The Importance of Holiday Open Mats

The Importance of Holiday Open Mats

With the 4th of July holiday upon us, many academies will be cancelling regularly scheduled classes and replacing them with the traditional holiday open mat.  There are a number of positive things that these training session can provide.  They can be a nice change of pace from the typical class format. No matter what your belt level, as long as it's okay with your instructor and coaches to come to the open mat, you can find a great deal of value in spending your day off getting some good training in.

These special open mats can be a great way to burn off some extra calories before you hit the family barbecues and dinners.  It's also an opportunity to train live with a number of teammates and training partners that perhaps you don't get an opportunity to train with because of schedules.  The open mat can be a good time to put the techniques you've been working on in class to the test in a more live scenario.

Here are a few things to consider when heading to that holiday open mat to make sure you and your training partners get the most out of it.  If you're brand new to open mat, keep in mind some super simple basics before anything.  Make sure you warm up, as there's typically not a standard warm up like during the normal classes.  Unless people start sharing techniques, which can happen, there's not usually a traditional technique based focus.  This is all you putting your BJJ into practice.  Here are some tips to get the most out of it.

Open Mat Tip #1:  Have a plan

It's a good idea to always have a general plan when you approach a training session.  Unless you have endless free time or train professionally, having a plan or goal, can make sure you get the most out of your sessions.  In regards to a holiday open mat, the plan can simply be "have fun and burn some calories".  Or it can be something a little more focused, like "work from bad spots" which would be a good plan if you're trying to work your escapes or perhaps you are preparing for a tournament and want to make sure you have inoculated yourself to those bad spots and can get yourself out quickly against different partners.  By simply having an agenda for your session, you will increase the benefit of the session exponentially.  

Also, be mindful of the other person's plans. This does not require a verbal discussion prior to rolling (although it could), but it should become apparent once the person starts rolling.  Do you best to match their pace, intensity, and work your game plan or plan and try to enjoy the roll as much as possible.

My goals with any holiday open mat are usually pretty simple.  Try to roll with as many people as I can, for as long as I can.  If I'm rolling with someone with less experience, I will work a lot of guard and escape techniques, trying to stay defensive and let them establish a game.  If I'm working with someone of similar rank, I will attempt to implement my game plan.  With someone of higher rank, I will attempt to work my game plan, while also being a little more relaxed and trying to observe what they are doing.  For me, I'm slightly less worried about them achieving a particular submission as trying to take some mental notes and see if I can steal anything from their game and implement it in mine.

This year, as I prepare for a tournament in about 30 days, my goals are going to be a little different.  First and foremost, I want to maximize the training minutes I have with very little rest, if any.  Also, I will be working to stay in control of positioning, but staying on top and implementing an offensive game plan for an entire match, unless it's with someone with very limited experience, or someone smaller than me.  In those cases, to keep preparing for the tournament, my goal will be to keep moving and burn out my cardio.

Open Mat Tip #2:  Have fun and enjoy the ride

Holiday open mats should be fun.  These events can be great social, team-building sessions where people who don't often stay long after class to get a lot of extra mat time in, can spend quality time interacting and rolling with all of their teammates.  This can be just as important as any actual techniques being shared.  

If your academy has an open door policy for open mats allowing for other schools and affiliations it's important to be welcoming and respectful of your guests.  They, of course, must do the same.  If you happen to be visiting another school or on vacation, it's wise to be early, introduce yourself, and roll as respectfully as you can.  It's not the time to try to beat anyone up if you are more experienced.  You are representing your home academy and that shows in how you treat people even more than it does with your technique.

Open Mat Tip #3:  Reflect on the session

 Just as it can be helpful to go into a session, even a more relaxed session like a holiday open mat, it can be extremely helpful to walk out with some takeaways.  Did you follow your plan?  Why was or wasn't it successful?  Did you learn anything new?  What are some things that you can work on once you get back to regular class.

Open mats can be a great measuring stick to gauge our progress and to show how our technique is going to fair in a more realistic environment.  And since regular classes are typically cancelled for the day, holiday open mats tend to bring more people and bring us more opportunity to grow and to learn.

Our performance at open mats can sometimes send us home with lots of stuff to work on.  One of the best ways to fill those holes in your game is to check out the resources available at BJJ Fanatics.  For instances, let's say your guard or your guard passing could use some work.  In that case, it would be wise to head over to BJJ Fanatics and check out Leandro Lo's "The Lo Guard and Matrix Passing" course available in DVD and On Demand formats.

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