Do you know what the one thing is, that we can not do Jiu-Jitsu without? It’s not space, it’s not gear, it’s not even a training partner (this last one is debatable). Although some might disagree, the one essential for training BJJ is Jiu-Jitsu mats. In fact, any kind of grappling martial art requires the presence of mats in order to practice safely and effectively. In the old Judo days, the choice of mats was limited at best, but today there are too many options. Today we’ll focus on what to look for in Jiu-Jitsu mats and which brands out there are the best!
So, Jiu-Jitsu mats. What do we actually know about them? As I found out when researching for this article, not plenty. Well, ok, now I understand more but before I got into it I took them for granted. As do many grapplers around the globe. Even those that are in charge of outfitting gyms with them do not really bother too much with the what’s and hows. In this article, we’ll try to see what types of mats are out there, how they’re built and which are the best ones for your academy.
Also, we’ll spear a word or two about how to keep your mats clean and bug-free. After all, people rolling around on a daily basis is bound to put some wear and tear on any mat. If you do not take care of the mats they’ll be unusable very soon. Even worse, they might become a breeding ground for fungi or bacteria which will empty an academy faster than you tap to an armbar. So, be wise when you go about choosing the best Jiu-Jitsu mats for your academy. Here are our 5 cents on the subject:
Mat Types, Structure And Qualities
IN our quest to learn as much as we can about Jiu-Jitsu mat, we must first look way back. In fact, we’ll go as far back as the early days of Juod in Japan. While people back then used to train on hard wooden floors they soon figured out it was not worth it. Working with what they had, the Japanese came up with the first martial arts mats. The first mats were just rectangles filled with straw. they offered both a soft surface and one that did not interfere with grappling itself.
Today’s modern mats are no longer filled with straw. In the interest of practicality, there are modern materials that offer a much better training environment. Namely, today’s mats are made out of a rubber-like polymer that makes them have that specific rubbery yet still foamy feel to them. They offer both hardness, softness and can absorb much more force than the original “tatami” of old. Furthermore, today’s mats are laid out in layers of material, making them much more durable.
In terms of qualities to look for in JIu-Jitsu mats, a few stand out. First and foremost, you need to be aware of the material inside the mats. Of course, the more eco-friendly and affordable it is, the better. Next, you need to inquire about thickness. Thicker does not necessarily translate to better for BJJ training. As a rule of thumb go thicker than Karate mats, but not as thick as Judo mats. The surface also plays an important factor as you should avoid too slippery or very rough surfaces. After all, our faces end up all over the mats on a regular basis.
Of curse, easy maintenance and long-term durability are also important aspects to consider.
The Best Jiu-Jitsu Mats:
Now that you know what you should be looking for, let’s see what’s on the market. Basically, when you gout looking for BJJ mats, you’ll end up choosing one of three types. You have the more than usual puzzle mats which fit into each other. Next, you have the rollout mats, which are becoming more popular. Finally, folding mats are a great choice as well. These last ones are similar to the style of Judo mats, only linked together instead of each being separate.
When it comes to choosing the type of mats, it’s down to your personal desires and gym requirements. When it comes to mat manufacturers, though, not all mats are equal. To that extent, the following brands have proven to be superior to all other in every way possible:
Everlast Folding Mats
First of all, folding mats – what are the advantages? Well, to be frank, the name says it all. You walk in, unfold the mats and you’re good to go. OK, it does take a tiny bit more effort than that but it’s as easy as it gets. Rollout mats are easy to use on different locations, easy to transport and even easy to keep to one side of the gym if someone else is using the space apart from your BJJ academy.
The Everlast folding mats are made from durable, non-abrasive modern material. They have a very smooth surface and do not retain odors. Furthermore, if you need them for portability, they have built-in handle once you fold them. They’re the perfect choice for any academy, regardless if you plan on moving them or not. Not really expensive either.
Dollamur Rollout Mats
These are all the jazz lately. Roll out mats are slowly but surely taking over from puzzle mats. Just as puzzle mats did from the old school Judo ones which never really fit together tightly.
Once again, like with the folding ones, these mats are perfect for both temporary and permanent use. They’re really compact once they’re rolled up and are extremely easy to set up. It makes deep cleaning of the academy really easy, as you can reach beneath the mat surface whenever you want to. For a more permanent solution, you get rollout mats, roll them out and stick them together with mat tape. Now you have a smooth surface with no cracks whatsoever.
The Dollamur rollout mats are 1.25” thick which makes them perfect for BJJ. As an added bonus, they’re really light and require no strength to set up. They also boast state of the art antimicrobial surface that guarantees germ-free training.
IncStores Puzzle Mats
Despite the rise of rollout mats and the ease of use of folding mats, puzzle mats still rule the scene. For now, at least. In that sense, these type of mats come n a variety of shapes, sizes, and brands. This is where you really need to pay attention. As far as brands go, stick in IncStores and you won’t regret it. In all honesty, they make a mean rollout mat as well.
The IncStroes puzzle mats, though, are their number one product. They’re made of foam and a rubber polymer and fit together much like a jigsaw puzzle. The dimension of one tile are 3×3 ft and the thickness is an inch. With tile mats, you get no overlap, no gaps and you can customize them to any space you might have. However, setting them up takes quite a bit of time, especially on your first try. These are your best solution if you’re the goal is a permanent setup.
A huge advantage of IncStores puzzle mats is that you can buy them with beveled edges so that the ends have no jigsaw pieces. Also, they come in reverSeemlless, color and reversible different colored sides so you can combine them at will. IncStores makes them gray and black and the more usual, red and blue.
Greatmats is a company that works specifically with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu mats. They focus entirely on the needs of people that train BJJ, and as such offer all kinds of mat types. They have the “mandatory” puzzle mats, rollout mats and folding mats. Greatmats even make the traditional Judo-style mats, only without the straw.
The puzzle mats are the real deal. They’re made of EVA foam with a specific surface texture added later. They’re also thicker than usual at 1 5/8″ but are quite compact. As such they offer a great surface both for training throws and for rolling.
In terms of their folding mats, the cool thing is that they can serve a double purpose. You can use them in the traditional manner, covering the ground or use them as wall padding. In that sense, they feature hook and loop connectors to make installation easier.
Finally, whichever mats you decide to use, you need to look after them. Yes, that involves cleaning them on a regular basis. No matter the brand or mat type, no mats are going to last you a lifetime. In order to get the most out of the mats, you need to know how to take care of them.
Regular vacuuming is a given, there’s probably no need to even mention it. However, this is not the full extent of mat hygiene. Even with mats that have built-in antimicrobial surfaces, you need an extra wash to remove any potential germs. As such, a dilution of one part bleach to ten parts water can do the trick. So can a lot of commercial products. Just watch out for abrasive ones, as they can easily damage the mats. Spray them up and then wipe it all thoroughly. That way you’ll get years more out of your mats.