A surprising number of these questions come from guys. Which, I suppose, is understandable. While it's not super unusual for guys to have hair that is quite long, Most of them don't have a lot of experience when it comes do doing anything other then brushing it, and maybe throwing it in a low elastic to keep it back. There are lots of ladies asking as well, but they generally have a better idea or starting point at least. So, this post is for everyone who has medium to long hair!
Your best option will depend on your hair length. Some techniques work better for shorter hair, and some for longer hair. How much time and dexterity you have to commit to your hair is also a factor. I'll do my hair differently depending on how much time I have. Generally, the longer it takes, the better it will stay contained, so keep that in mind.
For all of these styles, I generally tie up the hair i'm not focusing on with an elastic, to keep it out of the way so that it doesn't tangle in while I'm trying to tie up, or braid other hair. It's an extra step, but it's quick, and saves time in the long run.
One thing that is important to remember is that for Jiu Jitsu( and MMA, and judo, and pretty much all combat sports), you aren't allowed to have any medal or hard plastic in your hair (or on your body for that matter) when competing. So those handy dandy medal flat clips are a nogo for competition. I don't like to use them for training either, because if they popped open then could poke someone in the eye or something. When it comes to elastics, they can't even have that little medal bit that holds them together that some have.
Jaw Length or Less
Let's start with the shortest length that you really have to worry about it, When your hair is down, it's about jaw length. Any shorter then this, and it doesn't really get in the way. In theory, these techniques could work for shorter still, but Probably aren't worth the effort. My hair was this short in mid-2012. You basically have 2 options. 1. Braids, 2. pony tails/pig tails/ typing it up. I will use those three terms to mean the same thing, wrapping an elastic around hair to tie it up.
When hair is this length, you are going to need a bunch of elastics, no matter which way you go. It's to short to tie all in one place. I generally went with 4-6 sections, until it got a bit longer, then could get away with 2. When hair is jaw length, or less, you don't have to worry to much about it laying on the mat and getting knelt on, or getting in the way of your collars, the main problem is it getting in your face. So we need to take the hair on the top of your head, and tie it back.
The second with a commentary. These are filmed with my phone, so it was a bit tricky having such a small "mirror" to work with. If your hair is jaw length or less, you can stop braiding after the french braid is complete, and tie it up securely with an elastic or two. You don't want to use the big chunky elastics I used in the video though, they will come loose easily, use smaller ones that you can get really tight.
The shorter your hair is, the more of these braids you are going to want to do, and the less hair you are going to want to add with each section, or else it will fall out.
My hair is currently to long to properly demonstrate this technique, but I do have some pictures from the past, sporting the pony tales. The concept is the same, whether you are go with braids or pony tails. Split the front 1/4 to 1/3 of your head(from about your ears forward) into 4-6 equal parts and tie them back individually. The shorter your hair is, the more sections you want.
This picture is kind of far away, but you can see the ponytails sticking up/back a bit and see my hair is nicely out of my face and out of the way. This picture is a much better close up. This was my 4th fight of the day and you can see, on the right side, it's getting a bit lose and messy. The good thing is, it's quite easy to repair this style so if it comes out, it won't take long to fix.
Once your hair gets a bit longer, you can use less sections. Between the transition of the jaw length, to the really annoying length, I tied it in 2 sections to keep it out of my face. It takes less elastics, and less time, but is less secure.
When your hair is jaw length or less, like I mentioned before, the back of your head's hair isn't really an issue, but, you can't do much about it anyway, it's to short to tie into anything sensible, that wouldn't actually get more in the way.
Shoulder Length Hair
Once your hair is shoulder length, you have to start worrying about the back of your head. That hair will end up on the mat when your on the bottom of side control, mount, or even playing guard, and nothing is worse then trying to bridge, or shrimp, or move your head, and having your own back, or your opponents knee on your hair stopping you!
There are a LOT of ways to deal with this hair, from supper lazy and not that effective, to fairly time consuming and very effective.
A basic Pony tail. Just gather all your hair up in the middle of the back of your head, and tie it up. This is quick and dirty, and will keep it out of your face, and a bit out of the way. But, it'll fall out quick, and will still give you a lot of trouble.
- Take your pony take from option # 1, and fold up the tail and wrap a bunch of elastics around it. I show the beginning of this in the pony tail video above, but just take that, and add a pile of elastics around it. Only 1 will hold up to the warm up, but as soon as people start touching your head it all comes undone. This is what I do when I am in a rush. a basic pony tale is not effective at my current hair length, because it still gets under my shoulders. The down side to this method is, it can get a bit bulky at the back, depending on your hair length/thickness, and then popping your head out of guillotines and bow and arrows and so on can be a bit tricky because your hair will create a hook for their arm to stay on.
- Pony tail and braid. This is a pretty solid option if you have an extra minute or two. Do a basic pony tail, then braid the hair from there (a regular braid, not a french braid). You can then wrap the braid up in a kind of bun, and it'll be pretty sturdy. When I am a little bit less lazy, this is how I do my hair. Here's a pic from training of the pony tail + braid.
- Dual French Pony Tails. Yea, I just made that term up, because I don't really know how better to describe it. You take the concept of french braiding (adding hair as you go) and apply it to pony tails.
Dual French Braids. Split your hair in half, and french braid it down to the end. With #4 and with these french braids, I like to take the ends, and tie them up, just like any other style. They make less of a bump when they have been braided or pony tailed down to the end, so it's a lot better this way, then a regular pony tale bunned up.
This picture, you can see the results of french braids, tied up, after a bunch of matches. It's gotten a bit messy, but it's still pretty well contained. This picture, I didn't tie the braids up very well, and you can see, if I was on my back, they'd be on the floor, not quite idea.
This picture of Uriah Faber shows the technique I show with french braiding the top half. His braids are a lot smaller, and therfore more secure. If I had the time, and arm stamina, I'd do it this way.
Roxy has rocked some pretty awesome corn rows. Her stylist got creative and zigged and zagged. That would be nearly impossible to do yourself, so you are on your own if you need a tutorial on it. I could do it to your hair, but not my own.
This picture of Miesha and Ronda show the french braids, and a take on the french pony tales. As you can see Miesha's hair is already coming undone, this is why most of the ladies go for corn rows. Ronda's hair is pretty excellent, it's a more complicated french pony tail style, where she has multiple starting points that each have hair added, then they all get put together and braided at the back.
Finally, there are some girls and guys out there that use a swim cap to keep their hair contained. Some swear by it, but I don't think I could handle it. My hair get so sweaty and I get so hot training, I can imagine having my entire head encased in rubber/plastic. But, the option is out there for you if you want to give it a try.