BJJ Rash Guards: How are they different?

Some common things we want to know about purchasing rash guards for BJJ:

  1. Qualities and features to look out for when purchasing a rash guard for BJJ.
  2. Are there differences (if any) between BJJ rash guards and rash guards made for other activities?
  3. What are cheaper alternatives to those $50 colorful rash guards with inverted pandas and flying dragons?

But first, why wear a rash guard instead of good old t-shirts or going old school topless (for males)?

  • Unlike a normal t-shirt, which will absorb the sweat and feels like a wet towel after the first roll, rash guards are made of materials that will wicks moisture (sweat) away from you.
  • The same material also helps block moisture (partner’s sweat) getting on to you.
  • Maybe you don’t sweat a lot and don’t mind people’s sweat on you, but still, do it for your partner, it is a bit less crappy to be stuck under an armpit/belly of someone wearing a rash guard than one that doesn’t 😀
BJJ rash guards

Komainu rash guard $49 (left), Baleaf ‘compression base layer shirt’ $12 (right).

Purchasing BJJ rash guards: things to be aware of

  • Stitching: Most quality rash guards will be sewn with flatlock seams, so it is almost a given once you pass a certain price point. Since most rash guards are skin-tight, flatlock seams are more comfortable when our skin is in contact with the seams all the time.
  • Printing: Look for sublimated logos or artwork on the rash guards. It doesn’t peel off like screen-printed logos. this is purely an aesthetic thing. But if you are buying a rash guard because of its graphic design, it is not ideal if the ‘art’ starts peeling off after a few rolls.
  • Preventing ride-up: One feature that is important for grappling but not so much for surfing or other activities is a mechanism to prevent ride-ups, which is when the shirt gets shoved or rolled up.

    How manufacturer have tried to prevent ride-up:

    1. Longer shirt length (e.g., Scramble, Tatami)
    2. Elastic waist cuffs/band creating a tighter fit at the bottom (e.g., Jiujitero)
    3. Silicon/rubber friction strip along the bottom of the shirt (e.g., Odin Fightwear, Phalanx, É Nóis, Komainu)

I personally found the the friction strip helps the most, and -to me- it is a must-have feature I look for now when purchasing a rash guard.

Komainu BJJ rash guards

Koaminu rash guard with rubber strip at the waist band to prevent ride up.

Some options are up to personal preferences:

  • Sleeve length: Short? Long? 3/4-7/8?
    • This comes down to personal preference. I prefer short sleeves or 3/4-7/8 sleeves (long sleeve that doesn’t go all the way to the wrist). Get a short and long to try at first.
  • Fit: Loose? Tight? Compressed?
    • Most people who are not used to wearing tight-fitted shirts will lean towards wanting a looser fit at first, however, a tighter fit helps prevent the limps of your rolling partner from getting caught in the shirt. Avoid real ‘compression recovery’ shirts (e.g., SKINS compression recovery shirt), which are meant to create pressure to the point where movement are slightly inhibited.
      • Looser fit example: Rolljunkie Loose Fit Rash Guard
      • Fitted example: Almost all rash guards that are not specifically made to be a ‘loose fit’ are fitted.

How are BJJ rash guards different from other rash guards?

For the most part, graphic design and maybe the ‘preventing ride-up’ feature are what separate BJJ rash guards from other rash guards (e.g., for surfing). Bored of the black rash guard with a logo in the middle? There are inverted pandas, super hero, stinging bees, and really whatever you can think of (go custom).

Cheaper rash guards for beginners or frugal folks in BJJ

Rash guards marketed for BJJ are not cheap, it can range from $35-$60 USD for a single rash guard. A decent alternative is to go on Amazon and search Dr. Skin, Baleaf or Tesla to order some $8-12 ‘cheapo’ compression base layer shirt and spats/shorts. For $40-50, you can get 2 tops and 2 bottoms. This covers the times when there are multiple no-gi sessions a day! These cheap “compression” shirts does not exert a strong enough compression for aiding recovery (hence the price!). However, because they are not great at generating strong compression, it does not inhibit movement and is therefore perfect for use as a skin-tight moisture-wicking shirt for grappling.

After a year in BJJ, I still use the Dr. Skin & Baleaf top and spats regularly. The printed logo has faded, and there are some loose thread. But for $10 a piece, it is great for anyone just starting BJJ or just doesn’t want to invest too much money in their gear.

Quick Summary:

  • Nice BJJ rash guards that are well built and help prevent ride-ups can be good investments when BJJ has become a routine part of life. The cost can be a bit daunting ($55? That is half a Gi!), but you can always start venturing into the realm of BJJ rash guards during the sales-season (Thanksgiving – Christmas – New Year), where its more like  $20-35 per shirt/shorts/spats.
  • $10 cheap compression shirts on Amazon is totally worth it for the beginners wanting to enjoy their no-gi sessions without wearing a very sweaty cotton t-shirts. (again…do it for your partners)

Leave a Reply