The Search for Ear Guards
The cauliflower ear is often worn by many jiu-jitsu players as a badge of toughness and experience. Some of us have the type of ear that 'breaks', others do not. For those of us with the type of ear that 'breaks', we wear our badge proudly until that fateful night at the club, "eeww, what's that??!!", says the beautiful young lady. That usually sends us on our search for ear guards and plastic surgeons. A scenario even worse is for a woman practicing jiu-jitsu. The idea of a woman with big Wallid - looking dumbo ears isn't very appealing. Some players really don't care how it looks, but there comes a time when it does become painful, then your training becomes affected. So for all of us whose ears 'break', there comes a time when a good pair of ear guards will be necessary.
I borrowed a variety of brands from friends and purchased a few to test on the mat for practice. Instead of bashing any manufacturers, I'll describe some of the types that did not work for me. As someone who likes to ply the top (pass the guard a lot), the fit is very important to me. I found that a lot of brands using a hard plastic material for the straps kept sliding off. The time it became annoying was when passing the guard and trying to maintain pressure with my head and upper body. Some brands also presented a large problem during triangle escapes and passes where an opponent was try to set up the triangle. The other major problem with some manufacturers was the choice of material on the inside of the 'cup', or part that covers the ear. Some brands did not allow sufficient ventilation to allow for good hearing. Others a contained material that actually irritated the ear I was trying to protect is I was suffering from inflammation.
With all that said, my recommendation is … (drum roll please): Cliff Keen's Soft Halo Ear Guards. I tried some of Cliff Keen's other designs, including the Intensity and regular plastic Halo but ran into the same trouble with the hard plastic or unusual strap designs. The problems with the hard plastic are all discussed above. The problem with the intensity, which I would be wary of when shopping around for any ear guards was that the cup protecting the ear stuck out (protruded) a little too much for jiu-jitsu practice. The cup part would eventually get caught on the uniform of my opponent and twist the whole assembly around, often blinding me. The Soft Halo didn't have any of these problems, and therefore comes with my recommendation as the brand to buy. It is also completely washable, and lightweight.
Copyright 2001 Paulo Isidoro