Rash Guards that show your belt rank color.

While rash guards and compression shirts may look alike and even share some materials, they serve unique purposes. A rash offers protection and durability. A compression shirt is used for performance enhancement in general athletic activities. 

That being said, I often go to BJJ practice with compression shirts. I don’t see anything wrong with it. Even though they are thinner and not as protective – they are also sweat-resistant and serve the purpose. But they don’t look as cool…

My Final Answer: Do You Need to Wear a Rash Guard for BJJ?

Getting into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can be expensive. Between membership fees and all the gear, the costs pile up. Rash guards aren’t cheap. So, do you really need one right from the start?

When you’re starting out, you don’t need Rash Guards yet. Give BJJ a try for a month. If you want to get more serious, think about getting a rash guard.

Over my journey in BJJ, I visited about ten different gyms. Not once did anyone give me the side-eye for not wearing a rash guard. But, when I stepped into advanced gyms like 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu without one, I felt a bit weird because everyone else was wearing one. I was often the only one in a regular shirt. But honestly? That’s on me. We shouldn’t let others influence us too much.

Rash guards are fantastic if you’re serious about BJJ. They offer protection, and they do look cool. But they’re also an investment. Don’t feel pressured to stock up on them immediately if you’re starting out. Use what you have, like those compression shirts gathering dust in your drawer.

But if BJJ becomes your passion and you have the means, investing in a good rash guard is a decision you won’t regret. Once you buy your first rash guard, you’ll know what I mean…

If you want to know what to look for in a good BJJ Rash Guard, check out our Guide here.

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