Rates of staph/ringworm/etc in gi vs no-gi


Silver Belt
May 15, 2007
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I'm just wondering if the gi really changes things much. I've always heard that the gi helps with hygene. I'm wondering if it actually does, or if it's just a wives tale or something.
Obviously you're gonna be a bit more exposed if you roll in a short-sleeve rashie and fight shorts, but the difference is probably negligible.
My no-gi centric school had a lot more problems in general with skin conditions. While so far my gi school hasn't had any big outbreaks.
I suspect mat cleanliness is a far more significant factor
I don't think it matters personally what type of rolling you're doing, but rather the person doing it. If somebody is gross enough to step onto the mat dirty to roll no-gi, then they are probably the same people that don't wash their gi and then come roll in it.
Some things I'd consider:

Gi only grapplers, have you ever come down with ringworm, staph, molloscum, or other common grappling related skin issues on areas of your body covered by the gi? For example, if you religiously wear gi pants, have you ever had staph on your knee?

No gi guys who wear a long sleeve rashguard, have you ever suffered any of the above on the covered areas of your body?

Everyone I know trains in both, making a distinction impossible. Those I know who've had staph have had it on exposed areas of their body where the skin was open (cut, matburn, etc) prior to infection.

If you have picked up anything on an area you know was covered by clothing, I would like to hear about it.

Pat Militech had an interesting take on the staph outbreak in his gym, in a FIGHT! article. Mentioned that he has 50 fighters, and 200 normal people in his gym, all using the same mats, gear, etc. He had something like 8/50 of his fighters sick with staph, but none of his normal people got it, leading him to believe that transmission is highly linked to very close person to person contact. That's from an article I read a few months ago, it's not a perfect recollection by any means.
I've had ringworm three different times. Each time it's been on my upper ribs just below my armpit, my lower back, or both. I train both with and without the gi, but either way those areas and covered. I always shower when I'm done training and never put on gear that hasn't been washed since last use, and it still pops up out of nowhere....mind boggling...
Giving this old thread a bump in the hope that we get some more replies and insight.
I am relatively new to BJJ. Been in the gi for a little over 15 months but have wrestled for 14 years. Having wrestled high school, D1 college and coached college I can say that I really do believe that the gi is much better hygienically. We had lots of skin issues in college and our mats were washed 2x a day. In the gi i have not had any skin issues and have seen very few compared to what I saw in my years of wrestling.
Staph and ringworm are both carried through sweat to my understanding, so it really shouldn't matter if its gi or no gi since by the end of training in a gi your gi is more than likely going to be soaked in both yours and everyone elses sweat. The most important things to worry about are mat cleanliness and personal hygiene, not gi or no gi.
I think it's also hard to figure this out if you are speaking to a group of people who train both gi and nogi equally. I know I train about the same in each. As for my nogi I alternate between a long sleeve and short sleeve rashguard depending on whats clean, I also wear shorts. As of now I haven't contracted any skin infection.
My understanding is Staph needs a entry point, basically some damaged skin to get in. With exposed skin mat burn and finger nail scratches are going to be more common, even when they are so minor you don't really notice them.

Either way, it's not the "Gi" though, just exposed skin. For no gi where pants and a long sleeve rash guard and you should be just as safe.