Whenever you walk into a Jiu Jitsu school, you’ll notice that many of the students are now tatted up. Tattoos have become part of the BJJ culture and there’s quite a variety of Jiu Jitsu inspired tattoos out there.
This article will explore this phenomenon, focussing first on tattoo aftercare and a return to BJJ and then giving you some ideas to consider for your next (first?) BJJ tattoo!
When can you return to training after getting a tattoo?
Whenever you get a tattoo, you may be eager to quickly return to training and show off your new ink. But, that is something that you should avoid doing! A fresh tattoo is basically just an open wound with different designs and colors. It can easily get infected if you don’t keep it clean.
Going back to BJJ class right after getting a tattoo is probably the worst thing you can do. You’re basically inviting bacteria into your new tattoo that will most likely get infected. The best case scenario is that an infection will delay your healing time, forcing you to take more time off, while worse scenarios could include disfiguring the tattoo or serious illness.
That is why you really need to wait until your tattoo is fully healed. You should stay off the mats for at least two weeks, or even up to a month until your new tattoo is fully healed. Smaller tattoos tend to heal faster than larger ones, but you’ll know when the tattoo is fully healed when it no longer shows signs of flaking or scabbing.
Your tattoo artist will be better able to give you an idea of the timeframe, although they might not have a decent idea of what BJJ entails. If you explain to them that you’re basically going to go swimming in a sea of other people’s dirty laundry and sweat, while those people are actively trying to drown you, they’ll probably tell you (after they stop wretching) to wait a month.
This is, admittedly, a long time to wait to get back on the mat, and people who train BJJ are notorious for not taking enough time off. Consider saving your next tattoo session for the next time you get injured. If you’ve got a tweaked knee that really would benefit from a few weeks off, a tattoo is a great way to encourage yourself to actually take that time.
BJJ Tattoo Ideas
If you train long enough, you’ll see a wide range of different BJJ tattoos. Here are some of the most common BJJ tattoo concepts that you are likely to see.
BJJ School Crests
Many BJJ professors and students will choose to get a tattoo of their school’s crest. The symbol that they wear on their gis and other training gear. They do this as an homage and sign of respect for their home BJJ school.
You’ll often see tattoos of BJJ school crests like: Gracie Jiu Jitsu, Gracie Barra, Carlson Gracie, 10th Planet, Checkmat, and Alliance.
We’re not here to tell you how to live your life – but think long and hard before permanently emblazoning your current team’s logo on your bicep or back.
Many practitioners will symbolize their love of the martial art by simply getting tattoos of the words BJJ or Jiu Jitsu. An alternative that you might want to consider is Arte Suave – which is a subtler nod to the sport than just writing its name across your collar bones!
Along with tattoos of BJJ and Jiu Jitsu, you’ll also see the kanji or Japanese word for these as tattoos. People that get the kanji symbol of the martial art usually mix a black belt or something else in their tattoo.
Oss is another BJJ tattoo that is common to see on the mats or at a competition. It’s a word we all routinely use, and some people like it so much that they’ll get a tattoo of it. Quite often with a black belt or even a Brazilian flag mixed into the art.
It’s very common to see animals being part of the art of a BJJ tattoo. You’ll see BJJ tattoos with everything from: sharks, bears, gorillas, and especially lions. Many BJJ practitioners love lions and like to portray themselves as the king of the jungle… or mats
You’ll either see tattoos of these animals looking fierce or even wearing a gi with a black belt.
A lot of BJJ practitioners fancy themselves as some sort of samurai and will get BJJ tattoos with them. Maybe a samurai wearing a black belt or the words Jiu Jitsu are mixed into the artwork.
Many Jiu Jitsu practitioners are deeply religious and will often get tattoos showing their faith mixed into a BJJ tattoo. It’s common to see tattoos like a black belt in the form of a crucifix or a quote from the bible (or any other religious iconography which a grappler may wish to represent).
Of course many people equate Jiu Jitsu to chess, so of course some grapplers would get chess inspired BJJ tattoos. You’ll often see these types of chess Jiu Jitsu tattoos with black belts or other BJJ ranks mixed into the art.
You’ll routinely see many students of BJJ tattoo their rank on their body. You’ll generally see two types of BJJ belt tattoos.
Either when a grappler reaches the black belt level or they’re documenting their journey and get a tattoo at each rank. Every time these students get promoted, they not only earn a new belt, but also a new tattoo on their body.
Famous BJJ figure portraits
A lot of Jiu Jitsu practitioners have gotten BJJ tattoos of famous figures in the martial art. Generally the founders of the martial art or important figures that helped grow Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. There are a lot of Helio Gracie, Carlos Gracie Sr, and Carlson Gracie Jr tattoos out there.
Then finally, you’ll often see BJJ tattoos of grapplers or characters locking in a submission on their opponent. It can be anything from art from an old Jiu Jitsu book or cartoon characters in the middle of a roll.
Are BJJ tattoos here to stay?
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, BJJ tattoos are here to stay. There are some really good ones and also some really bad ones, so to each their own. BJJ tattoos are ingrained into the culture of the Jiu Jitsu community and we’ll see even more in the future.
Regardless of which tattoo you choose – we highly recommend you stay off the mats until they’re healed so you’ll stay healthy, and your tattoo will look its best!