Brazilian Ju Jitsu (BJJ) is a full contact sport that often results in grappling situations that can affect the head, especially the ears.
The ears are highly susceptible to injuries and require protection, which is why we are going to take a look at the best headgear for BJJ to help you out. First off, we are going to ask and answer a simple question: why wear headgear in BJJ?
Why Wear Headgear in BJJ?
Perhaps the most common reason that you will see people wear headgear while they are doing BJJ is to avoid cauliflower ear or to protect themselves after they have gotten cauliflower ears.
For those that are unfamiliar, cauliflower ear is a condition where trauma affects the ear through strikes, frequent hard rubbing, and other activities. All of these are things that you can experience through BJJ
After taking enough trauma, a blood pocket, or hematoma, forms in the outer ear causing a deformity that looks like the namesake cauliflower. To prevent this from happening or to allow yourself to heal after you get a cauliflower ear, it’s best to wear headgear.
Take a look at some pictures of cauliflower ears if you’re not familiar with them, or check out the video below.
If you want to prevent that, then you don’t want to cut corners when you are buying a piece of headgear.
What to Look for When Buying BJJ Headgear
In order to outfit yourself with the best BJJ ear guards, you have to know what qualities matter the most to these pieces. We’re going to give you a basic rundown on the things you need to look at every time you’re buying headgear.
First and foremost, you are going to want to want headgear that is going to offer you a good amount of protection. There are several different elements that go into protection, though.
For example, you have to keep your own safety in mind by making sure that it has good cushioning that is going to soften blows. After all, if it doesn’t stop your head or ear from taking harmful blows, then what good is it? Also, you will want some abrasion protection in your headgear so that you don’t just keep scraping against the mat or your opponent and getting injured.
Another thing to keep in mind when shopping for headgear is the impact it is going to have on your training partner. There are some forms of headgear that have a hard plastic shell that can hurt your partner, so they are not the ideal method of protection. There are a lot of softer options out there.
The next thing you’ll want to consider when you look at the best BJJ headgear is comfort. You don’t want to be wearing something that is going to distract you the entire time that you’re training. While nothing is going to feel so nice that it’s not there, there are some materials that are going to provide a better experience than others.
For example, some of the most common and comfortable materials for headgear right now are neoprene and nylon. These are lightweight materials that will reduce the feeling that you need to mess with your headgear during training. You can also find headgear that has an extra lining inside to give you extra comfort.
Another thing that you need to look at when you’re buying headgear is the way it fits. The last thing that you want is your headgear slipping out of place and having to mess with your straps while you’re trying to stop getting slammed on the mat.
You want a piece of headgear that will properly fit your ears while also having a chin strap that you will be able to tighten properly. Some headgear is all one piece and comes in sizes, so there is a little bit of a preference to consider when you’re looking at the fit.
Some people say it matters and some people don’t. You might feel a little more pumped to get on the mats when you are wearing a piece of headgear that looks good and works great. This one is usually all up to personal preference.
The cheaper headgear isn’t always bad, but it is far more likely than the expensive headgear to have low quality pieces included in the construction that will lead to it breaking down. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: you get what you pay for.
List of the Best Headgear for BJJ
Right, let's crack on with the list.
Venum Kontact Evo Headgear
Venum is a name that comes up again and again in all areas of combat sports gear, so it should be no surprise to see it here.
The Venum Kontact Evo Headgear makes this list of the best ear guards for BJJ for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, the materials used in this piece are lightweight but still effective at mitigating damage to the user. Neoprene is very light and allows the headgear to have a very close fit to the user’s head.
Inside of the headgear is the next most important thing to consider and that is the protection. The headgear uses high density foam that adds a lot of protection for your ears no matter what kind of contact you are expecting on the mats.
That means if you get stuck with your head being cranked or pressed on the mats, you will be protected. The ear protection consists of molded shells that will fit anyone’s ears so that they receive all the protection they deserve.
The headgear has a three way closure system that hooks underneath your chin and on the back of the head, giving you the perfect fit that can be adjusted to fit any size. The chin strap is hook and loop, so you can spend some time getting it tight but not too tight for you.
Another one of the great things about this product is the material. As we’ve mentioned, it is very lightweight so you won’t feel like it is bulky against your head. Also, the headgear is pretty form-fitting, so it won’t look like a wrestling headgear, but it will provide protection. In true Venum fashion, this product is good at breathability so you will maintain comfort while wearing it.
The last thing that we need to look at is the price. As far as headgear goes, it is on the more expensive side, but it’s not really cost prohibitive. For all of the great benefits you get for wearing this piece, it will be worth every penny.
GrappleArts BJJ Headgear
The GrapplArts BJJ Headgear is an inexpensive piece that is here to get the job done pretty well in terms of overall safety. As always, the first thing you look at is going to be the protection that is offered to the wearer. In this case, the primary materials are nylon and thermomolded plastics.
Now, a lot of people are not fans of plastic because it has a tendency to bang against partners or hurt them in other ways. Fortunately, this naked plastic is not out in the open; it is underneath a pretty thick bit of material that will keep it from causing problems. It’s not ideal, but it was definitely a part of the thought process here.
Another thing to consider about the material is that it is antimicrobial which is always helpful when you’re wearing something that is pressing against your skin for so long. The ear pieces are reinforced a bit and have a lining with a material that is similar to fleece. It’s not as great as foam, but it is a little extra padding that can save you some pain and rubbing.
The ears on this are also significant because they will provide the users with the chance to hear when someone is talking to them and give your head a little more breathability under that headgear. That way, the ventilation works two-fold.
The headgear is also one size fits all, which is nice, and only requires some adjustment of the straps to get a good fit. The chin strap is removable, but it is probably better to keep it on. Finally, the cost on this product is on the lower end, making it accessible to everyone. All in all, this is a solid investment.
Matman Ultra Soft Headgear
It might not be the biggest name out there, but the Matman brand made a pretty decent piece of equipment here for a relatively low cost. As one of the lower-end products in terms of price, you can get this headgear for a bargain, but that means you won’t see all the bells and whistles.
The primary material used throughout this headgear is neoprene which has the benefit of being really light and soft. That way, you won’t feel the headgear too much when you put it on. The overall design of this headgear falls in line with many of the others; it’s made to not stick out and look ridiculous.
The ear cups for this product are hard, but coated inside and out with neoprene material so that you have some more cushion from blows. However, there is often a lot of extra room between the cup and the wearer’s ear, so it’s almost like someone is drumming against your head if you get slammed.
This product uses two straps for fitting, one on the chin and one on the back of the head. It’s easy to get it to fit, but with only the two straps there is the possibility that it will slip around when you are put into some tougher grappling situations.
All in all, this is a good piece that comes in a lot of different colors so you can wear a subdued black or even a flashy yellow. This is definitely a piece of gear that is worth checking out.
Cliff Keen F5 Tornado
The Cliff Keen F5 Tornado headgear is a product that is going to be useful for people that are expecting to face a lot of adversity on the mats. It’s designed to give you a lot of protection, especially for people that want to avoid the dreaded cauliflower ear.
At first glance, you’re going to think that this entire thing is a shell of plastic, but that’s not the case. It is plastic on the outside, but inside is dense foam, so the plastic gives when it’s pressed. It’s going to give you a lot of protection and not annoy your partner or cause them harm. That being said, the anchors for the two straps on the top of the head do stick out a little bit and it can catch on your opponent from time to time.
The whole product is highly ventilated, so it is made to be very comfortable for the wearer. That way, you don’t have to think about adjusting this headgear while you’re on the mats. Also, all the ventilation means you will be able to hear really, really well on the mats. It’s great for when you’re receiving instruction on the mats.
The headgear has three different straps that you can adjust for a really snug, safe fit. The same idea applies to the chin strap where you can adjust it in just a couple seconds so you don’t have to think about it. All in all, this is a highly protective piece with a lot of customization options available, and it has unparalleled comfort.
Adapt Athletic BJJ Headgear
The Adapt Athletic BJJ Headgear is a good piece for people looking for a strong piece of protective gear. There are three adjustable bands and one elastic band that really locks your head into place so you don’t move around a lot. You can get tossed, rolled, and choked and this thing should stay in place.
The material used in the construction of the headgear is primarily neoprene, which makes this a lightweight and antimicrobial product. You won’t have as much bacteria building up and it won’t feel bulky on your head.
On the sides, you’ll see that there is a lot of ear protection using EVA plastic and neoprene coverings to keep you from sustaining the trauma that leads to cauliflower ear. Outside can take a beating and inside helps absorb the blow. It has a low side profile that won’t catch or hurt your partner.
You’ll be thrilled to know that all the anchors for the many straps are triple stitched so they won’t rip out. Nothing is worse than a broken piece of headgear in the midst of training, injuries aside. One detriment that you will notice came about as a desire to make it easy to adjust the headgear.
There is a Velcro strap that faces away from the user which can be swiped open and increases the profile of your head from front to back. However, the Velcro is pretty tight and it’s more of a potential issue than a frequent problem.
All in all, this piece is in the middle of the price spectrum, offers good protection, and a lot of different colors, so it is certainly worth picking up.
ASICS Unisex Gel Headgear
Anyone that is looking for a low cost option that provides unique protection has found it with the ASICS Unisex Gel Headgear. As the product name suggests, you’ll be able to fit this as a man or woman, and it comes with three different colors that can suit just about anyone (red, black, blue).
This is a very, very lightweight piece of headgear that has a more open design. It is basically just a series of straps that are anchored into the ear guards.
Speaking of the ear guards, they use a unique gel to cushion the head and ear so that you are comfortable and protected. You won’t find a lighter headgear or one that is more ventilated than this, either.
There are holes in the ear guards that allow you to hear, and they feature the only real hard plastic in the design but it would be hard for it to affect any of your partners. The chin strap is adjustable, but not terribly comfortable because it isn’t well-fitted. It will let you get the headgear into place and keep it there for the most part.
The only real downside to this setup is that your partner could get a hand tangled in the straps when putting you in holds, and that could require a reset on the gear. Otherwise, this is a low cost option that provides pretty good quality.
Best BJJ Ear Guards & Headgear: The Verdict
Right, so which do recommend the most?
Best ‘Soft’ Headgear - Venum Kontact Evo
All in all, when you are looking at the best BJJ headgear overall, you have to look at the Venum Kontact EVO. This piece provides superior protection, a very low profile, and all-around comfort. It is everything that you can expect from a Venum product and more. While this one is expensive, it is still the best headgear for training.
Best Plastic Headgear - Cliff Keen F5 Tornado
If you’re in the market for plastic headgear, you can’t do better than the Cliff Keen F5 Tornado headgear. As we’ve mentioned, this piece is a little larger, but still has a great profile for people looking to do BJJ. This one is comfortable, very protective, and has a unique foam design that makes it a bit softer than it looks. This is a good and durable piece that still has a decent price point to boot.
All in all, if you follow the guidelines we’ve set for picking a good piece of headgear, you will be good to go.
Make sure it fits right, protects you, won’t harm your partner, and is not going to make you stop to fix it every five minutes and you’ll be golden.
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