About twelve years ago our karate group was doing a fair amount of partnered arm conditioning (ude tanren) and supplemental ground training (ne waza) when one of the students developed small acne sized bumps on his forearms. These eventually spread to his torso. He didn’t think much about them at the time because there weren’t that many of them and they didn’t bother him that much. Eventually though another student developed a similar rash. It wasn’t until this second student mentioned the rash that the matter was brought to my attention. Both students went to their respective doctors. The diagnosis was herpes gladiatorum – a virus spread through close skin-to-skin contact common among wrestlers
Of course this set off everyone’s alarms. The individuals with the infections were not allowed to partner with other people until their doctors cleared them for practice and the entire place received a thorough disinfecting. After that incident we were much more more tuned into signs of infection and extra diligent about making sure that the mats and other equipment weren’t just cleaned but also disinfected.
Heavy bags, makiwara, striking pads, bag gloves, face, fist, shin, and foot protectors, and flooring all can harbor a variety of disease causing pathogens. Usually it is not enough to just wipe them down with a detergent. Many antiseptic cleaners need to sit for a few minutes to work effectively, and some recommend more than one application, and most need to be allowed to dry thoroughly. The warm, sweaty, close environment of a dojo or other fight training space is ideal for the transmission of various communicable diseases.
Creating and habituating good cleaning practices helps protect everyone. Fostering an awareness of the types of infections that commonly trouble fight training athletes helps reduce the danger of transmission.
Below I have listed a few good resources for fight trainers and students. A few minutes reading through them may help you protect your group from these nasty infections.