Hygiene for the Judo Athlete.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Hygiene as follows:

“That department of knowledge or practice which relates to the maintenance of health; a system of principles or rules for preserving or promoting health; sanitary science.”

In a Judo context, this relates to several areas, celanliness being just part of the equation. In this post we shall look at hygiene and the importance it plays in terms of a Judo Athlete and their training.

56:366 - February 29: Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Photo by emtboy9 on Flickr

In Judo, we are one of the few sports that has rules on Hygiene, nails are to be kept short, hair kept tidy, etc.
This is in part to preserve the aesthetics of the sport, but in part also to protect the players from infections and injuries as a result of training with unhygienic partners. A long nail can scratch an player and this can bleed. Also the scratch can easily become infected. An infected scratch can affect training and that in turn can affect your performance as a Judo athlete.

Another aspect is odour. Judoka are expected to be clean and to shower regularly and wash their Judogi regularly. Of course both washing of teh Judo suit and of the person also help prevent infections spreading and the negative consequences to athletes health that can occur. Cleaning of the Dojo is important also to prevent the spread of disease or infections. Presently in Japan their is a high profile increase in the occurance of a fungus called Trichophyton tonsurans which has highlighted how at risk Judo athletes are from infections ailments such as this form of ringworm. Athletes foot is similar and although a “minor ailment” can cause serious discomfort and affect training.

This highlights the importance of monitoring this sort of ailment as a hygiene issue that affects performance and that treatment must be part of a Judo athletes support structure.

Showering is another important hygiene factor. It serves both a cleanliness purpose and also a recuperative purpose also. Showering will help prevent odour and ailments, but will also help the player recover. It has therapeutic properties and should be considered important and factored into training timetables. Too often Judo athletes will put their shower after training as alow priority and consider driving home for a shower to save time. This may not be ideal however and needs to be considered seriously.

It may well increase the likelihood of “Overtraining”, a situation whereby a Judo athlete does not recover properly prior to their next training session, which results in less effective training and if it continues over time increases the liklihood of injury. It has recently been discussed over at http://www.thejudopodcast.com and you should go take a listen.

Another factor to consider and plan for is the number and type of Judo suits you own and use in training. You can look at this both in terms of hygiene both in terms of odour and cleanliness, but also in terms of the best equipment for the job. Is a heavy contest suit ideal if you are doing speed work? Is a lightwieght suit better. If you are training everyday, how many suits will you need? How long does getting them laundered take?

Many many Judoka I have known over the years have had second washing machines purely dedicated to washing Judogi. Normally heavyduty ones as the average household washing machine often develops faults quickly if Judo suits are being washed in them everyday. In Japan it is not unusual for Dojo to have laundry facilities with industrial strength washing machines onsite, does your dojo?

You certainly want to have a fresh suit for every session, a cold damp suit from a kit bag is both “yucky” and potentially unhealthy.

You may also want to consider the wearing of t-shirts/rash shirts under your Judogi. It is not “traditional” however it may help prevent sweat damage/staining of your expensive Judogi overtime? It may also decrease the amount of sweat being shed onto the Dojo tatami. Sweat on the mats has implications in terms of slippery mats and of course infectious ailments. You or your club may decide wearing something under Judo suits is important to ensure a safer training environment.

Along the same lines, do you take a towel along to training? Do you mop up your sweat after a ne-waza randori? If you are (or wish to be) a serious Judo athlete you need to consider if training in a unhygienic scenario is worth the risks. If not perhaps you need to be the one to encourage a discussion (out of class) about it with the club committee, else you might decide that you should train elsewhere.

Hygiene, as per the official definition at the start of this post is about maintaining your health. Any quality coach will tell you that if you are not healthy you can not train or perform at your best. Sickness is not uncommon in athletes, arguably it is more common as athletes push the boundaries of what their body can withstand. But a sick athlete can not train; and the athlete that does not train will not win. So, as a Judo athlete you need to include hygiene in your training plans.

You can not afford to get injured slipping on sweaty mats, you can’t afford to be off sick because of an infected scratch. You can’t afford to get ill from putting on a damp suit because you didn’t have a spare.

Any of the above are barriers to your training, and making it to a medal is going to be tough enough without hygiene putting up barriers.

Thanks to Marc for the idea for this post.

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