Does It Really MATter?
There is a lot that goes into a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training session in order for it to go smoothly. There are the materials on you, such as the Gi (or rashguard, spatz etc) and the belt, you can argue for the inclusion of tape, for both the belt and yourself; Braces are a frequent addition to our wardrobe as well. In addition to the components of what we wear to practice, there is what we are practicing on.
Often times, the squishy gym flooring is taken for granted by the people that spend hours every week getting thrown around on it, but it is one of the most important factors to consider when you’re rolling. Imagine someone taking you down with a double leg and falling onto your kitchen floor, or even the carpet in one of the bedrooms of your house- that wouldn’t have quite the same result now would it? On top of the safety and comfort perspective of martial arts mat flooring, there is the cleanliness aspect to consider. If you have ever looked at the mats of your gym after a training session, then you have seen the most ridiculous amount of sweat that you can’t believe has come from such a small group of people. Imagine trying to clean that off of a regular floor with grout or carpet pill- gross!
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The variety of Jiu Jitsu, or any Martial Arts, flooring is so much more vast than in previous years so learning what to look for is very helpful. What types of mat are there available? What are the pros and cons of the different varieties? Which one should I get?!
First, a mini history lesson from the early days of Judo in Japan: after practicing on hardwood floors for a little while they came to the conclusion they needed a little more cushion. Their solution was a straw filled rectangle to cushion the impact a little more than rigid wood, thus began the evolution of martial arts flooring. These original floors provided a surface to absorb impact, but also didn’t inhibit the actual act of grappling with projections or grooves on the surface. These remain two key factors to consider when looking for a good mat option.
So what kinds of mats have evolved from those straw-filled rectangles of old? SO MANY! The three main categories are folding mats, interlocking or puzzle mats, and rollout mats. Folding mats offer the benefit of ease and simplicity, especially for at-home gyms or schools that share space. You can walk in, unfold the mats, train and then reverse the process without too much effort. These mats often have carrying handles, so if you are a school that travels to do demonstrations or seminars a lot, then these are also a great option for you. Puzzle mats are easily customizable as far as how big of a space you need covered, and generally run on the inexpensive side. They are easy to clean, lightweight and are easily disassembled if you need to pick them up or move.
Rolling mats are much more ergonomically efficient for traveling compared to the puzzle or foldable mats. They are antimicrobial and lightweight, which is great for anyone looking for something to use at home and keep clean. If you have a larger space to cover then you can get multiple and place them together, or they are also available in a variety of sizes.
Now that you know the different options for personal Jiu Jitsu mats, or small shared gym spaces, you might ask yourself if you are ready to invest in one. If you are on the road a lot, and oftentimes find yourself unable to drop in to a local gym due to odd hours or isolated locations, a travel mat (if you aren’t flying) can be a blessing. All of the different options can allow you to practice basic Jiu Jitsu movements as well as incorporate stretching into your daily routine so you aren’t as behind the game when you return home to train. The same concept applies if you are someone that tends to miss class a lot because of personal or professional obligations outside of the gym.
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You might be unable to get to class, but you do have time to practice throughout the day at other hours; instead of going days without any muscle movement, flexibility training, or general flow rolls you could be practicing at home! Now maybe you already do set aside time to train at home or on the road, but you have just been using a good old regular floor- trust us and upgrade! You will be providing yourself a safer and cleaner environment to avoid unnecessary injury from a hard surface, or ending up with a skin infection due to hard to clean materials.
If you are a Jiu Jitsu instructor and want to have a more permanent flooring option, then those are also tricky to pick out! Of course you are always able to use the transportable options we have already gone over, but if you aren’t anticipating having to move locations any time soon then it is a good investment to lay down a true athletic flooring system. You can choose either a smooth or tatami surface, depending on your preference and what type of training you will be doing.
For example, for a brick and mortar gym, you have the ability to lay down an undermat pad and then lay down either a one or two inch thick mat across the entire gym. They are easily cleanable, impact absorbing and provide a smooth training surface. In addition to padded flooring, you will probably want to place wall padding and pole padding. All of these are widely accessible in the Jiu Jitsu world, but be sure to specify what sport you are purchasing for.
There is no doubt that Jiu Jitsu is a relatively portable sport, but that doesn’t mean you have to practice on uncomfortable surfaces! Whether you are looking to get a little cushion for your travels or upgrade your current gym, know all of the options and make informed decisions!
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