BJJ and Women: What Do You Wear?

I’ve had rash guards on my brain recently. I was bummed to have missed out on the Juliet rashguard offered on BJJHQ.com from Pony Club Grappling Gear, though my credit card was happy with that! I also recently purchased two Meerkatsu rashies: the white tiger and the Phoenix.

More than that, though, was the question of whether women should wear rash guards or not. A while back, someone left this comment, asking about a new woman’s behavior related to dress :

We have a new girl at our gym who wears just sports bras. She will change before class, which consists of standing next to the mat, stripping down to a sports bra and then putting on her gi. A few days ago she showed up to a no gi class and decided to participate… in just the sports bra.
Admittedly she has a wonderful body but as another female in the class, I hear a lot of grumbling about it and I want to kindly talk to her but I’m not sure where to start, or how to politely ask her to put on some clothing. It’s hard enough being a woman on the mats, I’ve worked hard to get to ‘one of the guys’ status and I’d really prefer not to have her walking around as a reminder that yes, indeed I am a female with my legs wrapped around you. I just don’t need the guys in that mindset when we’re starting class :(
Am I overreacting here, should I simply continue keeping my mouth shut and ignoring it? Has anyone experienced something similar, how did you deal with it?

I posed this question over on a Women’s Grappling Network on Facebook, and there was a wonderful and lively debate/argument/conversation about it.

One of my favorite things about having this blog and being part of women’s BJJ groups is that it gives me a chance to think about the different facets of an issue. I love examining the gray areas and I often find my thinking changes, or that it was irrational. Here are my jumbled thoughts and experiences.

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” – Walt Whitman

In my first month in BJJ, one single time I wore a sports bra only. We practiced moves where you had to stuff the gi into the partner’s armpits. I felt insanely uncomfortable because it felt like my top was being ripped open and boom there was me in my bra. I also realized that my cleavage was massive and I felt incredibly self conscious knowing I was Cleavage Gal. Last year I realized I’d lost enough weight that I was no longer Cleavage Gal. I wore a sports top – like a tank top with a bra shelf built in. I had my partner in side control and was pushing him with my torso. Then I realized my body was moving and the top was staying still. Had I continued my course of action, I would have had a boob pop out. Lovely.

When I see Cleavage Gal wearing only a sports bra, I feel uncomfortable? distracted? overly aware? Not because I think cleavage is bad, but because I do consider it something mildly sexual/sexy. It also immediately makes me think “Dang it – why are sports bras cut so damn low?” I feel uncomfortable because when I go on the mats I want to just think about jiu jitsu – not about your awesome looking cleavage, and if you do get on top of me, I don’t want a face full of cleavage.

Most of the images I see of women competing has them in only a sports bra, and there’s nothing inherently sexual or sexy about that.

It’s really not cool to have a double standard and require women wear rash guards when men are going bare chested. It’s saying “Women’s bodies are inherently sexual, while men’s are not,” and that’s not true or fair. Skin does not equal sexiness. Then I start thinking about Ab Man, Cleavage Gal’s partner in crime. When Ab Man doesn’t wear a rash guard, it is simultaneously the best and worst things ever. Hey, I know – how about only super hot folks wear rash guards. Wait – that doesn’t really work.

I made this!

I made this!

I wear a rash guard every single time because I want to focus on BJJ and not worry about a clothing fail. I think that everyone, men and women, should wear rash guards. I also think that if a gym lets Ab Man train bare chested, that Cleavage Gal should be able to train in only a sports bra. If the dudes (or cleavage-loving ladies) are super distracted by Cleavage Gal, I guarantee that the ladies (or some ab-loving dudes) are equally distracted by Ab Man.

“BJJ is to women, what hot yoga is to men.” — seen on Reddit

I don’t believe we should police one another’s bodies or fashion sense. We can’t change that we were born with certain amounts of hair, and we can’t immediately change the amount of fat we have on that body. But at the same time, given that Jiu Jitsu is a super-high-contact sport, keeping that space absolutely neutral is important. People deserve to train in sexual – free zones. We can create a slightly more professional atmosphere. Let’s keep Cleavage Gal and Ab Man undercover.

Charles Smith posted a simple graphic called “Keep it Covered, Keep it Classy.”

Cover everything from the neck to the knees and elbows.
No cleavage
No arm pits
No shoes

Jiu Jiu’s Question: What “undercover” policies does your gym have? Are rash guards required? Ladies – do you wear a sports bra only, or a rash guard? What are your thoughts on this matter?

  1. Well crap! I never got a response to my question on the original post, and I had no idea you’d had a wonderful and lively debate on it! Now I need to join that facebook group so that I can see some of those opinions!!

    • Aww man – you mean you can’t just read my mind? Sorry about that! You really should join that group – it’s a great one!

      • Thanks for the heads up on the group, I’ve already put in my request. I’m always excited to read discussions on BJJ!

  2. I wear both a rash guard and the best support product in the marketplace (Enell). I am generously built on top and I wear both so that I can forget about my build and just enjoy the training. My gym doesn’t have a policy.

    • Thanks for the tip on Enell. I edited your comment to include a link. That’s very cool. When I had bigger breasts I wore the Shock Absorber and was very happy with it. My gym also doesn’t have a policy.

  3. I am small on top but I always wear a rash guard for no gi and either a rash guard or tight t-shirt underneath my gi for gi class. My gym does not have a policy but there was one woman who used to train with us who wore just a sports bra underneath her gi and would remove her top on the sidelines between rounds. I found it distracting and it did make me uncomfortable, like she was sending the wrong message for all of us women on the mat. Unfair? Maybe. But that is how I felt.

    I care less what guys wear, although it is more comfortable to roll with a man who wears a rash guard under his gi. Especially if he is kind of hairy. 🙂

    • I agree – hairy and super sweaty guys wearing rash guards makes life so much more pleasant.

      Honestly, I think anyone removing their top and getting nekked is distracting.

  4. It gets super hot in my gym in the summer, especially during competition training. I like wearing just a sports bra in those situations

    • That’s the biggest temptation for me. I MIGHT be tempted to shed the rashie during the summer. Summers in Seoul suck.

  5. Our school has a rule about not changing at the edge of the mat (men or women) because there’s often a kids class beforehand so that takes care of the exhibitionists among us. As for the ab-men, I’ve tried not to care, but it doesn’t work, and I still prefer the ones in rashguards, though I don’t avoid rolling or drilling with the barechested ones.

    For myself, I’m with Eva; I wear both an very supportive, but not underwired, sports bra and then a rashguard or sleeveless tee over the top. I really like one particular sleeveless T, but I turn it around so the higher neck is in the front and there’s minimum skin. Although it might make me seem a little narcissistic, I confess that I am personally distracted by my own cleavage for a variety of reasons (too wobbly, too cleavage-y, a little too wrinkly these days, one bigger than the other……is someone else looking at it? does it have blemishes? is it MOVING??? etc.) and would rather be able to concentrate on something else for the duration of class. There are plenty of other hours in the day to be sexy/sexual, both for me and my classmates. I can multitask, but I’m better off not needing to when I’m on the mat

    • I heard someone say (can’t remember who) that their gym had a “no shirtless bodies” policy, and a no unchanging policy. It was the gym owner’s professional space, and he wanted to keep it professional. “You don’t change at work, so don’t change at my work.”

  6. In IBJJF competition, men aren’t allowed to wear rash guards. I can’t blame them for not wearing one at the gym (I honestly can’t think of a single guy at my gym who wears a rash guard) because it’s not how they’re going to compete. In hot weather, I wear a sports bra under my gi. In competition I wear a sports bra under my gi. I’m complying with IBJJF rules and regulations, and most rulesets that I’m aware of, so there’s absolutely no reason that anyone should be taking offense to the fact that I’m in a sports bra under my gi.

    In no-gi, I wear spats and a rash guard because that’s what I’ll compete in. I honestly don’t understand why this is even an issue for anyone.

    We’re rolling around with our faces in each other’s armpits/crotches/other areas. There will be skin to skin contact. People should be training in what they’re going to fight in. That means rash guards and fight shorts/spats for no gi, and a gi with compression shorts, a sports bra (or a rash guard for ladies, since it’s legal) and a belt.

    • Thanks for that point! I rarely compete, so it’s not something I think about a lot. I completely agree that getting wearing competition style gear makes sense when you are preparing for competition.

      It’s an issue for some of us because we’re not used to it. It’s something new. It’s out of our normal range of experience. Because of that, people are bound to get “culture shock” on some level. I think that a lot of it is simply getting used to it.

  7. I think this is strange to me because I don’t see what the issue is aside from, no offense intended, one’s own individual insecurities. The point of view expressed is one-sided – You don’t want to be reminded that you’re a female among men. You felt uncomfortable yourself just in a sports bra. You see her as “Cleavage Girl,” you see it as a sexual thing, but in actuality, she probably doesn’t even give it a second thought, and has no other intention other than going to bjj practice, just like you, but happens to be in a sports bra. It is not a sexual thing until individuals give it the power to be a sexual thing. We are all aware of body parts and it doesn’t make sense that men can go shirtless without a second thight, but if a woman goes in a sports bra, it’s all of a sudden an issue about her chest.

    Upon first joining bjj, I wore long sleeves rashguards and full length spats under my gi. It’s what I felt comfortable in. Nowadays, I role in 3.5″ compression shorts and yes, a sports bra, because as I’ve developed, I’ve learned what I do and don’t like, and I like feeling less weighed down.. Some sort of freedom compared to being covered neck to feet. I am comfortable in it, and I don’t feel sexual or that I’m sexualizing bjj. It’s not even a thought ever present.. It’s just what I wear, period. It shouldn’t make anyone uncomfortable and it doesn’t take that high of a maturity level to see past a sports bra and just train.

    If you can’t get over cleavage in your face, but have no problem with crotches in your face, then I really think it’s your own insecurities. Focus on training and yourself, all this other stuff is unnecessary.

    • Hey Arlynne! Thanks for adding your voice. I totally agree that there are individual insecurities – it’s the lens through which we view the world, but that’s sort of what this site is for – allowing women to talk about some of those insecurities. I find that when I talk about them, rather than have them blow up, for me, it helps quell some of it or it helps me think about it more rationally. In any case I realize “whew! I’m not the only one.”

      For me, I wore cleavage when I was being sexy, yes. Here is me as Cleavage Gal!

      But I didn’t come from a background of sports. I came from a background of going to conventions, SCA events, etc.

      I can totally understand all of what you’re saying, but I’m going to HUGELY disagree with your final paragraph. First, I never mentioned anything about being comfortable or not with crotches in my face. Even if I were comfortable with crotches in my face, why would that make me more or less insecure if I don’t want a full cleavage in my face? I am totally fine with a rash guard covered chest (male or female) covering my face, but not having my face covered in cleavage.

      Thankfully, though, it’s not something I ever deal with – Korean women are extremely modest when it comes to cleavage. In Seoul you see crazy short mini skirts, but I can’t recall a single instance of Korean cleavage I’ve seen on the streets, let alone in the gym.

    • By the way, you do have one point completely wrong.

      You don’t want to be reminded that you’re a female among men.

      In no way do I want to be treated like a man. As a teammate, yes. As a man? No. I wear gis with pink on them. I wear a Xena Warrior Princess patch. I wear a Pony Club Grappling Gear patch. I have jiu jitsu pedicures. I am not interested in stripping every vestige of my femininity away. But at the same time – I think that +3 cleavage in a jiu jitsu gym is inappropriate.

    • To a point, it all has to do with what you’re comfortable in, but it also has to do with the comfort of your teammates.

      You see her as “Cleavage Girl,” you see it as a sexual thing, but in actuality, she probably doesn’t even give it a second thought, and has no other intention other than going to bjj practice, just like you, but happens to be in a sports bra.

      While that may be true, the same doesn’t necessarily apply to her teammates watching her strip down on the sidelines or her rolling in just the sports bra. The original issue wasn’t how she saw herself, it was how everyone else saw her and how it made them uncomfortable. As a guy on the mat, it makes me uncomfortable; so I can only imagine how the other girls must feel.

      It is not a sexual thing until individuals give it the power to be a sexual thing. We are all aware of body parts and it doesn’t make sense that men can go shirtless without a second thought, but if a woman goes in a sports bra, it’s all of a sudden an issue about her chest.

      Yes, female chest is an issue; if for no other reason than because people consider it sexual and make it an issue. If it wasn’t an issue, this whole conversation wouldn’t be happening. Regardless of how non-sexual you find your boobs, I can guarantee that the men in your gym don’t share that particular view with you. If you want to be treated as an equal on the mat, then cover the cleavage so your partners will be focused on the roll, not on your chest. Because if there’s cleavage happening, believe me, they’re not focused 100% on JiuJutsu.

      • It’s our unfortunate reality that women’s chests in western culture are sexualized to the point that breastfeeding pictures are taken down on Facebook. Women are considered to be publicly indecent if they go without shirts, while men are not. But on that same token, that’s why pictures of shirtless GSP are not inherently sexual, while very often pictures of women athletes without their top on are.

        I also agree that reacting to other people’s reactions is absolutely fair. Being uncomfortable by how others react to something is totally valid! It’s the point I made when I was writing about Kyra’s photos – the comments that Internet dudes make about her make me uncomfortable – sometimes more so than the actual photos themselves.

        • Maybe I’m less sensitive to it cuz.. Well, let’s say I’m not exactly blessed in the chest arena, lol. Not much to show in case of a malfunction. Lol, TMI. I do understand both sides, though I disagree with the frowning upon females who roll in less than more. I still do believe though if you are able to look passed it, it’s be just about the same as rolling with a man’s sweaty bare chest… Which I guess isn’t that great either, but all inclusive with the art, I suppose.

        • JiuJiu – how ironic that you mention Facebook and breastfeeding photos. I’m part of a group called “Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding is not Obscene”

          I am a lactation consultant. We have to deal with how the eroticization of the breasts interfering with helping women feel secure feeding their infants in the “normal” way that infants were designed to feed. There are many cultures, some of which that I have lived and worked in that do not consider the breasts to be sexual at all. I lived in the middle of Zaire (as it was called then – now its back to Congo) and they really didn’t find breasts sexy at all. It was the butt and the thighs that were sexy. There is a cultural anthropologist, Kathleen Dettwyler, who has looked at how some cultures like the United States view breasts as an “erotic” object. It parallels how the Chinese used to view the foot.

          So I do have empathy for the visceral reactions we get when we see something shocking from our own cultural perspective and have to adapt. Or are trained into feeling we should cover parts of our body and get uncomfortable when those are exposed. At the time I lived in Zaire it was illegal for women to wear pants because the shape of a woman’s thighs were considered far too enticing. After a mere two years in that country I was uncomfortable wearing shorts for 10 years afterwards. And I grew up in California where a bathing suit top (usually skimpier than a sports bra) in the grocery store was perfectly acceptable.

          As for rash guards in jiu jitsu – I’m in favor of them because I take my jiu jitsu class right after my “stand up” class and there isn’t time to shower. So, the rash guard at least covers over some of the drippy sweat. Plus, I don’t really want my belly exposed which is is pretty good shape for my age but still has a squishy layer over the muscle. In fact, I like easily washable layers underneath the gear that collects sweat – like the gis (especially the jiu jisu gis) and gloves. Nothing worse than smelly gloves or a gi that is so infused with sweat that it smells just as bad after you wash it.

          • My sister was a huge proponent of breastfeeding – but sometimes in a very confrontational way. I know that living in Ukraine and Korea have widened my perspective and helped my understanding of certain things – like if you post a picture of women wearing stilettos and short skirts and fishnets, you might think “hooker” but I might think “Kiev fashion” and have a more neutral opinion of it.

            I liked what you said about – we are trained into feeling we should cover parts of our body and feel uncomfortable when it is exposed. I still have some of that feeling from when I was fat – like I shouldn’t show my belly.

            Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments! I’m enjoying reading them!

      • I think it’s very individual how people react. I (female) am quite flatchested, which i like as it’s easier to roll, nothing in the way that distracts. Still i often wear a T or rash over my sports bra unless it’s a really hot summers day, because that’s how i feel comfortable.
        I think it also depends on the level you’r at, if you are at competition level the focus is totally at that whilest beginners see things differently. I remember an MMA class i was in where it was me an one other girl in the group, one of the new guys said he could not roll with a girl although he had several times already rolled with me. He was refferring to the other girl as she was more heavychested and he found it too distracting, she had a T on with a little bit of clevage.
        It’s unfair though to only focus on the woman as male chests can be equally distracting. I’m allways super focused during a roll but a few years back when i was single those muscular bare chests were eyecandy and really distracting when i was not grappling. It caused me to feel a little bit insecure in the group as i did not want to feel that way about my sparring partners!

        • Oh I totally agree – except that I would add that men’s abs are far more distracting than their chests! I also found the great looking bodies VERY distracting at first – I had never ever been around men that looked like that – let alone in that state of undress! Yikes. Thankfully I’m used to it enough that I can not overreact when I am around it. ^_^

  8. I had an incident where my rashie rode up and flipped up over my bra during a particularly dynamic roll. I have never been more embarrassed in my life. The Event affected how I train for quite a while. The solution for me is to wear a women’s wrestling onesie (by Asics) that can never, ever expose my belly. It’s sleeveless but modestly so and has a higher neck so there’s no cleavage. I was worried about wedgies given it’s attached to little bike shorts but so far so good. It’s pretty supportive fabric but I wear the usual chest scaffolding underneath so nothing moves.

    Don’t think my gym has policy regarding what to wear under the gi. I haven’t done any comps yet, but at this stage I don’t think I could (mentally) do it if all I was allowed to wear under the gi was a sports bra.

    Almost all the men in my class go bare chested which did make me uncomfortable at the start. It does get really hot in the gym -we’re in Australia- so I suppose that’s the coolest (ha) option for them. The few other women who train here wear rash guards or an all in one sports singlet.

    • I hadn’t seen any of those before. I added a link to them. Thanks for the tip. I remember one time after class, I took off my rash guard and saw that my boob had popped out of my sports bra. Part of it was that I was losing weight and my boobs had gotten slightly too small for my bra. Sigh.

      I do think that exposure (hehe) is a way to inoculate yourself from the uncomfortableness – a certain amount of just getting used to it. I remember how uncomfortable some of the moves were at the beginning and it was just a matter of getting accustomed to them. So perhaps I just NOTICE cleavage because I rarely see it, so it stands out.

  9. We don’t have any requirements at my gym. Lately I have been wearing a Rashguard under my Gi, although when it was warmer out I just wore a sports bra… Don’t know if I’ll shed the Rashguard when it gets warm again or not. In no Gi, I always wear a Rashguard – as do all the guys.

    • Our guys always wear rash guards during nogi – I’ve never seen anyone wear only vale tudo shorts. In fact, during nogi most of the guys are well covered. I am considering doing the sports bra only thing during summer because in Seoul it gets nastily hot here. However, I think I would likely wear 2 sports bras to avoid wardrobe malfunction. But then – I don’t know that I like my stomach exposed. Hmmm.

      • About 10 years ago when i started BJJ some of the guys at my club only wore vale tudo shorts during nogi, I found it mostly unfair as i was stuck with a T and trousers. It was really hard to get any hold at all!

  10. I’ve gone through various iterations of thought on the topic. Most of the time I wear a t-shirt or rashie under my gi. Sometimes I forget to bring one and I train without. I have gotten to the point (and I’m comfortable my team likewise has gotten to the point) where wardrobe malfunction, if it occurs, is ignored. Men’s pants come untied routinely, and it doesn’t fluster me. Men have washboard tums, and I’m not distracted. I have cleavage, and fuck it if I care whether they notice or not.

    • THANK YOU!!! I was trying to remember the term “wardrobe malfunction” but I had a brain malfunction.

      I mentioned to another comment, I think that a certain amount of the uncomfortableness in jiu jitsu just has to do with getting used to it. So I think that my uncomfortableness with Cleavage Gal (even when I am in that role) is due to her virtual rarity in Korea. Women here are mad modest about their cleavage, though they wear super short booty shorts that most American women are uncomfortable seeing.

  11. My gym requires us to wear the same gi and rash guard regardless of whether we are male or female. It’s very rare that we get people wearing low cut shirts or no rash guards and it will usually happen on a person’s first day (I wasn’t told I needed a t-shirt underneth my first day so I went in just the sports bra).
    No-gi is a bit more liberal in that we can wear any pants we want, but it’s still prefered that we wear the school rashguard. I get away with wearing a long sleeve, plain black underarmour shirt for no-gi only because they don’t make women’s long sleeve rashguards and the men’s small is waaaaay too big for me.
    That said, I’m not sure I would care if a woman (or man) decided to train with just a sports bra regardless of what her body looked like. A lot of the tournaments in my area have dress rules though. Men MUST compete bare chested (not sure why) and women can wear a rashguard if they want.

    • Yep, that’s what happened to me at first – no one told me about rash guards when I first started.

      I know that Charles Smith is at a gym that has a super strict gi policy as well. He was talking about it on Facebook I think. That’s cool that they make concessions for gender differences – I don’t generally buy men’s gis because I find they just don’t fit as well. 🙁

      • I go to Gracie Barra, and they do make women’s gi’s but I prefer to wear the men’s one just because I don’t like pink (And don’t feel I should be expected to wear pink just because I’m a girl. I also don’t want to spend an extra $20 on the same KIND of gi just because it’s a woman’s gi) so I’m happy wearing men’s gi’s. They don’t fit great but it’s whatever to me. I can live with the “diapar butt” look that ill fitting gi’s give.

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  13. My personal opinion is to be modest for your body type when at the gym and cover those areas. What works for me may not work for another person and to just be mindful. Like for example me and a couple of ladies at the gym wear sports bras and the guys are fine with it. But that’s because we don’t go wearing cleavage inducing sports bra and neither do we have large enough assets at the top to make it look inappropriate.

    There’s a difference between this:
    http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQcQ9M2L_yBTHfZq2da_uhwfiT81dcffsU-v48ONgdbQOUPoUcRiw

    And this:
    http://blog.dealrocker.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Nike-Pro-Racerback-Bra.jpg

    But they are both sports bras no?

    So again making blanket statements or rules like everyone should wear rash guards really wouldn’t solve the problem. What if she wears a rashguard so tight you can see every outline of the bra or worse still nipples if shes’s not wearing a padded bra underneath? Or wearing a semi-transparent white rashguard and a black bra so you can see the cleavage? Those also quite inappropriate in my book (and I’ve seen it before at comps eek!).

    So yeah, I think if we just have proper sensible modesty guidelines it doesn’t really matter what they wear (whether it’s sports bras vs rashguards) but just make sure it’s appropriate for your body type.

    Also I don’t think it’s a double standard regarding the rashguard for females and none for males. The boob area is a sexual area so like it would be highly inappropriate to just wear a bra or wear nothing underneath! I’m not sure why you see it as a double standard unless you would like all males to also wear rashguards underneath? But what modesty again are they trying to cover? A male chest is not really a sexual area in my book.

    just another thing I’d like to add is I don’t see it exclusively as a male vs female thing because guys can do it too! I cringe when guys wear their pants really low and you can see butt cracks or the V shape at the hip area (no idea what that muscle is called) or when they wear pants so tight at the crotch area you can actually see the outline of their um crotch area to me that’s also inappropriate and quite similar to a girl and her cleavage.

    • I used to have really big boobs. Unfortunately, it makes nearly everything you wear “boobalicious.” Seriously – tank tops on me looked like I was trying to show off my cleavage. Those super cute bra shelves in the Victoria’s Secret type tanks – showed probably about 6 inches of cleavage. Now, at a MUCH smaller size, it shows nothing. Literally the same garment looks so freaking different on different bodies.

      Personally I do think that everyone, male or female, should wear a rashguard. It actually is more than just about sexuality – I don’t really want my face planted on a sweaty, nekked stomach, regardless of gender. It’s more like – let’s keep some space between us. I’ve also had hairy dudes put their hairy chests or stomachs in my face – and it’s pretty darn gross. A dude who shaves and has chest stubble – man that hurts. For me, the blanket “everyone wear rashies” is perfect.

      I’m not a rulemaker, however, so it’s just idle talk. 🙂

  14. In addition to clothing, people also wear makeup, rings, jewelry, wrist bands, and so on.

    As you might guess, I don’t allow any in my own dojo, but other gyms I teach at do allow some of those. Wedding rings are often an issue. I’ve had people refuse to take them off, sometimes because they can’t actually get them off their fingers anymore–which I can understand–but sometimes only for emotional reasons. I’ve also found it useful to mention to new women not to wear any makeup. Since they’re brand new, it’s something they often just don’t think of until their first few classes, when it shows up on someone else’s gi. I haven’t had to mention it to any men yet.

    How do you all feel about these other things people wear on the mat?

    • Taping up the non-removable wedding rings is a “must do” at my gym.

      There’s a slight risk of the un-taped rings getting caught on something and causing a “finger skin shucking” – which is really bad and nobody wants that to happen.

      My gym also is nowhere near as restrictive as those of many here – any color gi is okay, but generally, it’d be nice if the top and bottoms match. The rashguard/t-shirt thing is often utilized, but nobody freaks out if there’s skin or a sports bra showing. However, there’s no walking around topless or bottomless. Must have a gi top or rashguard/t-shirt top on at all times and pants/shorts/spats.

  15. I train with all men at the moment. We’ve had women before, but we’re a very small club, without the facilities to provide a full dressing room. Its not uncommon for us to see a dude standing beside the mat wearing nothing but his compression shorts.

    At first this made me uncomfortable, and I’m pretty sure its because I’m uncomfortable with my own body. I realized that its my problem, not theirs. As long as nothing indecent happens, who cares?

    I always come to class with my gi pants already on, so I just throw my jacket on and get to training. When I first started out, I used to wear a rash guard and a t-shirt under my jacket, because I was so uncomfortable with my own skin. Now, its nothing for me to take my shirt and and get going. I still wear a rashguard though, because yucky!

    Anyways, my point is that I wasn’t uncomfortable with the thought of being in a room with a barely clothed dude. I just had my own body issues. I’m not saying that is the case for everybody, but it definitely was for me.

    • A friend of mine visited my gym. After we left, he mentioned to me how uncomfortable he was in the changing room because all the guys had 6 pack abs. He was sort of hiding in the corner, uncomfortable.

      I know that for me, having half naked dudes around me was super uncomfortable because BJJ was the first time I had ever been around half-naked dudes and it was NOT okay to remark on their hotness or to stare. In my pre-BJJ world, it was totally acceptable for me to comment on Ab Man’s hot abs. In my post-BJJ world I have to keep those thoughts to myself and not say them or post them on Twitter. It was an aspect of self-control I had never had to exercise, and I found it a difficult transition.

  16. Rashguards aren’t required at my gym, but I will almost always wear one under my gi. For some reason, I just feel like it lends itself to a much more formal training environment and, especially when I’m teaching, it keeps me from being insecure about my body and also from possibly distracting other people with my panda fat (fat panda = opposite of ab man).

  17. I actually train both Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai at the same school. When I first started I asked my professor if he minded if I trained in a sports bra only. He didn’t care, so I went for it. I personally prefer training in just a sports bra because I hate the feel of an extra layer. I am on the smaller side though, so going sports bra only, might be easier for me. During no gi, I wear full rash guard shirts to protect my skin from bacteria. The guys are all very respectful towards me and we view each other as family. Besides, the majority of them don’t wear shirts under their gis and I get chest hair on me all the time. The only thing I did learn, which was an important lesson, is to make sure the bra has padding. I stick with the bras from Under Armour since I find they have the most coverage.

  18. As a brand-new, inexperienced BJJ-girl I was surfing this world wide web to get a picture of what to train in, what to compete in, belt ranks, how to tie (and where to tie!) your belt; all these things that are new to newbies like me, and I stumbled across this post. I found it interesting, and more importantly, it’s has made me think about an issue I haven’t thought about before. Now I’m a little more enlightened, and a little more bewandered in the female BJJworld – thank you!

    With this said, I’ll be one of them rolling in a sports bra. The less I need to wear, the better I feel in touch with my body – something I found out about myself during yoga-practice. (At the same time, I could of course speak about how I don’t intend it to be either sexy or distracting, but I must admit that as a psychology student I cannot say so – If some of my strenght lies in my looks, so be it. To look confident (by feeling confident) is a strenght in itself, so when I am comfortable with it, the rash guard goes. This has more to do with the psycholgical aspects of facing an opponant in a fight, and as you probably have understood by now, I’m in BJJ for the competiton, and my thoughts are about that.)

    Let’s always remember what BJJ is about – and not get too hung up on these matters. Truth is, nobody cares as much as yourself, and I believe in the ability to adapt. 😉

    Keep it on!

    • Renate – Welcome to jiu jitsu! I hope you have an amazing experience!

      As far as my site goes, I think that there’s a fine line between discussing and “getting hung up on” matters. I like to think we’re on the discussion side of things. There aren’t a lot of safe spaces online to discuss these sort of things without people resorting to insults, belittling one another, or mocking one another. Here, women are safe to say those things without fear of ridicule – because I moderate the crap out of comments. Someone comes in really rude or declaring there is no ____ism in BJJ, they get deleted. Someone starts name calling – they get warned, and the comment gets deleted.

      So while it may be that no one cares as much as you, perhaps several of us do care, and we can talk about that together, or air concerns in a safe space.

      Truly, I hope that if you feel that some of your strength lies in your looks that you WILL attempt to neutralize that “strength” in jiu jitsu, because frankly it won’t get you far. It would be akin to a hulky new white belt dude using all his physical strength. That doesn’t help his jiu jitsu.

  19. I’ve trained with Cleavage Girl AND Ab Man (both of whom looked strikingly similar to your drawing). Oddly enough, having boobs full on smooshed in to my face while rolling does little in the way of distracting me one way or the other, but if I end up with a face full of sweaty chest hair from Ab Man I’m disgusted.

  20. I really enjoyed reading this article and the comments. Recently I’ve moved gyms, at my first gym only a small few people, male or female, wore rash guards and no one seemed to be bothered. At the gym I’ve moved to to a gym nearly everyone wears a rash guard, and the girls always do. I have tiny boobs and a really small upper body. I look completely flat chested in my sports bras because they are full coverage and they compress my bumps to nothing. I’ve tried rash guards and I really didn’t enjoy the full coverage and so I always just wear a sports bra (I don’t do no gi so I’ve always at least a gi top on). However, in the new gym people seem slightly uncomfortable with me only wearing a sports bra under my gi, more so the girls who have asked do I not mind. I never even thought about it until then, it was natural and comfortable for me, it was normal. I’d never unchange beside the mats, or walk around with my gi top off or even open. But it has made me think about how they perceive me and in general how it is perceived, and this article was very helpful and clarifying that. I’m going to continue wearing what is most comfortable for me, so just a sports bra under the gi and hope that their opinion on what is right for them doesn’t negatively impact how they view those who choose differently.

    • Hi Carmen! Thanks for joining our discussion! For me, that conversation they had with you was a great conversation opener. I hope you keep the lines of discussion open – I know that it can be intimidating to talk about that, so I do applaud them for broaching the subject with you. May I ask how the conversation went? Was it a “ummm yeah – I’ll do what I’ll do, but thanks for playing” or a “Hmmm I never thought of it that way – some of the guys don’t wear rash guards, so I think it’s okay for people to train without. May I ask what makes you feel uncomfortable about it?”

      Just curious. I know that sometimes shutting people down can negatively impact your training relationship – I’m curious what the washback was.

      If you’re interested in hearing what more women say, consider subscribing to comments on this thread! ^_^ And again, thanks for joining us in this safe comment-space!

      • It wasn’t really at a time we could discuss it (as in it was on the mats). I think you may have misread the comment though, they asked me did I not mind not wearing a rash guard, they didn’t mention being themselves uncomfortable. But needing to ask me did it make me uncomfortable gave me the impression that it made them feel so. I’m never staunch about my opinions, I just said smiled and said no, I don’t see why it would. I’m very relaxed about my appearance, I don’t wear makeup and I’m usually in tracksuit bottoms. My appearance is something I prefer not to give much thought to. We’ve been getting on really well so I don’t think there has been any negative feedback from it but I do feel like they were taken back by it at the beginning.

  21. I honestly feel like this whole conversation is something of a distraction. Of course we should all do out best to stay within our partners comfort zones, but as far as I am concerned there is no place on the mat to focus on anything but training. Nor is it your training partner’s responsibility to anticipate your feelings on gender in the class. The sad truth is that our world has treated women abysmally for a very long time, but I for one will continue to leave that world at the door when I enter the mat. No matter your choice in attire I believe a respectful attitude and an exclusive attention to Jiu Jitsu is all that’s required.

    • Hey there! Thank you so much for joining in. I have to be honest – in all sincerity this is the most polite way I’ve ever seen someone say “I don’t think this is very important”. That’s seriously awesome! You said your point of view in a way that didn’t silence anyone else, but clearly stated what you thought.

      Serious respect! I’m actually going to point to this as an example to others as to how to politely disagree.

      I TOTALLY agree with you that your partner can’t anticipate all your feelings, nor should they have to. I do, however, think that it’s an interesting conversation – one where I learn a lot from others. It helped me move away from my knee jerk reaction and have an actual thoughtful response to it – so for me it was useful to give me a dialog for talking to others.

      Interestingly enough – there are two brand new gals in my BJJ class. I was wearing FULL SPANDEX during nogi, and they came in wearing huge sweatshirts. I had to tell one gal that it had to be removed because it had a zipper and pockets. She felt uncomfortable and said “But this shirt is tight.” I pointed at me and said “Nah, you’re fine!” ^_^ So yeah – zero cleavage to be found in my gym!

  22. This is an interesting thread, and I appreciate reading the different viewpoints. My gym doesn’t have a strict dress code, but there is a rule that you have to wear a shirt (or be otherwise covered up) because we’re a Family gym. For No-Gi, I will wear workout capris, a sports bra, and a workout tank (the same as I would for our Kickboxing classes). For Gi, I only wear a sports bra underneath (and underwear, which is a thong!) I get hot easily and I’m just much more comfortable and cooler when I don’t have any other clothing inhibiting me. To me, personally, it’s a distraction for MY training if I have more layers on that makes ME physically uncomfortable. I do not have a big overflowing chest, so my bra covers me completely, and I don’t worry about any kind of fallout. Many of my partners, though, wear one – or even two – sports bras and tanks under their Gis and I feel they still run the risk of showing more than me and my abs. They’ve had “boob popouts” and it’s just like “Oh well!” I don’t pay any attention to my face being in their cleavage – if that’s what they want to wear and it happens to them, I don’t care one way or the other. I’m just there to train. Granted, I’m not a guy, but generally – guys and girls – we just joke about it and move on. I can’t think of anyone at our gym that intentionally dresses provocatively to train – if there is anyone, they’re identified pretty quick and called out and they don’t last long. The rest of us are just Family.

    Some guys don’t wear anything under their Gi and some wear a shirt or rashguard. Our professor goes bare-chested. Everyone must wear a shirt in No-Gi, though, which I absolutely agree with. There is enough sweat on the mats, let alone bare skin in the middle of it – yuck!

    I usually show up in my gi pants and a sweatshirt. At the benches (not RIGHT next to the mat, but others can see since it’s in the open), I just take off my sweatshirt and put on my Gi top, so there’s a brief view of just me in my bra. I don’t prance around in it, but there are times I will go over to a more secluded area of the mat after practice to do Abs, Pushups, Squat work, etc. on my own, in only my gi pants and sports bra. It’s just too hard to do that with a Gi on when it’s all sweaty and yucky. And yes, I do have a towel with me at all times!!

  23. Interesting thread – I was thinking about this topic just the other day. The gym I go to has male & female toilets but no changing area. This means that after class the guys all strip down to their tightie-whities next to the mat while they change out of their gis and into street clothes. So me being in only a sports bra (and gi pants) for about 10secs while I take my gi top off and pull a singlet or tshirt over it seems pretty inconsequential and no one seems to care. Although seeing the guys in just their underwear does make me a little uncomfortable – I always *try* to avert my eyes! – but only for a brief moment.. it isn’t the sort of ‘uncomfortable’ that carries onto the mat. On the mat, it is all about training.
    Having said that, I do now tend to wear an underarmour heatgear rash guard over my sports bra & under my gi. It is so lightweight it feels like nothing, and helps dry up sweat. It also means that between rolls I can take my gi top off (gets too hot in Australian summer!) while I watch, which I wouldn’t do with only a sports bra.
    I think a bigger problem than showing abs is what someone else alluded to earlier – nipplage. Once I got home after training to realise that it looked as though I’d been smuggling two M&Ms down my top. The strange looks I had gotten from a couple of the other ladies and smirks from the younger males suddenly made sense – and there had been, chatting away to people after class feeling suitably attired in my gi pants & rashguard. It’s annoying because my most comfortable sports bra doesn’t have padding, but because it compresses the girls’ so much (great because that = no movement) it also means it does make me look constantly on high beam. So now I have a lightly padded one, but it is frustrating that I have to sacrifice physical comfort during class for psychological comfort after class.

    PS Love your blog, JiuJiu.. I’ve been a lurker for nearly a year now!

    • NinjaCat, thanks for coming out of hiding! I hadn’t even thought about the nipple factor! I didn’t realize until last year that the reason sports bras were padded was so that it would hide nipples! Sincerely, thanks for adding that note – I think it’s a good one.

      When we had almost no changing room, I would wear spats or shorts underneath, wear a rashguard under my shirt, and change on the sidelines. One time I walked into the gym and saw a fully naked dude. Yep, I saw wang. That was…uncomfortable.

  24. I love this discussion, I am one of one two women who train at my club and fortunately, I train at a place where the guys are so respectful of us and I have never felt uncomfortable or awkward about what I am wearing. BUT I recently did get a breast augmentation after growing a giant baby and feeding him it left my chest, well let’s just say there are some things that a million push-ups just can’t fix. I did research beforehand and did go to a surgeon who specializes in athletes and feel confident that I will be back on the mat in a month. Now I would love to ask if there are any other women who train that have had similar procedures and what type of sports bra they wear? I ordered a couple of compression/guard ones from Title. I would love to just hear about anyone’s experience rolling after a breast aug. if there is anyone willing to share!

  25. Pingback: Jiu Jiu's BJJ Blog – BJJ Blog Roundup January Week 3

  26. I’m short, skinny and have a boyish figure (seriously, I look like a teenage boy in most of our team photographs). I wear a gi and a normal t-shirt to gi BJJ. I don’t bother with a sports bra because my breasts are small enough that they don’t really need any support/compression.

    I don’t really do no gi at the moment (I plan to add it to my training schedule as of March), but I’d wear a sports bra underneath my rash guard for that, since it’s more figure hugging.

    Almost every guy who has been around for more than a few lessons wears either a rash guard or a tshirt under their gi. We don’t have an “ab man” that I can think of. There are a few guys who are more casual about their training who roll shirtless under the gi, and I don’t like the combination of sweat and hair, but I can understand why they haven’t gotten around to buying the full kit yet.

    Most of the guys at my gym don’t really pay attention to anything other than which limb is currently the easiest to crank on – the only remark I’ve had about my body is one guy saying “Are you sure it’s OK for me to put my hands there for this move, it feels like if I put any weight down I’ll crush straight through your chest!”. I weigh 96lbs and he’s closer to 200, so I think it was a fair question.

  27. At my gym we (men& women) are not required to wear rashies under their Gis. Since there’s a highly competitive team there, most train like they’re going to have to fight during a match. During No Gi a rash guard is required. I don’t really care what a woman wears when we roll. Out of respect, there are places where I just won’t put my hands or feet and those places don’t change when you take the Gi off. I would hope she would be just as accommodating with me.

  28. My school does not require rash guards. I’m pretty flat chested, and spent the first couple months going in just a sports bra. During my second month(in my third month of training) another girl joined who goes just as often as me. Last week she decided to mention to me that she had seen my near-invisible-but-still-there cleavage at LEAST three times. I purchased a rash guard and have worn it everyday since, and whereas she started with a rash guard, now that I’m wearing one she isn’t wearing one, nor do her sports bras have support. What’s the best possible way to either bring up that maybe she should continue wearing shirts, or wear a sports bra with better support?

  29. I have a different sort of problem at the gym I go to… We have a woman who has been training a few months now, though not consistently, and she WILL NOT wear a sports bra. She isn’t very well endowed or anything, but with only a cami under her gi it just isn’t enough. She will stop and reach into her top to “adjust” herself right in front of the guys. I’ve bitten the bullet and talked to her about getting a sports bra at least 4 times, but she hasn’t done it. A few of the married guys have told me she makes them uncomfortable, but they won’t go to the instructor with such an awkward problem. Talking to her again doesn’t seem likely to help, and I’m not sure what to do at this point. Any ideas?? :/

    • At some point it needs to be brought to the instructor’s attention. You should do it if they won’t.

      “Coach, can you please talk to Gal Friday? She does not have proper equipment, and it is interrupting other people’s training. She needs a sports bra. I have tried talking to her, but frankly she is dismissing me, and at this point, it needs to come from someone higher up.”

      If he says that he can’t really say anything, ask him if he would say something to a man who was not wearing underwear and would have to stop and adjust himself in front of classmates.

      Essentially, approach it in a gender neutral way.

  30. Well, when I started I never thought I could ever train without a t-shirt or rashguard under the gi. I mean I was fat and bla-bla.
    Now it’s 37°C at 7pm my mind has changed 😀 and I train with just a sport bra under the gi. It’s much more comfortable not having your t shirt moving under the gi jacket, but I know I’ll put it back on when weather will turn colder.

    I don’t think it bothers anybody at the gym. A lot of guys train without rashguard under the gi (even in winter!) so I’m totally used to that. Plus we make jokes about me not considering anything gross (like, you can sweat in my mouth/eyes and I’m totally okai with that) so who cares about the rashguard.
    Moreover, gi’s fabric scrubs your skin so you save time at home XD

    I also got a bad bruise on my breast because of that. Everything has its cons lol.

    I couldn’t obviously train no-gi with just a sport bra, because of mat burns… I’ve never seen anybody, male or female, training no gi shirtless.

    • I wore just a sports bra under my gi top a few weeks ago because I forgot my rash guard. I HATED it. I felt like my gi top was a cheese grater! I have really sensitive skin, though. I would never wear a t-shirt during training, though – I’d much rather just wear a sports bra. A sweaty t-shirt feels so cold and disgusting. Yuk.

      The other part of it is: I was REALLY worried about having a boob pop out – if I was using my chest as leverage, and then pushing forward (steam rolling?), I found that the clothes underneath would “stay” while my body was moving forward. I don’t want to worry about that ever happening. 🙁

      I have only seen a few folks wear no shirt during nogi – in fact, only one that I can think of, and he was also wearing vale tudo shorts – so for me it felt a bit shocking.

  31. huh, I honestly don’t think this is something I’d never even think about. I’ve unfortunately only gotten the chance to try jig-jitsu once so far (yesterday actually. it was amazing), I normally do karate. anyways, I tried to remember what everyone had been wearing. I know the girl I rolled with had worn a t-shirt under her gi. understandable, she was rather large and her boobs would probably have fallen out. while I enjoyed rolling with her I do remember thinking at one point “her boobs are literally suffocating me. death by boobs?” . still, I think if she’s only worn a sports bra my main worry would be how she’d feel if her boobs fell out.
    as for the guys. I literally could not remember. like, I went on their Facebook to look at what they wear (they have pictures from class). no shirt under the gi. both the guys I got to talk with (rolled with one of said two) are rather attractive, but I didn’t notice this until after class :p while they both had nice bodies there simply was not room in my head to think about that. it would be weird to me.
    personally I think I’d prefer only a bra (mine covers quite well), but I wasn’t sure how things were done with that club, so I decided to be on the safe side. I was visiting and training for free and will probably do so again next time I’m in the area, so I’d rather break as few social codes and rules as possible 😉

    • wops. I’ve commented on this blog before, but couldn’t remember what name I’d used. this is the name I used before, just in case I should happen to comment again 😉 so yeah, same person

    • Hi Maja! Sorry I didn’t comment earlier – I was…caught up in life. Heh – traveling, getting engaged, etc. I let comments lay fallow! I’m back now, though!

      Have you gone back to jiu jitsu? Do you enjoy it?

      (I’m going to see if I can alter your comment to have it show the same name/email, and if I do, I’ll delete the other one)

      • you don’t have to delete the other one, it doesn’t matter 🙂 I’m just really bad at keeping track of which one I’ve used 😉 I’m honestly still not sure which one I originally used >_>

        no, I haven’t had the opportunity to go back yet. there’s one jiu jitsu club in the area, but I’m more interested in bjj. even so, I can’t afford to do both karate and bjj at the moment. (can’t really afford karate right now either. my club has been very generous and let me train for free)
        I loved it though! gosh, I really really loved bjj. it was amazing<3 I still have a standing invitation to train in halden, but it's a couple of hours away. next time I visit my grandparents in halden I'll make sure to contact the guy I know from the club and ask if we could train. last time there wasn't really training the day I was there, but he set up an extra training session just for me and made sure to invite a girl for me to feel comfortable. I ended up staying an extra day and taking the bus home just to train once more.
        one day I plan on really getting into bjj though. not yet. first I will have to have both the time and the money and second I think I might wait until I've got a really good base in karate before getting really into a second art. I won't quit karate, but I might focus less on it for a couple of years to focus on bjj. maybe stop training officially and just work on my own to maintain what I have. we'll see 🙂
        also, the most challenging thing for me in class was when we focused on self defense from a standing position. my partner was supposed to pretend hit me and I was to sort of curl up to protect myself before taking her down. the takedown was easy to learn, worse was fighting the urge to block her punch and counter with a straight punch :p I kept blocking and almost hitting and she was just laughing her ass off xD

        • Yep, this is the one you initially used – you’re at 15 approved on this account now – only 2 on the other?

          That’s one issue with martial arts – we are training our reflexes, and we are training our bodies to respond in specific ways. Training with a one-year white belt is MUCH easier than with a new one – how they’re standing, if they’re collapsing their frames, etc. I have a hard time not “defending” against cuddly, boyfriend moves. He puts his arm around my neck and I defend the choke. Sigh.

          Even if you’re not training BJJ, I think there are still a lot of “crossover” topics on this blog – the ideas aren’t specifically just about BJJ, but they are my examples. I hope you keep contributing!

          • yup.. *giggles* I can really imagine that!
            oh absolutely 🙂 I’ll continue commenting every time I feel like I have something even remotely related to the topic 😉

  32. Just started training in no-gi bjj a couple weeks ago, and am beginning gi classes next week. So I found my way here the same way as many others, by trying to find out what I need to wear under my gi. Interestingly, when I was searching for what to do with my hair after my first class (hair disaster), I came across a discussion among men, sparked by a poor guy who couldn’t stop getting erections when rolling with women. The general consensus among them was that erections and sexual attraction/thoughts in general are rare and NOT on their minds during class, which was a huge relief to me as there are very few females in my class. It seemed to be a minor anomaly chalked up to the original poster’s young age and inexperience (19 yrs. old). And in this situation, his female classmates weren’t even showing any skin. So I don’t feel that “it distracts the men/lesbians in the room” is a valid argument against Cleavage Girl. Also, I agree with all the women who admitted to checking out the great male bodies sometimes on display, but I feel it’s disrespectful to allow it to affect my training-partner relationship with that person, even if I admire their appearance. And I’d like to think that the guys in class, who seem pretty classy so far, feel the same way. Lastly, not only am I not well-endowed (at best a B cup), I also have pretty big muscles and high body fat percentage due to my background as a weightlifter. Definitely not typical hottie material, more like hefty, which I and my boyfriend have no problem with, even if society might. But I am still going to train in a sports bra under my gi if I feel like it and not be ashamed when my gi gets inevitably pulled open. Might even be that girl who walks around in just a sports bra and shorts during breaks when it’s super sweltering. I feel that any other women who decides to do the same, while still retaining functionality, i.e. not being constantly on the verge of popping a boob out, has a right to the same. The sentiment that it’s inappropriate to show some stomach or pectoral skin just because it’s on a female, seems like it comes from a culture of pulling your fellow women down and body shaming them. I understand where it comes from and that our culture in general oversexualizes women, but cmon ladies, fight it! In my mind, there should be nothing wrong with wanting to be securely covered neck to wrist, or with the woman next to you who wants to only wear a properly fitting sports bra, as long as it’s not against the gym’s policy.

    • Hey Tammy – how are your classes going?

      I’m thankful I’ve never gone up against Erection Guy – ho boy! I wouldn’t roll with someone who had an erection. Yikes.

      I think for me, it ends up coming down to trying to have a professional business. I would want jiu jitsu to feel like a professional place. For me, that would mean having bodies covered, and not having folks change. I think that the environment feels different if you have folks changing off the mats as opposed to on the mats. I say that as someone who will often change on the sidelines. The gym I will be going to next year in America has policies that everyone wears rashies and no one can have their gi top off when they’re on the mats. Basically it’s so that people won’t get changed or be half dressed. It felt a little strange at first, but when I understood why – that it’s to create a more professional training environment – it completely made sense to me.

      It’s more about creating a neutral, comfortable training zone. We are in a sweaty, gross sport, so if we can minimize SOME of that – especially the face to belly contact, that’s really cool.

  33. My dojo has an under shirt optional policy for men, and shirt/rashie mandatory for females. Men are highly encouraged to wear a shirt underneath their gi, but it is not mandatory.
    Its not sexist as male and females are built differently. We used to have it optional across the board until one guy grabbed ahold of her sports bra & ripped it open trying to do a sweep. Our classes are also predominately mixed with youth (7-13s) also working on the mats at the same time.

    • Yeah – there are definitely possibilities for wardrobe malfunction when you are just wearing a sports bra. I still say that if they’re mandatory for women, make them mandatory for men. My question would be – why not? Because they’re hot? They’re also hot for women. It seems like standards should be standards across the board. I don’t see a problem making a gender neutral policy that “Everyone wears rash guards”.

  34. My school is not a traditional school and so it does not require rash guards. I usually wear my running compression wear. However, there are some tops that are low enough to show cleavage when I’m on my back. For me it’s quite embarrassing. I am quite aware of it and this is distracting for me. I’m thankful for this post. Love seeing all the responses.

    • I hate when my own clothes distract me! I’d absolutely suggest a rash guard – super awesome peace of mind!

  35. Wow! As someone only one stripe in to BJJ who goes to a mostly men gym, it was super refreshing to read through this thread!
    I was sorta worried about what to wear when I decided to get serious about BJJ so I talked to my non-gym BJJ friends and my instructor at my gym and the conversations were really helpful. It’s getting cold in Santa Fe so the rash guard or a long sleeve mock neck Under Armor running top and work out tights (shorts, capris, or full length) aren’t too limiting in the no gi, which is what I’m really a fan of in BJJ.
    I went to my first gi class recently and I can’t imagine doing that without my rash guard underneath haha I’m definitely more comfortable in a rash guard because that’s what I am used to wearing for no gi but I was a mess. Gi is super unintuitive for me and my gi top was open or out of place for most of the class hahaha I looked like a crazed lunatic by the end of it. Now when it gets hot in the summer and I’m actually doing the warm up, drills, specific training, and rolling in the desert heat, I might consider only wearing a sports bra under my gi top although my skin is already cringing at that thought!!
    I’m pretty flat-chested and boyish looking and just tall & lanky so I wouldn’t really have to worry about a wardrobe malfunction! I wear the Victoria Secret Knockout sports bras that have two layers and I love them. I also love that they’re front close because I just do not want to do battle with my sports bra after an hour and half long class where I’m all sweaty and exhausted!! (https://www.victoriassecret.com/victorias-secret-sport/shop-by-support/knockout-by-victoria-sport-front-close-sport-bra-victoria-sport?ProductID=296279&CatalogueType=OLS) I also use VS knockout tights because I light the bright colors when I train at 7AM hahah and they stay in place super well!! I dislike catching a glimpse of someone’s underwear because they’re shorts are too loose! I used to do Insanity, which is a high intensity cardio-heavy, body weight training workout so I had to make sure the breasts stayed in place!! I used to work out in just loose (relative to the tights I wear now!) shorts and a sports bra because I overheat super easily but honestly, even in no gi, I’m kinda grossed out and nervous to roll around on a mat without my elbows and knees being covered.
    I’ve never felt weird about my compression clothing for no gi because of the hyper technical and formal nature of BJJ. I am way too focused on where to put my foot or arm to want to have to worry about my pants slipping or my bra showing. Sometimes you can kinda see the vague outline of the design on my bra under my rash guard, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem. I haven’t been rolling very long, but I already feel super comfortable at my gym. I think everyone sees me as their baby sister since I’m the youngest so maybe that helps? I also have the most boyish body type among the women that roll so there’s that, too. I do prefer to roll with women, though, because another woman isn’t going to be afraid to post in mount, whereas a man might get nervous about doing so.

    • Congrats on the stripe, and I’m glad you found this helpful!

      I’ve found that there are certain moves where I’ll have to ask the instructor “And if someone is partnered with a woman – where does their hand go?” or to tell some of the gals “When you hold their arm down, point it between your boobs. If you are on the left or right it’s not as strong.” heh.

      I’ve been tempted to go short sleeve with nogi as well, but yeah – I also get a bit grossed out. I find myself reaching for a long sleeve even in the gi – so much less friction all around. Mat burn is never fun. 🙁