Good hygiene is an essential part of any healthy martial arts practice, but it’s especially important now that we’re facing cold and flu season and the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Keeping yourself and your martial arts gear as fresh as possible has many benefits. It shows respect for yourself as a martial artist and courtesy to your training partners. It helps prevent stinky gear — which helps keep your whole martial arts gym smelling better. It also feels better to train in clean gear.
Most importantly, though, it helps to protect you and your training partners. Martial arts training is great for your physical and mental health in many vital ways. But training in close quarters with other martial artists and engaging in contact drilling and sparring means that we are constantly breathing and sweating on each other. Which means that we have to be even more careful about taking preventive measures against everything from the common cold to staph infections.
Here are some tips for practicing good martial arts hygiene at the dojo and at home.
Wash your hands.
Thoroughly and regularly washing your hands is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands before and after martial arts training, after using the restroom, and after blowing your nose or coughing during training. If you help clean the dojo before or after class, be sure to wash your hands after that, too.
According to CDC guidelines, there are five steps to proper hand washing:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
If soap and water aren’t immediately available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to clean your hands in a pinch.
Trim your nails regularly.
Keeping your fingernails and toenails trimmed is for your comfort and for your training partners’ safety. Long and unkempt nails are more likely to break during drills and sparring, which can be annoying and uncomfortable. Longer nails are also more likely to gouge or cut your training partners — and introduce whatever germs you have under your nails into the wound. Short and properly groomed nails will make your martial arts training more pleasant and safe for everyone involved.
Shower ASAP after training.
Ideally, we should shower at the gym after class and sparring. This is the best way to clean your body of bacteria that can build up during martial arts training. If your gym doesn’t haven’t a shower, or circumstances don’t allow for you to shower immediately after martial arts training, be sure to wash thoroughly at your soonest opportunity. Practicing good post-training hygiene will help you to prevent the common health concerns that martial artists face, like ringworm and staph infections. It will also keep you smelling better, which is a courtesy to your training partners and everyone you encounter after martial arts class.
Wash your martial arts uniform after every training session.
Bacteria doesn’t just build up on your skin during training, it also winds up on what you’re wearing. To keep your martial arts uniform fresh and sanitary, remove all of your gear from your gear bag as soon as possible after training. Let it dry. Then launder it after each class. This routine will make your next martial arts lesson a lot more pleasant for you and your training partners. For more information on martial arts uniform cleaning, check out our recent blog, “How To Properly Care For Your Gi.”
Clean your gear regularly.
Gloves, headgear, shinguards, and other protective gear should also be air dried after martial arts training. Once dry, wipe your training and sparring gear down or wash them with the appropriate cleaning products. Be sure to rinse your mouthguard and case regularly, too! And don’t forget to clean your gear bag itself. Good martial arts training gear hygiene will also help to prevent the spread of germs and odor, which will keep you and your training partners feeling and smelling better.
Keep an eye on your health. And don’t train if you’re sick!
Martial arts encourage us to develop better body awareness. Applying that growing awareness can make us more responsible martial artists and more courteous training partners. Pay attention to how you’re feeling and what’s happening in your body. If you have symptoms of an illness, it’s time to take a sick day. You should also take time off and see a doctor if you have a rash or any unfamiliar skin issues. Ringworm, staph, and athlete’s foot can spread through a gym very quickly, so it’s important to stay on top of any potential signs.
In general, it’s never wise to try to push or power through martial arts training when you’re not well. Not only will you feel worse, but you’ll also risk the wellbeing of your training partners. So let’s all take care of ourselves and each other by practicing our hygiene as seriously as we practice our martial arts!