In my BJJ and MMA sparring, my opponents have dubbed my sweating as my sweat defense. With my short cropped hair and my excessive sweating, I get as slippery as a seal. Even though I sweat, I don’t stink because I make sure to have a clean gi, to wear adequate deodorant and to make sure that I am clean and fungus free before sparring. Unfortunately, this is not a universally accepted practice. Some people seem to take pride in their stink. There were more times than I want to remember that I left a BJJ tournament with a fungal infection. This is also a problem for stand up disciplines. All disciplines seem to suffer from hygiene issues.
It is awkward for an instructor to tell people that they stink. When there are students that do not pass the smell test, my first admonition is usually an instruction to the entire class about the importance of hygiene. If the person does not get it, then I will address it directly with them privately. This can be especially awkward when a male instructor needs to address a female student. With kids, I talk to the parents (this does not always go over well!). Even though it is an uncomfortable subject it is important to enforce hygiene rules for both health and positive experience reasons. Having smelly people in class can make it unpleasant for everyone and it shows a lack of discipline.
If you have a fungal outbreak (ringworm) or viral outbreak (warts) in your school, especially with kids, you can be in trouble. People get very upset when it comes to ringworm and warts and you will get a reputation as being a dirty school. Getting these conditions can also have a negative effect on people. My son was competing at an away wrestling tournament where he contracted a bacterial skin infection which caused him to miss the state championships. You don’t want your school to be responsible for people missing out on opportunities.
You have control over your facilities but only partial control over your students. This is especially true for schools that have non-martial arts fitness classes. Fitness students don’t have the same discipline as martial arts students and the teacher’s relationship with fitness students is not as authoritative, so it is harder to enforce hygiene rules. You need to enforce hygiene rules as much as possible and make sure your facility stay clean. Also, it important for you to lead by example. I have been to classes where you could smell the teacher from across the room. If you need to teach multiple classes and you sweat a lot, make sure you compensate for it with adequate deodorant or a change of clothes.
I will continue to use my sweat defense. I will be slippery and will slip out of holds, but I never want to use the stink defense or give my teammates a skin infection. Hygiene rules are important to follow, especially if you own a school or even just teach classes. Enforce hygiene rules and be known as a clean dojo!