While some people will wear a gumshield or mouthguard when practicing BJJ, just as many practitioners opt not to use one at all. Unlike many professional sports, mouth protection is not ever required or even particularly strongly suggested by any competition organizers. In fact, it’s not uncommon to walk into a BJJ gym and hear that it’s entirely unnecessary for someone to use either of them. If someone happens to train exclusively under the more traditional or ‘old-school’ Jiu-Jitsu instructors then it’s entirely possible that they might have even been told not to wear one.
Do You Need A Gumshield Or Mouthguard For BJJ?
BJJ classes can often be broken up to a few distinctly different activities, and the need for a gumshield or mouthguard will be different for each one. Many classes will begin with a warmup section, where the movements might be related to BJJ and might include a partner. Shortly after warming up, coaches will often begin instruction and provide a technique for the students to drill with little to no resistance working against them. Some classes will then employ increasing resistance or even move on to positional sparring, where sparring is done at full resistance from a specific limited situation. Finally, there is rolling or completely unrestricted sparring that is done at full speed and some academies will also have ‘competition sparring’ where the goal is increase the intensity to the maximum.
What Does a Gumshield or Mouthguard Do in BJJ?
Although they might not be common in BJJ, the use for a gumshield or mouthguard is incredibly relevant to the sport. The basic purpose of them is to protect the mouth from sustaining injury and although this includes the lips, tongue, and inside of the cheek; there is one particularly vulnerable area that benefits from their use. Teeth are not only essentially irreplaceable but in many countries, any issue with them is also incredibly difficult to fix. Even the most minor damage to the teeth isn’t something to take lightly, as it could cause both pain and difficulty eating for years to come. That’s why they’re usually considered vital pieces of equipment in any sport that involves the potential for an impact to the face.
Are There Any Downsides to Wearing Them?
It can be difficult to get used to wearing a gumshield or mouthguard while rolling in BJJ, as they do interfere with regular breathing and the sport itself already does enough of that. There are however, specific brands that offer unique products designed specifically to be as comfortable and breathable as possible. While mouth protection in general isn’t too expensive, the best possible designs often are more expensive than the rest. When considering the cost of practicing BJJ in general, including a gi, this isn’t very prohibitive though. They do obviously get dirty as well and require good cleaning on a regular basis, forgetting this can potentially lead to other dental health problems.
Although it isn’t a requirement to wear a gumshield or mouthguard when practicing BJJ, there really is no reason not to do so. The cost for a good product shouldn’t be out of reach for someone already paying for regular classes and although cleaning is a chore, it can be done in just a few minutes. There isn’t much need to wear one during warm-ups and there’s not much risk of damage to the face during drilling, but any actual sparring with resistance is the ideal time to put mouth protection in. Although the risk isn’t massive, it makes no sense to willingly take that risk at all given that the downsides are minimal. Mouth protection falls into the category of things that you would be incredibly grateful for, if you’re ever unfortunate enough to need it.
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