It can be nerve-wracking when facing an opponent in martial arts when you have long hair. Your opponent might just be inclined to pull on it during sparring.
You definitely don’t want to worry about your hair getting caught. You just want to roll or spar and keep yourself and your opponent safe.
I’ve researched to find out some of the best martial arts hairstyles for long hair and picked out some products that make it easier.
Key takeaways 💇♀️
When practicing martial arts with long hair, you should tie up your hair as tightly as you can to avoid snagging it.
You can use a tight knot, a hair bun, or a French braid for sparring, rolling, and general martial arts practice.
Buy a pack of ouchless hair ties which helps to tie up your hair without any metal parts that could hurt you or your opponent.
But if you’re going to a competition, you need to use either the Dutch braid or cornrows to make your hair as compact as possible.
For general training, you’ll want to get a pack of non-metal hair ties. And for competition, a dry wax spray helps to keep Dutch braids from fraying:
$20.95 ($4.36 / Ounce)
What I’ll describe below will teach you how to do MMA with long hair, where grappling and striking are combined!
Table of Contents
Hairstyles to use for martial arts
First up, I’ll give you the details about which hairstyles are best for martial arts.
Some are more appropriate for striking and others for grappling. The latter is usually where you need the most secure options.
The quickest and most straightforward option is to use the ouchless hair ties I recommended to pull your hair back and tie it up as tightly as you can.
The tight knot is easy and quick to do and is usually fine for striking classes like Boxing and Muay Thai.
If you can get it tight enough, it could be OK for grappling like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – but I wouldn’t depend on it.
Use one hair tie to group your long hair to the back or slightly to one side, placing the tie high up the hair length and close to your head.
Then you can grab more hair ties and keep adding them to wrap up more hair and make it tighter.
Usually, the more hair ties you add, the better chances you have of less hair coming loose.
You can try doing some very simple braiding to wrap up your hair even more and add more hair ties to lock it in place.
The next option is the hair bun. Sometimes called the man bun or the highball in the way I recommend you do it.
The hair bun is usually much better at keeping your hair together and can be a swift solution even for grappling martial arts.
It might not be the most reliable method, but it’s easy enough to fix in between rounds.
It’s a bun that sits high on your head around the crown, which is usually the best place for it.
Most of the time, the top of your head won’t be squashed while rolling on the ground, but a back-of-the-head bun would be.
Here’s a great video tutorial of how to do this, which works for both men and women:
This method works best with a hair tie that’s big and stretchy enough for two full loops.
Here are those steps broken down for you:
- Prepare a hair tie around your wrist, usually your dominant hand
- Bend over and forward while grouping your hair together
- Tighten your hair using your hands as much as you can and close to your crown
- Keep one hand tight around your hair and stand upright again
- Use your non-dominant hand to pull the hair tie from your wrist and over your hair around the crown base you are holding (not through the ponytail)
- Use your non-dominant hand’s thumb to flick your hair up with a twist (you should now have a bunch of free hair at the top)
- Open up your non-dominant hand, and let go of the hair tie with your dominant hand (your non-dominant hand now is holding the hair)
- Pull the hair tie with your dominant hand back over around the base of the hair again (not through the ponytail)
- Give the hair another twist upward with your dominant hand’s first finger, bunching up the excess hair once more
- Pull the hair tie one last time with your non-dominant hand, bringing it over the base again
- Tug on the hair a little bit to tighten it and get the bun you want
It takes some practice, but once you have it down it’ll be a quick way of getting your hair out of the way.
You may want to use multiple hair ties to lock it in place even more.
If you have a little more time and need a more reliable hair solution, then the French braid is great.
It’s excellent for grappling, so if you’re rolling on the mats a lot in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, or Sambo, then take the time to do this method.
You can use it for hair that is mid-length or has different lengths around the head, too.
This will help you group collections of hair around the fringe and side of the head and give a reliable tightening.
And it’ll work for all kinds of hair, whether straight, wavy, or curly.
Here’s an awesome video tutorial about how to do it for martial arts:
The French braid involves grabbing three bunches of hair with your hands and alternate overlapping them:
- Pass bunch one (left) over bunch two (middle)
- Pass bunch three (right) over bunch one (the new middle)
- Pass bunch two (the new left) over bunch three (the new middle)
- And repeat!
It’s the same hair braiding you likely did back in kindergarten!
Once you’ve braided most of the hair on one side, you can twist it up into a little bunch and use the ouchless hair ties to secure it like a loose Ronda Rousey hairstyle.
Or you can keep braiding all the way down your hair on one side and then tie it up at the ends, which will give you long braided strands of hair.
You might end up with two or four long strands of braided hair, depending on how you group together your hair and how much of it there is!
The humble Dutch braid is a much more effective solution for tightening hair for martial arts.
This option is often nicknamed the Boxer braid because lady martial artists commonly use it for boxing.
Boxer braids are two Dutch braids on both sides of the head.
The boxer braid is an effective method of keeping the hair away from the face and to the back of the head. It keeps hair from being a problem in a striking match.
It’s probably best for striking classes, but watch out for your own hair whipping and slapping you in the face!
It also might be necessary for those with incredibly long hair, and it needs to be tamed with tight braiding.
This method gets a bit more time-consuming, but it is very effective for keeping your hair together for martial arts.
Instead of detailing the steps here, I recommend you check out this excellent tutorial video:
You could make this option better for grappling by braiding it towards the back of your head (instead of down to your shoulders) and finishing with a ponytail.
Keeping your boxer braids tight relies on creating an excellent original braid.
You can get the best results for a boxer braid by using a dry wax spray and combing through the hair before starting the braids.
Be sure to spray generously enough to comb through your hair.
Keep applying more wax spray bit by bit until you don’t feel many stray hairs.
Now, when you need the ultimate solution for keeping your hair tight, the Cornrows is your best option.
It’s too complicated to bother for training alone unless you want to set it once a week and have something that lasts over many sessions.
This is what you will have to use if you have a competitive match, amateur or professional.
If you are facing competition, you likely have someone to help you with this, which might be necessary as it’s a bit tricky to do on your own.
It is generally good for any martial art, including Boxing, Kickboxing, or Mixed Martial Arts and is commonly used by UFC fighters with long hair.
If you’re ready to try doing cornrows for yourself, try this tutorial:
This is where the dry wax spray comes in to make this method the most effective it can be, as it’ll help the hair to stick together, keep it tight, and minimize fraying.
This is the dry wax spray to get:
Secure your warrior locks with this medium-hold wizardry designed for the martial arts realm.
Taming hair for effortless tight braids ensures your focus stays on the fight, not on flyaways.
Long hair struggles in martial arts
A lot of people have long hair, men and women included.
It’s a problem as old as martial arts began, likely when Samurai were wrapping up their hair under Kabuto’s.
MMA fighters with long hair
Fighting with long hair is entirely possible in most MMA competitions, including the UFC.
But it is a personal choice of the fighter whether to have their hair tied up, braided, shaven, or even left completely loose.
Some fighters like Clay Guida choose to keep their hair down and provide a fuzzy frenzy for their opponents to deal with.
Most fighters choose to boxer-braid long hair so that it doesn’t get in their face during the fight.
Is long hair a disadvantage in a fight?
Having long hair could be a significant disadvantage in a fight.
If the hair gets into your eyes while you are being attacked, it could be a massive risk as your vision is compromised, and it might irritate your eyes, forcing them to blink or close.
It’s also likely to get pulled on or used against you more than short hair ever could.
Boxing with long hair
It’s a personal choice whether to keep your hair long for training.
But you could easily be at a disadvantage in a professional boxing match.
Most boxing governing bodies will require fighters to have long hair neatly tied up or cornrowed.
Having long hair might even impact the judges‘ scoring, as it’s more visual when you take a hit to see your hair whipping around.
It’s a similar potential problem for MMA/UFC. You often see better fighters (both men and women) with cornrows or similar tight hair options.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with long hair
Having long hair could cause you and your sparring partner a lot of frustration in Jiu-Jitsu.
It’s likely to end up being pulled strongly in transitions.
Your partner isn’t going to want to have to avoid pulling your hair all the time while they focus on rolling.
I know that when I’ve rolled with women or men with long hair, sometimes I’ll hold myself back around their heads because I know it hurts when it gets pulled on.
To avoid these problems, it’s a very good idea to:
- Put your hair into tight French or Dutch braids, or even cornrows
- Use non-metal hair ties that don’t harm your opponents if body parts push into them
Long beards in boxing
Professional boxers can have beards.
But in some countries, there may be a requirement for the jawline to remain visible.
In Britain, for example, a beard ban was lifted after Sikhs campaigned against the rule, who are religiously required to have uncut body hair.
Final say on long hair in martial arts
So for a quick fix, if you have long hair, use French braids to tie your hair back.
You can use oils or dry wax to get even better results in Boxer or double Dutch braids.
If you’re heading for an actual fight and need maximum hair protection, the cornrows are always the best option.
What to read next
Now that you know how to perform at your best with lengthy locks, these next articles might be ideal for you:
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