Headgear is not typically worn in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but there are plenty of reasons to get some. BJJ training and competition can often leave you with nasty head injuries that can result in time off the mats.
One of the most common reasons people wear headgear in Jiu-Jitsu is to avoid the dreaded cauliflower ear. Many people proudly wear their cauliflower ears as a badge of honor but there are an even greater number of people who have no interest in having deformed ears for the rest of their life!
Breaking Grips has had on occasion reason to wear headgear for Jiu Jitsu and MMA. As a result we have extensively reviewed a number of the most popular products available and have come up with the following list of the best BJJ headgear for 2018.
There is a lack of BJJ specific headgear so BJJ players have to make do with wrestling headgear. As is the case with wrestling, we are looking to protect the same part of the body but the type of contact sustained by BJJ players and wrestlers is slightly different.
We have reviewed each product based on the following criteria:
Cliff Keen F5 Tornado Headgear
Cliff Keen is perhaps the most trusted name in protective wrestling gear and it is worn by some of the biggest names in the sport. The F5 Tornado is their flagship product and they claim that the design is based on NASA research. It is a very popular piece of headgear that you have likely seen worn at your academy at some stage.
The first thing you notice about this piece of equipment is that it is surprisingly light. Stylistically it is quite plain and looks about as cool as a piece of headgear can look.
The cups are hardshells but the rest of the guard is made of soft foam that makes it nice and tight on the head without being uncomfortable. I noticed very minimal slippage while wearing and even the chin strap stayed in position during hard rolling.
In terms of protection it does the job perfectly and there were no complaints from my training partners. The hardshells are deep which means that it does not rub too hard or mark my opponents which is often an issue with hard shell ear protectors. My hearing was not compromised at all while wearing it.
In short, the best piece of headgear available on the market.
Pro’s • Very light and unobtrusive • Provides good protection while being comfortable. • Excellent grip on head • Safe for you and your training partner • Does not affect ability to hear • Good value for money
Cons: • Very slight slippage when very sweaty or training in a very warm environment.
ASICS Conquest Ear Guard
The Asics Conquest Wrestling Headgear is a lightweight headguard that is unobtrusive and comfortable. It has 2 Velcro straps on the head and 1 on the chin. The ‘EVA’ ear pads are low profile and do not hamper your ability to hear.
In terms of performance the headguard sits comfortably on the head and stands up well during hard bjj sparring. The ear protectors are strong and will give you a good level of protection even if you already have a sore or damaged ear.
One major issue I have with this headguard is that the snaps on the chin strap broke after a couple weeks of use. It was not pulled on particularly hard but still broke easily. Replacing a strap can be very difficult and you are usually better off replacing the headguard when you factor in post and packaging.
The Velcro straps can also be annoying as the bristles rub your face if not strapped perfectly.
Well ventilated and allows you to hear easily
The straps are too weak and snap too easy
Velcro can be annoying
Cliff Keen E58 Headgear
If you have ever wrestled you will have come across this headguard. Based on the original E41 headguard that Cliff Keen designed nearly 50 years ago, the E58 is an updated version that is popular in wrestling at every level.
In terms of being suitable for BJJ, the head guard is a lot bulkier than the other guards we have reviewed. However if you have sustained a particularly bad haematoma or cauliflower ear and are looking for extra protection, this may be the guard for you.
The 4 straps are easily adjustable and allow you to easily achieve the desired fit for your head. Once set in position the headguard should not slip unless directly pulled on by your opponent.
The foam on the outside of the cup makes it safe for training partners while also being light enough to not affect hearing ability.
An excellent update on a classic headguard!
Provides extra protection
4 quality straps that lets you easily adjust to perfect fit.
Significantly bulkier than other options
Adidas Response Earguard ( AE100 )
The Adidas aE100 Response Ear Guard is a popular 4 strap ear guard design that is popular in school wrestling. The headguard has a low profile ear cup and soft foam cover over the ear cups.
The Adidas Response headgear also comes with the chin strap pad in case you don’t like the chin cup. This is a nice touch as most head protectors only offer the chin cup option and sell the pad separately.
In terms of performance the response headgear does well. It offers solid protection while staying firmly in place once tightened. The biggest challenge is adjusting the straps correctly. The straps are solid and durable but can be a little tricky to fix. This can be frustrating if you are in the middle of sparring and your partners are waiting on you.
It comes in 13 different colors which is nice if you are looking to represent a particular color of your school/team.
In terms of being suitable for Jiu-Jitsu the response ear guard will give you the protection you require. However it may be better suited to nogi submission type grappling than Gi Jiu-Jitsu as the hardshell is likely to be annoying for your BJJ training partner.
4 adjustable vinyl straps allows you get desired fit
Has extra chin strap pad if you don’t like chin cup.
Comes in 13 different colors
More expensive than other options
Shell may be uncomfortable for opponents
Matman Ultra Soft Wrestling Headgear
The Matman ultrasoft headgear may be the closest thing to a specific BJJ headgear product that is available on the market. As mentioned in the intro, one of the biggest problems for BJJ fighters is that grappling headgear is primarily designed for wrestlers and the way in which BJJ fighters experience contact is different. Hard shell ears can be very uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous for your training partners. However the Matman Ultrasoft does not have this problem as the protective plastic shells are covered on the inside and outside with a soft fabric. Despite the extra covering my ability to hear was not impaired.
On of my favorite things about the Matman is that it comes in different colors. This is good news if you want to match it with a Gi or your team colors.
The other great thing about this product is the price. It is easily the most affordable quality headguard. At less than $25 you could even pick up 2 for when you need to wash the other.
The only flaw with this headguard is that the velcro strap on the chin piece can be annoying. It is not the most secure strap and on occasion will open during rolling sessions. After a period of time the stickiness of the velcro reduced and the strap opens more frequently. Additionally, the Velcro material can be irritating on the skin.
More suited to BJJ than other wrestling headgear
Easy to wash in machine
No problems hearing
Available in a series of colors
Excellent value for money
Velcro strap could be stronger and can be irritating