If you’re unlucky enough to be one of those people who can’t roll without their ears swelling up, we have the cure for your ailment.
Well, not the cure for your swollen ears, you’ll have to get those drained right away.
We do, however, have a selection of the very best BJJ headgear to help you prevent further damage to your ear, or, if you caught it early enough, prevent the development of cauliflower ears altogether.
Enjoy the read!
Our Top Picks at a Glance
- Best Overall BJj Headgear- Gold BJJ Headgear
- Most Durable BJJ Headgear- Cliff Two Tone Headgear
- Best Fitting BJJ Headgear – MatMan Ultra Soft Headgear
- Best Budget Grappling Headgear – Great Call Athletics Headgear
Best BJJ Headgear
You don’t have to know everything there is about grappling headgear to be able to pick the best BJJ ear guard – we got all the best options gathered and reviewed right here:
Gold BJJ Headgear
One of the few brands out there that is purely focused on Jiu-Jitsu and grappling gear, Gold BJJ provides everything you need for optimal performance, including some of the best protective gear for Jiu-Jitsu. Their headgear is designed primarily for BJJ athletes, featuring some original properties.
To begin with, it has ear holes. While this may seem like a no-brainer, the old-school wrestling headgear designs covered the ears completely, making them good at preventing cauliflower ear, but also at preventing you from hearing things. Gold BJJ has a simple solution that provides maximum protection and does not impede hearing – strategically placed small holes on the ear pads.
This piece of headgear features a reinforced chin strap, which translates to durability and a long life span, given that this is usually the first thing to go. The headgear is also made out of material that makes it very light, but also very resilient.
Just like every other Gold BJJ product, their ear guard has been tried and tested by grapplers before going into production, ensuring it fulfills grappling requirements to the smallest detail.
You get the Gold BJJ 100% money-back guarantee with this product, offering to replace or refund you if you’re unsatisfied with it, without asking any questions. Gold BJJ is being extra generous by including a free mouth guard with every purchase of this headgear,
Adjustable velcro straps ensure that this headgear fits everyone. It also features a unisex design and is intended for adults.
- Tested by professional grapplers
- 100%, no-questions-asked money-back guarantee
- Designed to allow you to hear with no restrictions
- Free mouthguard included
- Only available in one color
Cliff Keen F5 Tornado Headgear
Coach Clifford P. Kean is a legend in the world of wrestling, both as a competitor and an instructor. In a quest to deliver exactly what wrestlers need, he ended up experimenting with grappling headgear a lot, ending up with a collection of ear guards that offer a very wide range of protection.
The Tornado F5 headgear was originally created for wrestling, based on NASA research. It is a very lightweight piece of protective grappling gear, with a patented air vent system that provides much-needed breathability.
This modern design also overcomes the muffled-hearing issue older models had, by using perforated ear cups, which are also ultra-deep, ensuring comfort and a very snug fit. The material also has anti-microbial properties, so you don’t have to worry about the build-up of germs on your headgear.
An adjustable strap with a power tab closure ensures you can strap and unstrap the headgear on the fly. Although fully adjustable, this ear guard is intended for adults and is unisex.
The Cliff Keen F5 Tornado Headgear is available in 43 different colored designs!
- Can hear instructions easily
- Very comfortable fit
- Very lightweight
- Many different colored designs are available
- Thin padding
- Short chin straps
Cliff Keen Two-Tone Headgear
Another incredible piece of headgear by the first brands that specialized in producing protective equipment to successfully and efficiently prevent cauliflower ear as a result of grappling martial arts training.
The Two-Tone headgear by Cliff Keen Athletics is a minimalistic piece of protective gear, featuring premium ear guard cups held together by 4 rubberized straps, and a chin strap based on the original E41 headgear that Cliff Keen patented over 50 years ago.
The ear cups are made from hardened metal shells to ensure maximal protection of the ears. VNF foam covers the inside of the shells, to ensure comfort and to further help cushion against impact.
All straps, including the chin strap which is covered by a pad for extra comfort, are flexible and fully adjustable. While primarily meant for adults, this headgear can be used by teens and children as well. It is available in black.
- Comes with a chin strap pad included
- Very wide range of adjustability
- Super comfortable to wear
- Reduces friction which extends its lifespan
- Only available in black
Asics Unisex Aggressor Headgear
Asics is a sportswear brand that has very high-quality martial arts gear as well. Initially founded as a brand of running shoes in Japan, Asics now produces every piece of sportswear you can think of, including grappling-specific protective gear. Unlike most brands that dabble in everything, Asics products easily withstand the tests of time and pressure.
The Unisex Agressor headgear by Asics, features a signature GEL cushioning system for maximum comfort and extended protection. The outside of the shells is made from injection molded propylene, making them hard, yet lightweight and very resilient.
Just like with all the best BJJ headgear, this one comes in one size only, featuring an adjustable strap that has quick-release properties making it very easy to use. The design, as the name suggests, is unisex, and intended for adults. There are 5 different colors available.
- Enhanced comfort and protection
- Classic vintage look
- Quickly adjustable using only one hand
- Does not affect hearing
- Affordable price
- Feels very tight at first
Cliff Keen EF66 Fusion Headgear
Yet another Cliif keen Athletics piece of headgear, which is not surprising given that they are the authority in the field. This particular wrestling/BJJ headgear perfectly blends together the experience of Cleef Keen with the modern-look headgear designs to form the ultimate ear guard for combat sports athletes.
This headgear is super light, with a pliable inner shell made from state-of-the-art materials and a foam-covered exterior to cushion impact. Sleek-profiled ear cups offer maximum comfort and a precise fit.
A three-stripe system keeps the Fusion Headgear in place, featuring the brand’s signature on-the-fly closure system that makes it very convenient to secure and unfasten the headgear, even with one arm. The chin strap is covered with a pad.
There is only one, adjustable size available for this adult, unisex grappling headgear. It comes in 17 different designs.
According to my experience, this is the best Cliff Kean headgear for BJJ.
- Extra protection against impact, blows, and friction
- Very lightweight and comfortable
- Snug fit
- Easy to keep clean
- Cracks can appear on the outer cover quite quickly
MatMan Medalist Headgear
Matman is yet another famous wrestling gear manufacturer from the USA that has been around for quite a while and has a reputation for good quality products at affordable prices.
This particular headgear is ultra-soft, courtesy of a Neoprene exterior and inside padding, with a plastic foundation in between, that does not just make it comfortable to wear but also gives it much-needed resilience in the face of everyday grappling rigors.
The Neiorenbe also provides breathability, and unimpeded hearing as a result of scattered perforation on the outside. This bestseller fits better than most other headgear, and even though it was intended for wrestling, it’s actually tailor-made for Braizlan Jiu=Jitsu training.
The adjustable strap uses reinforced velcro to ensure a tight fit and easy adjustments on the go. Once again, one size will fit all adults, regardless of sex. Four different colors are available.
- Fits extremely well
- Enhanced protection and comfort
- Easy to adjust during training
- Clean design
- Long chin strap that frays after a while
MatMan Ultra Soft Headgear
If little is good, more must be better, so we include another MatMan headgear option in our best BJJ headgear list. Don’t worry, we picked this one according to strict, pre-set criteria, and not just the brand’s reputation as one of the pioneers of grappling ear guards.
The Ultra Soft Headgear, by MatMan features a different design, removing all straps but the chinstrap, and providing a complete Neoprene shell. Along with the triple stitch chinstrap, this is an ear guard built for durability over everything else.
Neoprene material guarantees comfort, and the design features a plastic shell in between the inner and outer padding, just like with the Medalist Headgear by MatMan.
Adjustability is at three points – the chin strap, the top of the head, and the back of the neck. It takes a little tinkering to pinpoint the exact perfect fit for you, but once you do, the quick-release chin strap is the only one you’ll use on a daily basis.
The size fits all, given the complete adjustment options on all sides of this headgear. It is intended for adults, unisex, and available in black.
- Adjusts at three different points
- Ultra-soft and comfortable
- Offers enhanced protection, even protecting from inadvertent blows
- Quick-release chin strap
- Breathable and anti-microbial
- Is only available in black
Addidas Response Headgear
If there is one brand that needs no introduction anywhere in the world, it is Addidas. It may seem strange that they have combat gear on offer, but the truth is Addidas has been manufacturing Judo (and as of late, BJJ) Gis for a while now and has a very clear understanding of what grappling athletes need.
Addidas made their Response Headgear using 100% molded foam to ensure it lasts for a long time on the mats. The plastic ear cups are injection molded and inserted into the foam, resulting in a soft interior and cushiony exterior, balancing comfort and protection.
The model of this headgear follows the 4 vinyl stripes system, with a piece of fabric connecting the two stripes on the top of the head to each other, thus preventing easy slippage. The chin strap has a cup to make sure it stays in place.
This classically designed unisex, adult headgear comes in 14 different colored designs.
- Classic design
- Comfortable while offering a very high level of protection
- Absorbs shock from impact
- Does not slip off, even when the chin strap is undone
- Available in many different colors
- The chin cup is less comfortable than a chin pad
Great Call Athletics Headgear
Wrapping up our top list of the best BJJ headgear available out there is a product by Great Call Athletics. This brand is US-based and prides itself on 100% authentic gear for all sporting activities. Their headgear is truly authentic, moving the needle on the standards of ear protection in combat sports.
The design of this headgear follows the modern one-piece model, rather than the one where 4 straps hold a pair of cups together. Made out of Neoprene, it is both soft and comfortable, and won’t give way to the abuse it experiences from the mats and Gis on a regular basis.
The neoprene is perforated on the thicker parts that cover the ears, allowing unimpeded hearing and ensuring an ample flow of air for breathability and comfort. This also helps to prevent the build-up of microbes as it keeps the headgear dry.
An easily adjustable chin strap helps hold the headgear in place. Similar to the Cliff Keen Fusion headgear, it features velcro adjustments on the top of the head and the back of the neck, allowing you to find the best possible fit.
Available in 6 different colors, this unisex ear guard is intended for adults, and fits everyone, given the multiple adjustment options placed on different areas of the headgear.
- Slick, one-piece design
- Velcro adjustments at three different areas for precise fitting
- Soft and flexible, on account of the Neoprene material
- Stays firmly in place
- Does not impede hearing
- Somewhat small and tight-fitting
How to Choose the Best Headgear for BJJ
Picking out the very best headgear for BJJ is as easy as following our guide of reviewed products above. It was compiled taking into account the personal experiences I have with some of the products, and peer interviews on account of the performance of those I haven’t had the chance to wear yet.
However, as important as direct experiences are, we do not base our reviews only on the testimony of myself and others, given how much of a factor perosnal preferences play in such situations. We also add a whole host of criteria that determine whether or not it would be smart for you to invest in a certain piece of BJJ headgear.
Arguably, the key element in BJJ headgear, given the intents of the equipment. Not all people are going to develop cauliflower ears, in fact, a small percentage do, but those that have the predisposition really do need to figure out which ear guard protects them best, while not interfering with their training.
The main aspect of protection in terms of cauliflower ears is to prevent friction. All these tight exchanges where the head (and of course, ears) get stuck underneath a training partner’s body parts, or them and the mats, resulting in a potential injury to the cartilage of the ear. This is the primary function of Jiu-Jitsu headgear, which every entry in our list accomplishes with the highest marks.
A second aspect of protection is from impact, which in BJJ are rare and inadvertent, but still do occur. While protecting yourself from friction prevents cauliflower ear from occurring in the first place, wearing grappling headgear after you’ve developed it prevents it from further damage, or potentially, from “exploding” as you’ve likely witnessed in the UFC cage.
Maybe not as important as protection, but in an already uncomfortable sport like BJJ, it is important to introduce as much comfort as possible, at least in terms of training gear.
Comfort goes beyond just soft pads on the inside of the ear guard to make it easier to wear headgear – that is something every modern piece of headgear offers.
Comfort in terms of training BJJ with headgear refers to having it stay in place while rolling, be sleek enough to allow you to train without getting you tangled, whether in a Gi or by way of the straps, and allow you to listen to what is being said without having to get it off n between practice or roll rounds.
Finally, there is the comfort of your training partners. Plastic ear guards will cause potential injuries and certain major discomfort to your training partners during rolling ls soft exterior BJJ headgear is your best option for all sides involved.
Another trait of most of the best BJJ headgear options is that they come in one size that is supposed to fit all. As long as you follow the major sizing guidelines (adult, teen, or child) the ear guard is going to fit jsut fine.
Adjustments help you pinpoint the exact manner in which the headgear stays put, does not bother you, protects you, and does not impede tranining. This requires a bit of trial and error, as you will need to figure out the sweet spot for your exact needs.
What this means is that you want to pick a piece of grappling headgear that has as many adjustment options as possible. Most have elastic straps, which adjust by default when you stretch them, but over time, they can lose some of the elasticity.
Those ear guards that have adjustment options on the top of the head and back of the neck are the best bet for BJJ. They will allow you to perfectly fit the headgear, and leave only manipulating the chin strap to get it on and off, which is fairly easy to do even with one hand.
Understandably, you want your BJJ headgear to last as long as possible. With any type of gear we use in grappling it is a big ask, given the constant friction and handling, as well as all the sweat that accumulates.
The material pretty much guarantees a long life, with a version of Neoprene the most commonly used.
Plastic features in just about every one of the best BJJ headgear options, but is covered by soft shells on both sides. While this is primarily done for comfort, it also extends durability.
Straps are usually made of elastic material, use mostly Velcro closure, and are reinforced, as they are the “weakest link” in a BJJ ear guard. As long as the strap material does not allow them to thread, they’ll last as long as the ear pads.
The material used, as I just mentioned is primarily Neoprene, sometimes blended with other materials to increase its shock absorbing and durability characteristics.
On the inside, the main protective material used in BJJ headgear is some sort of plastic, usually thin enough to be easily engulfed by the neoprene shell on all sides, but more than strong enough to keep the ears cuddled and away from any friction or blunt trauma.
The straps are the key components that literally keep a piece of Jiu-Jitsu headgear together. They have to be elastic enough to accommodate adjustments and constant motion, but firm enough not to tear easily or thread. Vinyl is usually the material of choice but there are different kinds of straps used in different BJJ ear guards.
Completely up to you. For the most part, there are a couple of different options: the classic one and the modern-looking BJJ headgear.
The classic model features two ear guards, held together by straps, usually four: two on the top of the head and two on the back of the neck. Here is also a chin strap to help adjust the size.
Some of the earliest versions only had plastic cups and elastic straps, which was uncomfortable for both grapplers. Modern headgear that copies the classic style, has padding on the inside and outside of the plastic cups, making them both more attractive looking and more effective at protection.
The second model is the modern one, where straps (apart from the chinstrap) are substituted by a one-piece helmet, that features secure closure systems on the top of the head and back of the neck, which, unlike straps in the classic model, can be undone to make the fitting even better.
Completely down to personal preference, as most brands offer more than one model of BJJ headgear, and usually have both the classic and modern designs in stock.
With protective gear, though, you want to be as specific as possible, so it is smart to opt for brands that are only making ear guards or specialize in grappling gear rather than sportswear companies that dabble in everything.
Brands specializing in wrestling and/or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu equipment have exactly what you need for grappling, and should be the very first ones on your list.
The price is, of course, a very important aspect, and the greatest limiting factor when it comes to BJJ headgear.
Unlike Gis. though, in this instance, you need to go for quality of protection above anything else. That includes somewhat disregarding design, materials, model, price, etc, and focusing on whether or not the headgear is going to protect you.
If you’re uncertain what to pick, pick a more expensive one (that you can afford, of course). Skimping out on protective gear usually means you’ll pay more eventually when you have to replace it really quickly
Pros and Cons of Wearing Headgear in BJJ
When it comes to picking out the best BJJ headgear to prevent cauliflower ear, you need to factor in two more aspects on top of the selection criteria, and your own personal preferences. If you’ve never worn BJJ headgear before, you’re in for a unique experience that almost certainly is not going to be a pleasant one during the first few times you put it on.
Well, that is fairly obvious – you’ll keep your perfectly shaped ears and the inherent ability to use earbud headphones and ear plugs. Jokes aside, if you’re suffering from cauliflower ear, training without headgear is going to become more or less impossible.
Apart from protecting your ears, the cushioning effects most of the best BJJ headgear have also protect your head from traumatic injuries, which, as rare as they are in Brazilian JIu-Jitsu, still happen, especially during takedown exchanges, or in instances when you epically fail a flying move attempt (both of which have happened to me on more than one occasion).
Some of the headgear options we have that are more helmet-like also help you protect your hair, which, if it is long, you know how easily it can get damaged during rolling round after round.
On the cons side, the worst thing about BJJ headgear is that it gets in the way of training.
Aside from people having an extra thing to choke you with (the chinstrap), can get tangled in the Gi, caught up during very tight exchanges, and come off constantly (just like a belt) if you haven’t figured out how to adjust it perfectly yet.
The issue with hearing is also important to mention. While most manufacturers have found practical solutions to resolve the muffled effect, it can still occur, especially when sweat builds up around the ears. The more breathable the headgear, the less this issue is going to occur.
Wearing BJJ headgear also makes you vulnerable to certain moves. It leaves space when you’re trying to escape and define using the head, as well as when you try to trap body parts using the head and neck. The sweatier the headgear gets, the more it will slip and slide regarding your opponent and the ground.
Popular Brands of Headgear
The most popular brand out there for grappling headgear has to be Cliff Keen Athletics, simply because it was founded with the sole intention of producing a sturdy and functional set of ear guards for wrestlers back when options were scarce.
Gold BJJ is another one worth mentioning, as they are focused on BJJ gear only, and that allows them to test and revise their products more vigilantly before releasing them for use into the BJ wilderness.
Cliff Keen Athletics
Founded in 1958 by Clifford Keen, one of the American pioneers in wrestling, who had a very fruitful competitive and coaching career, Cliff Keen Athletics was originally Cliff Keen Wrestling Products. The University of Michigan standout, and later head coach of the team, decided that wrestlers need improved headgear to help prevent cauliflower ear formation.
He is credited for coming up with the way modern headgear looks and performs, as Cliff Keen Athletics remains firmly in the lead of the grappling ear guards market. They still innovate in the field, using their superior knowledge to provide new and improved versions of grappling headgear every year.
You‘ve probably run into a Gold BJJ GI, rashguard, shorts, or backpack if you’ve been training for any amount of time. People find their gear affordable, reliable, and cool-looking, so they try it out and end up coming back for more…
and there’s a good reason for this.
The guys behind Gold BJJ are BJJ athletes themselves and are practicing regularly, which is where they get their ideas from.
They know exactly what grapplers need and figure out the best ways to satisfy that demand.
There are a few subjects I did not touch upon in detail, because they’re usually associated with questions people ask about BJJ headgear, and I wanted to address them specifically in this section.
Can You Wear Headgear in BJJ Competition?
No, wearing headgear is not allowed in competition under most rule sets, with the discomfort to the competitor wearing it and the opponent stated as the main reason why they are banned.
Do Ear Guards Prevent Cauliflower Ear?
Yes, ear-guards can help prevent cauliflower ears very efficiently, but they won’t help you correct the damage already done to the ear, so if you have the tendency to develop cauliflower ears, immediately jump on the BJJ headgear bandwagon.
Does Everyone Get Cauliflower Ear in BJJ?
Nope, the predisposition to the condition is highly individual and comes down to the type of ears, your style of BJJ, and how hard and often your ears get stuck in uncomfortable positions. The type of the ear is the most important one, with people that have tender ears only able to train using BJJ headgear. ,
How do I Clean my BJJ Headgear?
Warm water and soap are the best to ensure no microbes gather on your headgear. Wet wipes are great for taking care of your ear guard while you’re still on the mats. From time to time, you can also add a tablespoon of white vinegar to the soap and water to deal with any lingering odor.
If you have the tendency to develop cauliflower ears, even a little bit, invest in the best BJJ headgear and grapple with a calm mind, at least on the subject of ear injury and disfigurement.
Do not fall for the trap that cauliflower ears are sexy and attractive – they are not, and they get in the way of everyday life, and most importantly, training.
So, get those earguards on!