The complete guide to selecting a BJJ-inspired tattoo.
If you love BJJ and want to show it on your skin, a well designed BJJ tattoo could be what you need. We’ve scoured instagram to find great ideas you can use to create your own design.
Table of contents
- Tattoo ideas
- List of jiu jitsu tattoo ideas and symbols
- Going back to training after getting a tattoo
Stylized BJJ scenes
You could keep your tattoo fun with a stylised Sailor Jerry-style artwork of yourself or other BJJ practitioners, or a stylised representation of two athletes rolling.
The shaka and hands/grips
Hands and grips are obviously a major part of the art of jiu jitsu and an easy way to show your love for jiu jitsu in a small compact tattoo. Tattoo designs can be based on a combination of:
- Wrapped up hands and fingers
- The “hang loose” or “shaka” hand sign often also used in BJJ
- The slap and/or fist bump before and during a roll
Your belt journey
The journey from white to black belt in BJJ is a long and difficult process, with the average time to get a black belt being approximately 8-12 years. Your tattoo could display the belts you’ve received so far, or if you’re a black belt, it could be specifically a design incorporating this. Some tattoos might display the belt journey in a unique way, like your rank colours on a snake.
Your gym logo
Some jiu jitsu tattoos might incorporate your jiu jitsu gym’s logo. This can be a way to show loyalty to your gym and training partners. Just be careful in case you change gyms later!
Jiu jitsu text
You may want to keep your tattoo simple with just the words “Jiu jitsu”, “Brazilian jiu jitsu” or even “arte suave”, which is Portuguese for “gentle art”, written artistically on your body.
Even though these types of tattoos are simple text tattoos, you can embellish them by:
- Splitting up the words onto more than one arm or leg
- Incorporating the words into another image e.g a bottle of poison or a gi belt
- Adding extra designs such as flowers, clouds or other symbols you love
Historical BJJ figures, pioneers, coaches and competitors
There are many greats who have contributed to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu over the years. You could incorporate one or more into your own tattoo. These can include:
- Helio Gracie. The father of Brazilian jiu jitsu.
- Mitsuyo Maeda. The Japanese judo master who travelled to Brazil and likely taught the Gracies.
- Royce Gracie. One of Helio’s sons who showed BJJ’s effectiveness by winning the first UFC in 1993.
- Rickson Gracie. One of Helio’s sons and a true pioneer of BJJ and MMA.
- Renzo Gracie. Another one of the greats of the Gracie family and a pioneer of BJJ and MMA.
- John Danaher. Seen by many as the best BJJ coach in the world and the popularizer of modern leg locks in BJJ.
- Marcelo Garcia. Largely seen as one of the best pound-for-pound submission grapplers of all time.
- Gordon Ryan. One of the best modern grapplers of all time.
Another common BJJ tattoo idea is of a scene showing two practitioners rolling. You can do this using a realistic style or stylised, with a variety of backgrounds such as a gym or even a beach.
Animals can be used to depict certain characteristics of your BJJ game style or even to represent your jiu jitsu “spirit animal”. Commonly seen animals in BJJ tattoos include apes, sharks, bears and even snakes, pandas and sloths.
Jiu jitsu is commonly referred to as a physical game of chess. Each technique has pros and cons, and experienced BJJ players often bait their opponents into playing their game to give themselves the advantage. Many BJJ tattoos are chess-themed for this reason and might include a depiction of a chess piece with the words “jiu jitsu” near it.
Oss is a Japanese term which is sometimes used in BJJ as an acknowledgement of instructions, a greeting or a term of respect. Many BJJ-inspired tattoo designs incorporate “Oss” either as the full design or as part of a larger design.
Popular cartoon characters and other themes
There are many ways to link your other passions and values with your jiu jitsu tattoo. Some of them include merging jiu jitsu with characters or symbols from:
- Star Wars
- Hello Kitty
- Japanese art and symbols e.g geishas
- Famous bands
- Mortality/life and death
List of jiu jitsu tattoo ideas and symbols
If you’re creating your own tattoo design, you can weave in the following symbols to your design:
- Jiu jitsu belts
- Belt rank colours
- “Jiu jitsu” text
- “Oss” text
- “Arte suave” text (translates to the gentle art)
- A jiu jitsu gi (either being worn or used as part of another design)
- The shaka (also known as the “hang 10” hand sign)
- Your club logo
- Helio Gracie
- Rickson Gracie
- Royce Gracie
- Renzo Gracie
- Marcelo Garcia
- John Danaher
- Gordon Ryan
- A scene of two practitioners rolling
- A famous scene or victory pose from a notable BJJ match or UFC fight
- Your favourite submission
- Skeletons doing BJJ or wearing a gi
- Sailor Jerry-style renditions of yourself or other BJJ practitioners with a gi/rolling
- Chess pieces
- Japanese kanji characters depicting certain traits or characteristics desirable to BJJ practitioners
- Fierce or funny animals wearing a gi
- A washing machine with dirty BJJ gis being washed
How long after getting a tattoo do you have to wait before going back to BJJ?
Tattoos require adequate healing to ensure the inks remain as vibrant as possible and to prevent infections. You should first ask your tattooist about how long you should wait before returning to training, and explain what BJJ is if they’re not familiar with what’s involved in a typical class or sparring session.
Some tattooists recommend waiting until your tattoo is fully healed before going back to sports like MMA or jiu jitsu. Healthline mentions it generally takes 4-6 weeks for a wound like a tattoo to fully heal.
Authentink recommends keeping your tattoo clean and out of the pool or ocean for at least one week, which would likely rule out jiu jitsu too. It also recommends avoiding tight clothing that can cause friction over your tattoo, which again can rule out jiu jitsu due to the rashguards, spats and gi friction on your skin. WebMD recommends not wearing tight clothes for at least 2-4 weeks after getting your tattoo. If in doubt, call your tattooist before returning to training.
Have a great tattoo idea you’d like to share? Link us below.