Rolling around on the ground with not much more than a few pieces of cloth between your opponent and your manhood can be risky business.
At some BJJ gyms, you could find that every practitioner is wearing a cup. But some masters of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu would never even wear a cup. It can be confusing to know what’s best.
In short, do you wear a cup in BJJ?
You don’t need to wear a cup in BJJ because it restricts your movement. Some gyms may recommend it, but it isn’t standard to wear a cup in BJJ and is even banned by the IBJJF for competition because of the added injury risks to your opponent by wearing one.
To learn about the specifics of why it is banned by the IBJJF and could cause more harm than good, keep reading this article!
Benefits Of Wearing A Cup In BJJ
Firstly, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of wearing a cup in BJJ.
Wearing a cup could save you from an occasional blow to the groin, that’s obvious.
There are plenty of moments in BJJ where your opponent could have one of your legs wrapped between both of their legs. To get here, your opponent has likely passed half of your guard (with your legs) and that means their knee is going to be in between your legs.
Sometimes getting into half guard comes with a lot of struggle and momentum could sway their knee right where you don’t want it. This can happen from time to time.
If your opponent is trying to go from side control into a fully mounted position then their knee can also find its way across your stomach and sometimes a bit lower accidentally as they try to pass over your guard. A slip too low can be uncomfortable for sure.
I’ve also experienced my opponents successfully move my guarded legs away as they drop their weight on top, squishing my legs together which sometimes means your bits get trapped between your thighs with that added weight.
Wearing a cup could keep your bits collected together in a neat package and reduce the likelihood of taking a painful knee there or resisting any weighted pressure.
But there are drawbacks to wearing a cup; plenty in fact as I’ll explain in the rest of this article.
Mobility Vs. Protection Wearing A Cup In BJJ
While it may seem like a cup will give you added extra protection against accidental elbows and knees into your groin, it still may not be the best approach.
Wearing a cup will give you a higher level of protection against blows to the groin area. Cups are really good at reducing a lot of the impact of a strike and that’s why they are commonly used in striking martial arts and MMA.
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A cup isn’t necessarily a great tool for grappling martial arts and that includes BJJ. The main reason is that wearing a cup will restrict your movement.
There are plenty of situations in BJJ where you will be laid on your side like when performing shrimping and your thighs are going to be squished together which will be much more noticeable and uncomfortable while wearing a cup.
If you’re wearing a cup while practicing BJJ with a partner, it’s going to become often noticeable to you as the wearer and potentially for your partner. That overall feeling of something in the way has the potential to harm your learning and make your sparring that bit less productive.
With BJJ, it’s ideal to have the least friction as possible that gets in the way of your learning or sparring for you or your partner. Wearing additional protective gear or even equipment like a fitness tracker for BJJ just has the potential to create frustration.
Being frustrated about your cup as it restricts your movement means you’re going to have a bad time!
Unrealistic Advantages Wearing A Cup In BJJ
Another reason for not wearing a cup in BJJ is because the cup could give you advantages that you get used to and when the cup is taken away you might not be able to perform in the same way.
Imagine learning an armbar while wearing a cup and using that additional pressure you can give because of the cup. Then take it away and see if you can perform the same submission without the cup.
Wearing a cup during BJJ is adding unrealistic and artificial changes to what is possible in your movement and technique.
And as BJJ competition doesn’t allow you to wear a cup at all, you’re only hindering yourself from improving in the way BJJ is intended to be performed.
If you’re just training BJJ alone with drills and conditioning then, of course, you don’t need to wear a cup at all because the cup is only helpful at all when sparring.
Injury Risks Wearing A Cup In BJJ
Wearing a cup in BJJ adds an unnecessary level of risk for injuries. These risks are mostly placed on your sparring partner.
If you were wearing a cup during BJJ then your sparring partner is going to have to be aware of it all the time because if they make movements that push onto the hard material it is more likely to cause them discomfort than it is for you. So this is just pretty bad sportsmanship.
Above discomfort for your partner, it’s also riskier for them to spar with you if you’re wearing a cup.
Wearing a cup during BJJ would give you an unfair advantage along with that risk if you were putting your partner in positions that are putting limbs or the neck of your opponent in-between your legs.
Some of those risky positions while wearing a cup are the armbar, the Kimura, and most variations of a North-South position (where your opponent’s head is in between your thighs).
Imagine performing an armbar on your opponent while wearing a cup (or worse yet, it happening to you) and the cup gives a hard surface for the wrist or forearm to be pushed against and give much more leverage and pressure.
This is like using a rock to bend your opponent’s arm around it and is obviously unfair and risky as hell.
Sparring in BJJ and any martial art is about being a good teammate and helping each other to learn through challenge and adversity, but not while putting each other at unnecessary risk.
So for the potential injuries of wearing a cup in BJJ, it makes sense not to wear one.
Wearing A Cup For BJJ Competition
Most reputable BJJ gyms (and their masters) will recommend that you don’t wear a cup during BJJ training because it ultimately won’t be allowed for you to wear one during an official competition.
You may get away with it in a local competition where there aren’t as many checks, but your opponent would probably notice very quickly and ask you to remove it. It just isn’t fair play.
The IBJJF, the foremost authority on global BJJ competition, even bans the use of groin cups along with other protective wear that could cause harm to your opponent:
Use of any foot gear, headgear, hair pins, jewelry, cups (genital protectors), or any other protector fashioned of hard material that may cause harm to an opponent or the athlete him/herself is forbidden. Also forbidden is the use of eyes protectors, even if they are made for sports practices.IBJJF Rules Book, January 2021
Cups and various other wearables with hard materials are not an accepted part of the IBJJF uniform whether it’s Gi or No-Gi.
So overall, it’s recommended that you practice BJJ without wearing a cup and get used to moving in such a way that doesn’t add any unnecessary pressure to your groin.
Final Word: Should You Wear A Cup In BJJ?
You shouldn’t wear a cup in BJJ because it will cause potentially more harm than good. Wearing a cup makes it harder for you to move out of difficult positions and can even increase the potential of injuring your opponent in some tight positions and submissions.
I don’t plan to be wearing a cup in BJJ any time soon because I would rather take the slight risk of discomfort and squishing than to impede on my movement and mobility or make sparring with me dangerous for my partner in any way.
But you might pick a different option and all power to you. Just get on to the mats and keep sparring!
Joe Bloom is the lead author and editor of MMA Hive. Joe has been a passionate mixed martial artist in training since 2019, having studied Boxing and Muay Thai at BaliMMA and Soma Fight Club, as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with RitualsJJ.