Ahh.. The age-long problem of Jiu Jitsu hair. Unless you’re rocking a buzz cut like Thug Rose Namajunas or another short-enough-to-not-be-a-problem-in-jiu-jitsu style, this article is for you.

Generally speaking, braids (of almost any variety) tend to be the best choice, so in this article we’ll explore a variety of braid options and the pros and cons of each.

Cornrows (pictured below) are about as good as it gets in terms of both protection and function, which is why they are so prevalent in professional grappling and mixed martial arts. They are also extremely customizable. But while this solution is highly protective and functional, it’s not necessarily practical for everyday training. Unless you live with a stylist or can afford to spend the money and time getting them applied often enough, this option might be best left for special events such as competitions or left alone altogether if it doesn’t suit you.

A second-best option (and my personal training hairstyle of choice) is French braided pigtails. This hairstyle can be tricky to do on your own at first but if you are willing to commit half and hour or so to figuring it out, I promise the investment will pay off. French braided pigtails do not make playing from your back annoying since there is nothing directly on the back of your head, and while one French braid is usually too full and too loose to provide enough protection, even a set of half-decent French braided pigtails is generally secure enough for Jiu Jitsu.

Still, if your hair is extremely layered or not quite long enough, even French braided pigtails may not be sufficient. I’ve had layered, mid-length hair before so I know this statement to be true. However, one thing that worked for me then that I suggest is to add a second hair tie around the base of each French braid right where it begins to separate from your head. I’ve found that plain old Goody Ouchless Hair Ties work great, although some people prefer to use smaller, non-slip rubber bands like these. If you do opt for the non-slip bands, I recommend only using them for the bottom ties and opt for the “ouchless” variants for any ties that you put in halfway up the braid. Non-slip bands are a nightmare to separate from a nest of sweaty, tangled straggler hairs.

If you do not want to spend time practicing how to French braid pigtails into your own hair, then low pigtails tight to the head with braided ends are a decent next-best option. One of my training partners wears a style like French braids but without the “French” part. She separates a small section of hair near her forehead, braids it, then adds it to a little larger section. She applies a small hair tie to the base of that section, braids its tail, then sticks that tail into another sectioned off piece with another hair tie a little lower down. She repeats this process 3-4 times then braids the last of each tail.

A third braid style that is very common in Jiu Jitsu is the high-pony braid. It’s key for the ponytail to be so high that it sits on the top of your head to avoid that uncomfortable lump in the back of your head when playing from your back. This hairstyle is generally only available for individuals with longer hair though and is often paired with an undercut since it’s difficult to keep all the baby hairs at the nape of the neck secured.

Below is a summary of various Jiu Jitsu hairstyles and their pros and cons.

 Style Pros Cons
Cornrows Highly protective and functional Impractical for everyday training
French Braided Pigtails Very protective and functional; relatively easy to apply once you learn the process Takes a commitment to master; requires adaptations for shorter or very layered hair
Braided Pigtails Relatively protective and functional; relatively easy to apply; variations available to increase effectiveness Less protective than whole-head braids like cornrows or French braided pigtails
High Pony Single Braid Somewhat protective and functional; very easy to apply Less protective than other braided styles; only available for relatively long hair; leaves baby hairs out to get pulled
Single Ponytail or Bun Very easy to apply Will rip all the hair out of your head and put it all over you and your training partners instead