This is a common question we get from new students. What is the deal with not wearing shoes!? Do I have to take my shoes off?
The practice of training martial arts without shoes goes back really far but actually has a much more logical purpose to it than just tradition. While it is traditional in most of the arts we teach to train without shoes, it is not uncommon to look back in history and see some arts that train with shoes on.
In many Chinese arts, practitioners often chose to wear shoes and most believe this to be because of the rocky or uneven land that they would sometimes train on. Whereas maybe on the island of Okinawa or the beach in Brazil, students were training on soft sand or grass and would choose to train barefoot. Practical.
And hey - we know Bruce Lee’s shoes were an iconic part of his image, so he obviously wore shoes often when training!
You could even argue that it is beneficial to train with shoes on so that you know what it feels like if you have to defend yourself while wearing shoes. And it is definitely different! For this reason, we take out students outside and train with shoes on sometimes.
So why do we choose to go without?
The two most important reasons are hygiene and safety.
We ask that students wear shoes to and from the dojo and remove them just before stepping onto the mat. We teach Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and spend a good amount of our time grappling on the mats, and therefore need to keep them sparkling clean.
In fact, the mats you train on at PMA are some of the cleanest you will find around the world because we put so much focus on this. Some of our students and teachers that have visited other academies around the world report that they often are training on layers of dust, hair, and dirt!
Please clean your feet, wear shoes to the dojo, and remove them just before stepping onto the mat to keep as many germs, dirt, etc. off of our mats as possible!
*Please remember to throw some shoes back on if you are going back out to your car or something! And if you see a student coming in from outside barefoot, consider giving them a gentle reminder to help keep the mats clean. You can send him to this link to read up if needed!
And if you want to wear the official flip-flop that most students in Brazil wear to and from class, get yourself a pair of Havaianas! The added benefit of a flip-flop is you can slip it on easily when using the restroom or stepping off the mat to run out to your car during class. Even running into the restroom barefoot in the middle of the class will bring germs back onto the mat.
With kicking and grappling being taught, getting hit with a shoe does much more damage than a bare foot!
Training without shoes enables us to make a little more contact on our kicks with each other, and have far fewer accidental injuries when grappling because we aren’t being hit with any hard heels or steel-toed boots!
Now, with all of that being said, some students need or prefer to wear shoes. When that is the case, there are some safe shoes that you can wear and train martial arts. We just ask that you follow a couple of rules:
- Only wear your training shoes on the mats. Never wear these shoes off of the mats or you start bringing in all of the junk we are trying to keep off the mats.
- Wear the right shoe for the job. While practicing striking arts, you will need a shoe that is designed to allow you to pivot your foot freely. If you wear a shoe with too much grip, over time you may find yourself with a knee injury. While practicing grappling arts, we ask that you wear a soft shoe, designed to keep your partner safe - such as a wrestling shoe! These are not good for striking. They are designed to grip the mats more effectively, which gives you the ability to drive your weight into your opponent more effectively and your foot not slip out from underneath you.
For striking, below you will find the shoe we recommend. When I was a kid, my father’s academies did not have mats on the floor yet and students trained on concrete, or industrial carpet and these were the shoes that they chose for training -
For grappling, any wrestling shoes should do the trick!
In closing, I personally have grown up training barefoot, and I love it. Getting to feel the ground beneath you while training strengthens your balance and stabilizer muscles that will help prevent injuries when you have an occasional misstep or step off of a curb funny. I now hate wearing shoes!
See you on the mat! With clean bare feet! 😉