The Best BJJ Headgear in 2020

5/5

Reviewing the Best Jiu Jitsu Headgear

The following are my picks for the best, most effective BJJ Head Gear on the market today.

Cliff Keen F5 Tornado Headgear

Review: Cliff Keen makes some of the most effective BJJ headgear out there. Not the most attractive mind you. The most effective. The F5 Tornado is a perfect example. It looks like the kind of apparatus a computer would design: heartless, cold, ruthlessly efficient. But at the same time, it has all (or at least most) of the qualities I want to see in a BJJ head guard. It’s tough, practical, stays out of my field of vision, and it guards my ears like they’re the crown jewels.

With 5 straps this sucker is not going to come loose while you’re in the heat of a match. And the hard shell plastic ear cups will absorb even the most brutal elbow or knee impacts. If there is one area where I feel Cliff Keen could afford to go back to the drawing board, it’s the chin strap. This one is particularly unforgiving. In my opinion, anyway. Beyond that, however, the F5 Tornado is light, airy, doesn’t interfere with hearing (too much) and will help ensure you leave the gym with the same ears you had when you entered.

Pros

  • The deep air cups provide optimal protection.
  • The Air Vent Technology keeps your head nice and cool.
  • There’s no noticeable loss of hearing when wearing it.
  • It slips on easy and stays where you want it.
  • It’s nice to have so many color options.

Cons

  • Once on, it’s very difficult to adjust on the fly.
  • The chin strap can dig a bit under pressure.

Takeaway

Stays on even during hardcore rolling sessions.

You’re not going to win any points for how beautiful your noggin looks.
But who cares as long as you keep your ears and hearing just the way they are right now!

Matman Ultrasoft Quick Adjusting Wrestling Headgear

Review: If the aggressive coldness of the F5 Tornado leaves you a bit uninspired, you may want to check out the soft, cuddly comfort of the Matman Ultrasoft Wrestling Headgear. This is without a doubt some of the most comfortable head gear I’ve had the chance to try. The shape of the ear guards conforms very well to the head. And while there’s plastic in play here, it’s discreetly tucked inside the neoprene shell and remains out of sight and out of mind.

With “only” two straps, you might think the Matman Ultrasoft is prone to moving around while you’re grappling. But it doesn’t. At least not to any annoying or dangerous degree. The neck strap here is also far more forgiving than some of the plastic ones you’ll encounter. A big plus given how important breathing is to maintaining strength and vitality. If you’re looking for a piece of headgear that will prevent cauliflower ear, this will do very nicely. Available in black, gold, red, royal blue, navy blue, purple, green and brown.

Pros

  • It doesn’t interfere with your field of vision.
  • The lack of a top means your head stays cool.
  • This is one of the most comfortable pieces of head gear I tested.
  • The generous ear holes let you hear just about everything.
  • Available in 8 different colors.

Cons

  • The ear cups stand out from your head quite a ways.

Takeaway

This ones a cushy one! Only 2 straps, but it stays in place well enough. Most comfortable headgear I’ve had the chance to try out!

Venum MMA Ju Jitsu Grappling Ear Guards

Review: The Venum MMA Ju Jitsu Grappling Ear Guards don’t claim that they’ll protect you from concussions. At least not those coming from above. What they will do however is protect your ears from all types of horrors that could result in cauliflower ear. The Venum Ear Guards are light and low-profile, comfortable and durable, and they won’t impede your field of vision.

I like the way this piece of gear feels when in place. Like a natural extension of my head, rather than some gi-normous NFL helmet. The tapering around the top ensures the device won’t slip down over your face (just make sure to buy the correct size for you). And the discreet molded plastic shells will absorb quite a bit of punishment. The rest, of course, is up to you. If you’re looking for a simple and effective set of ear guards that will stay out of your way you’d do well to consider these Venum Grappling Ear Guards.

Pros

  • Sits nice and close to your head.
  • This is an extremely lightweight set of ear guards.
  • It doesn’t interfere with peripheral vision.
  • The neoprene doesn’t irritate the skin like some other fabrics can.
  • The 3-way banding system ensures they stay in place.

Cons

  • The lack of ear holes makes it very difficult to hear.
  • The ear cups sit very tight over your ears, which some might find uncomfortable.
  • The adjustment clip on the left side can dig into your chin.

Takeaway

It’s light. It’s simple. It stays out of your way. It’s noise cancelling as well. Whether or not you’ll find that as a pro or a con depends on the sounds your rolling buddies make in training.

ASICS Unisex Gel Wrestling Ear Guard

Review: Most of the best ear guards for BJJ rely on the surface material to produce the comfort. Asics however, take a slightly different approach. Their Unisex Gel Wrestling Ear Guard features gel-filled pads around the ear cups that conform to your head and provide a custom-style fit. The gel also doubles as a shock absorber which is maybe its most valuable characteristic. These are light, snug-fitting ear guards that feel great and stay where you want them to.

I’m not exactly sure what makes a set of ear guards “unisex.” But I guess that’s maybe above my pay grade. Suffice to say that these ear guards will provide a high degree of protection regardless of your chromosomal structure. I’ve never been a huge fan of the 5 strap system, but there’s no denying it tends to keep things from shifting around while you’re grappling. One thing I am a fan of is a comfortable chin/neck strap. And this BJJ head gear doesn’t disappoint in that regard.

Pros

  • With 5 straps, they stay firmly in place at all times.
  • Velcro adjustment means no hard plastic clips.
  • The lack of all-around coverage means they’re very light.
  • They don’t interfere with your vision or hearing.
  • They sit very close to your head, so they don’t impede movement.

Cons

  • The straps themselves can move around quite a bit under stress.
  • The neck guard isn’t terribly comfortable.

Takeaway

Comfy because the gel comfors to your ear/head shape. The straps move around quite a bit themselves. It’s “unisex” if you care about silly nonsense like that.

Gold BJJ Head Gear for Jiu Jitsu

Review: The Gold BJJ Head Gear for Jiu Jitsu shares some design cues with the Venum ear guards we looked at above. One notable difference, however, is the inclusion of the elasticized head strap. If I was forced to choose between the two designs, I’d opt for the head strap every time. Simply because without it, you pretty much have to be sure your head guard fits perfectly. And that isn’t always easy to do. A lot of the time it’s the adjustments you make after slipping the head gear on that determines whether it “fits.” So I prefer to have a head strap. Other folks don’t like anything on top of their head, and that’s their right.

The particular head gear is very well made, very comfortable, provides plenty of space for your ears and once adjusted is going to stay in place. Unlike some grappling ear guards, it’s not available in dozens of colors. But personally, that doesn’t matter much to me. The important thing is that it absorbs impacts and prevents your ears from grinding into the floor or being pulverized by a stray knee. And this set of ear guards will do just that.

Pros

  • Comes with a very effective mouthguard.
  • Provides a high level of protection for your ears.
  • Doesn’t interfere too badly with hearing.
  • Aside from the chinstrap, the headgear itself is very comfortable.
  • The elastic headband helps keep things in place.

Cons

  • That elastic headband can pull on your hair.
  • The chin strap is big but not well padded.

Takeaway

You get a free mouthguard. Very comfortable. Design wise it’s Similar to Venum gear already covered. Headband really pulled on my hair, but I’m rocking a curly mess so your mileage may vary. Good stuff all around.

Roar BJJ Head Gear MMA Grappling Ear Guard

Review: Roar utilizes a tried and true design that puts a premium on comfort while providing copious protection for your delicate ear tissue. It’s wrapped in a soft, agreeable neoprene fabric that doesn’t irritate, doesn’t pull your hair and does a serviceable job wicking away moisture. The ear cups are surrounded by high-density foam that’s the source of much of the comfort I mentioned. And the R-Lock closure system makes sure that it remains comfortably seated, just where you put it.

The Roar Ear Guard has an elasticized head strap that prevents it from slipping down over your eyes when things get hot and heavy. The chin/neck strap is one of the more comfortable ones around. The molded plastic ear cups will keep even the most determined elbow away from your ears. And the company throws in a complementary mouthguard. Because teeth are important too. All in all, these are very serviceable ear guards that should last a good long time and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Pros

  • The ear holes do a good job letting in the sound.
  • The Velcro straps ensure there’s no loosening during a match.
  • The elasticized headband allows for a custom level of fit.
  • Covers your ears in high-density foam.
  • Very comfortable against your ears and head.

Cons

  • Has a tendency to interfere with peripheral vision.
  • The lack of top coverage leaves you susceptible to headshots.

Takeaway

Tough sounding brand name. Easily adjustable fit. It has a really nice feel on the ears. Not a lot of pressure. Roars chin strap is the most comfortable from all the listed products I’ve tried. If I had to pick parts for a custom ear guard for training I’d pick chin strap from this headgear.

Cliff Keen E58 Headgear

Review: For the final item on our list of the best Jiu Jitsu headgear, we return to Cliff Keen. Their E58 is right in keeping with the company’s somewhat cold utilitarian design ethos. And personally, I don’t have a problem with that. As long as the gear does what it’s supposed to do. With 5 straps there’s little likelihood this headgear is going anywhere. Regardless of how intense the grappling gets. And you can be reasonably sure the molded EVA plastic ear cups aren’t letting anything through.

The E58 Headgear stays out of your line of sight. But while the 4 sizeable ear holes promise you’ll be able to hear everything going on around you, they’re somewhat undermined by straps that cross in front of them. What were the designers thinking? I guess you’d have to ask them. For the most part, though the E58 delivers on its promise to prevent cauliflower ear and absorb side impacts that could result in concussion. And that’s what you want from a BJJ head guard, isn’t it?

Pros

  • Provides comprehensive coverage of your ears and surrounding tissue.
  • The 5 different straps ensure it will stay in place.
  • The molded EVA plastic can take a significant shot without faltering.
  • It’s available in a dozen different colors.

Cons

  • The neck strap is unforgiving.
  • The look isn’t going to win any awards.

Takeaway

Oh the strap on this one… ouch! You’re gonna get them neck gainz with this one for sure! 😀 Otherwise it’s a decent protection gear for your noggin. You get to pick from multiple colors, if that’s your thing.

I’ll let Adam Sandler explain all the dangers and downsides of not wearing headgear and having cauliflower ears

If you don’t want to cry yourself to sleep, because of UFC ears – read on bro!

One of the most common injuries in jiu jitsu is “cauliflower ear”.
Cauliflower ear occurs when the ear sustains an impact.
Either from another person or the floor.

Picture of a normal ear, and cauliflower ear.
Source: https://www.medicinenet.com/cauliflower_ear/article.htm

 

OUCH!

This creates a blood clot or causes other fluid to accumulate beneath the skin.
This fluid separates the ear cartilage from its nutrient supplies, causing it to die off.

The dead tissue swells and causes deformation of the ear in the characteristic “cauliflower” shape.

It not only makes your ear look like a vegetable, but it messes with your hearing as well.

The good news is that practicing jiu jitsu does not mean you have to part ways with your normal looking ears.

Cauliflower ear can be prevented by using decent jiu jitsu headgear.

If you’re one of those macho bravado type of guys and you act like you don’t care.
Or you’re a spineless whimp who thinks that your training partners are going to laugh at you, know this brother:

Even Joe Rogan rolls with headgear.
And that, boys and girls, ir why Joe does not grow vegetables on his head, ya digg?

Making Sense of Your BJJ Headgear Options

While some old school BJJ practitioners consider cauliflower ear to be a kind of badge of honor most believe that mutilating yourself for the sake of any sport is taking things too far. And I tend to agree. After all, the real badge of honor is expressed in your belt color. Not in how many times you’ve had your ear smashed into the floor.

Things to Consider when Purchasing a BJJ Head Guard

  • Comfort – You’re wearing your Jiu Jitsu head guard for protection. But that doesn’t mean it has to feel like a box on your head. A nice comfortable fit will help you forget the head guard is there so you can concentrate on other, more important things. The best ear guards for BJJ will be snug, but not so tight that they’ll pinch your skin or restrict your movement. The chin strap also needs to feel like it’s a natural extension of yourself. And not a strap that threatens to cut off your breathing or move your jaw into unnatural positions.
  • Visibility – Most (not all) head gear is going to impair your vision to some extent. The secret is to minimize any obstruction while maximizing protection. That’s easier said than done I know, but it’s not impossible. Since everyone’s head features slightly different physical characteristics, it’s impossible to say exactly which head gear will be right for a particular person. Finding head gear that doesn’t restrict your vision but still provides adequate protection will most likely be a matter of trial and error.
  • Ventilation – This is something that doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it should. Head gear that’s poorly ventilated is going to cause heat and sweat to build up underneath it and drain your energy. As such, you should always look for head gear that features robust ventilation in order to keep the air moving and allow the heat an escape path. Keep in mind too that better ventilation often means hearing better as well.
  • Price – The whole point of these kinds of grappling ear guards is to protect your ears and brain from the consequences of sudden, violent impacts. So it doesn’t make any sense to go cheap. If you choose your head gear just because it was the least expensive, you might as well not be wearing any. Because, not only will it fail to provide the type of padding you want and need, it’s also likely to be an ergonomic mess that digs into your chin, obstructs your vision and comes sliding off when you least expect it. So spend a few bucks and get something that’s actually going to work.
  • Quality – Quality is kind of an open-ended word. One that’s subject to a million different interpretations. But in this case, quality refers to the material, the stitching, impact resistance, comfort, weight and durability. Among other things. These are usually a function of price. So once again, don’t try and cut financial corners when selecting Jiu Jitsu headgear. In my experience, it’s just not worth it.

The Pros and Cons of Wearing a BJJ Head Guard

Pros

  • Prevents cauliflower ear – While wearing ear guards in BJJ isn’t a guarantee you’ll never develop cauliflower ear it’s as close as you’re likely to come to one.
  • Helps prevent concussions – A concussion could put a quick end to your BJJ career and fundamentally alter your quality of life. Investing in some high-quality Jiu Jitsu headgear can help prevent such an injury from ever occurring.
  • Reduces superficial injuries – Ear guards will also help minimize the number of bruises, cuts and scrapes you experience. They’ve also been shown to cut down on black eyes.
  • Provides confidence – Ask a football player what happens to their confidence level if their helmet is knocked off during a game. It’s the same with BJJ. A quality BJJ head guard can provide that extra bit of confidence you need to bring everything you have to the mat.

Cons

  • Slightly impaired vision – Head gear is likely to impede your peripheral vision to some extent. Though likely not enough to change the outcome of a match.
  • Inviting aggression – Helmetless (and some helmeted) opponents see head gear as a green light for them to unleash as much aggression as they can muster.
  • Lowering your guard – Sometimes wearing ear guards in BJJ can cause a fighter to assume it’s safe to lower their guard a bit. After all, the head gear will protect them. Right? Not really. Dropping your guard only opens you up to a rash of potentially serious injuries.

Conclusion

Cauliflower ear is no joke. Those who would dismiss it or even promote it as some kind of badge of honor should be given a wide berth. The enlightened BJJ practitioner does what’s necessary to protect their ears from this kind of pointless mutilation. While at the same time reducing the likelihood that they’ll fall victim to an equally pointless concussion. Effective BJJ headgear is how you do that.

For my money, the Mantam Ultrasoft Wrestling Headgear is the best BJJ ear and head protection on the market today. It’s light and extremely comfortable. Yet at the same time, it provides robust protection and stays where it belongs. It’s also among the best at allowing you to hear what’s going on around you. And it looks good too. While any of the items on the above list will serve you well, the Mantam Ultrasoft headgear manages to stand clear of the crowd. If you’re a total beginner, then that’s your best bet. If you’re one, then make sure you read best beginner bjj gi article.

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