Veggie head

Don’t worry, I am not about to lecture you on the virtue of being a vegan or anything. Considering I’ve been mostly following a paleo diet for the last few months it would be quite hypocritical of me! No I am going to talk about a topic that can be very divisive among grapplers…cauliflower ear.

Just reading “cauliflower ear”, you probably had one of the following reactions:

  1. You thought about your own mangled ears
  2. You thought “oh my god that’s my worst fear!”
  3. You thought “oh my god I can’t wait to get them!”

It seems to me that there are two main schools of thought where cauliflower ear are concerned. Those who see it as a badge of honor that they earned through hard work on the mat and those who see it as horrible disfigurement they never want on their own body.

I recall in my very early days of BJJ a conversation where someone asked my coach how to prevent cauliflower ears. My coach’s answer was that he didn’t know (an answer that could have been guessed by looking at his ears). He added that he had actually tried to get them when he was younger because he thought they looked cool. I have seen various guys at the gym develop some cauliflower and then proudly show it off to the rest of us. I have seen other guys buy headgear that they religiously wear to every class (despite much ridicule) in an attempt to stave it off.

So why am I bringing this up? I have been giving the topic a lot of thought the last few weeks because I feel like my ears have been hurting a lot. Not awful, always there kind of pain but something I notice when I lay on my side at night.

This is not the first time I have thought about it. I had my ear mashed good about 6 months ago and I thought for sure it was going to get cauliflowered. I did a lot of soul searching about it at the time. Could I handle having cauliflower ear? If I didn’t get it was this a wakeup sign that I needed to finally invest in some headgear and start wearing it? Well I didn’t get cauliflower ear and I didn’t buy headgear but I still don’t know how I feel about rocking cauliflower ear.

Part of me sort of wants it. It’s like a trophy you’ve earned from your time on the mats. And it makes you look tough. I know that when I visit other gyms I often feel a little more respect for the guys with the mangled ears. After all they’ve put their bodies on the line to earn that respect. And it’s a subtle way of letting everyone know who they’re messing with.

I wouldn’t pick a fight with Dan if he had normal ears either.


But as a woman I am not sure I can pull off the cauliflower look. Women aren’t supposed to have disfigured ears!  Many women have the advantage of having long hair to hide their ears but I rock short hair (best decision for a grappler, no more hair adjustments in the middle of a roll!). Am I willing to stare societal norms in the face, point to my mangled ear and say “I don’t care what you think!”?

I haven’t bought headgear even with the latest ear pain. I don’t plan to…I am a freak on the mat as it is, I don’t want to add to that 🙂 My ears take a lot of abuse and have not cauliflowered  yet. I am starting to think that I am just not genetically inclined to get it. But if the day comes that I do get it, I don’t think I’ll care. I think I’ll even be a little bit happy, after all I earned it! And hey if it’s good enough for Ronda, it’s good enough for me.

This is what happens to someone who makes fun of Ronda’s ears

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8 responses to “Veggie head”

  1. ChampionChallenge2013 says :

    I think of cauliflower ear as the tramp stamps of MMA…

    1) You can suffer hearing loss from cauliflower ear.
    2) No matter what your GF/BF thinks, 99.99% of employers would disapprove of cauliflower ear.
    3) If your ears do get injured, you’re unlikely to get permanent cauliflower ears IF you treat them promptly.

    In BJJ, a lot of cauliflower ear comes from wrenching your head out of positions with brute force instead of using technique… so you probably haven’t really gotten it yet because you’ve been doing things right!

    • camamyd says :

      Ha, I love “the tramp stamps of MMA”! I would definitely treat my ear if it swelled up. I’d be ok with a little bit of cauliflower but don’t actually want to look like Dan Henderson and definitely don’t want to lose my hearing. And you are right, obviously my superior technique is what is saving my ears 🙂

    • slideyfoot says :

      Nicely put. Yeah, I have no desire to acquire cauliflower ears either, for the reasons you mention. At the same time, it does annoy me to hear double standards, which popped up recently on a Facebook thread.

      Many times I’ll see men talking about how they think it makes them look tough, it’s a ‘badge of honour’ etc, but the mere mention of a woman with cauliflower ears is met with horror.

      If some see it as a badge of honour for men, then they should equally see it as a badge of honour for women.

  2. Jon says :

    I had a funny conversation with one of the guys at my club on this subject but in a different vein. He likened cauliflower ears to wedding rings. For example, when guys are out and about on the prowl, the first thing we look for is a wedding ring. When were out and about on the mats, the first thing we look for (besides belt color) are the ears. Both denote a measure of caution…

    • camamyd says :

      Yeah usually when I see the cauliflower ears on a new training partner I figure that means he probably has been wrestling for a while and I fear him.

  3. cant get pregnant says :

    I haven’t bought headgear even with the latest ear pain. what you always do with your ear pain ?

    • camamyd says :

      My ear pain is usually not that bad when I am rolling, I only tend to notice it at night when I am laying on it constantly. If it was bothering me when I rolled I would probably buy the headgear and wear it until my ears felt better.

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