The complexities of Jiu-Jitsu go far and beyond the traditional and the modern day techniques associated with the martial art itself. It is a multifaceted sport – just like any athletic endeavor – so much so that the rate of improving oneself sometimes boils down to having the right equipment.
Take BJJ mats as an example.
If you absolutely love training Jiu Jitsu on a regular basis, then chances are you have been – or are exposed – to the apparent risks of joint locks and chokes, as well as bruises and hard falls. These hazards, however, don’t just stop there, another common injury involves the dreaded mat burn.
Let us first address the elephant in the room: there are some dojos that go the unconventional, do-it-yourself route of using rubber puzzle mats from their local department store. Not only are these not true grappling mats but it the poor material can result in mat burn. These mats just don’t get the job done, plain and simple, as it exposes you – the students – to various harms.
In hindsight, proper gym matting can minimize the possibility of these kinds of injuries, damages that would keep you from preparing and competing at full capacity.
Having said that, here is a rundown of the different types of Jiu-Jitsu mats, and the most sought-after features of each.
Earlier in the article, we have talked about those DIY rubble puzzle mats used by many upstart BJJ schools worldwide. This is probably the most popular choice among institutions thanks to its affordability (compared to the other kinds of Jiu-Jitsu mats in the market) and its ease of use.
But it does not mean that you should settle for those cheap rubber mats in the toys section of your local Target.
Greatmats, for one, offers top-of-the-line grappling puzzle mats used for years by some of the sport’s greats like seven-time world BJJ champion Rodrigo “Comprido” Medeiros, as well as husband-and-wife tandem Rafael and Brea Ellwanger. The Gracie United banner even carries this type of Jiu Jitsu mat.
The 1 5/8-inch variant (also comes in the 1 1/4-inch variant) features EVA – or ethylene-vinyl acetate – foam, which gives it a soft yet durable material. It also has a no-burn tatami texture molded into the mat’s surface to lessen the risk of skin chaffing without compromising grip and stability.
To test its critical fall height rating, Greatmats even dropped a raw egg on the mat from a maximum elevation of 68 feet without breaking. It did not just come out in perfect condition, but also bounced back roughly 16 feet in the air.
Closely resembling the aforementioned puzzle deviations, are the 1x2-meter Jiu Jitsu mats. These conventional surfaces present some of the heaviest, most durable materials in the industry.
One of the more prominent innovators of traditional 1x2-meter mats is World Judo champion and four-time Olympian, Mike Swain. He has been in the business of developing grappling mats for more than two decades and has established his own brand called Swain Hybrid Mats.
Compared to the previous puzzle mats, Swain Hybrid Mats highlights a low profile tatami vinyl, which basically means 50% tatami, 50% smooth. It also has 100% high-density PU – or polyurethane – foam core and vinyl cover combination, perfect for dispersing the impact of takedowns and throws.
Aside from providing a high impact absorbing, easy-to-clean, and non-slip surface, many grappling school owners prefer using these 1x2-meter mats for its enhanced aesthetic and its odor-eliminating feature.
Folding Jiu Jitsu mats, for its part, suggest excellent versatility out of all the grappling surfaces. You can use this type of mat either as floor covering or wall padding.
This dual-purpose Jiu Jitsu mat feature a plethora of thickness and sizes, mostly – if not all – made from smooth vinyl-wrapped polyethylene foam panels. High-profile brands even have hook and loop connectors on each of the four sides so you can further spread out your training space according to your liking.
In addition, thanks to its accordion-style characteristic, you can easily use and store them in the gym. A significant drawback, however, of folding grappling surface is the obvious space in the seams and/or folds, which makes you prone to a toe, or even a finger, slip in between the mats.
The most attractive feature of the Everlast 2 x 6 mat is its ease of use. This makes it an excellent grappling mat for home use. Unlike puzzle mats, these don't require you to waste a ton of time trying to assemble them every time you want to train. You can just simply unfold it and fold it up once you're done.
This type of mat is also great if you find yourself traveling a lot for work and just want an area to drill when you can't formally train. It's also great if you need a portable warm-up mat for grappling tournaments thanks to its ease of use.
Also, the other benefit is the mats non-absorbent shell which is also easy to clean.
Roll out Jiu-Jitsu mats, in essence, is more catered toward home and/or garage gyms. Comparable to the folding version, this surface is the easiest to install, especially in small areas, as you just have to unroll and lay it flat anytime, anywhere.
Most practitioners have a preference for the 5x10-foot size with 1 1/4-inch thickness – also similar to its folding counterpart. Furthermore, the most well-known roll out grappling mats in the market today feature a cross-linked polyethylene foam core, covered with a hard-wearing tatami vinyl surface.
In the event you want to extend your Jiu-Jitsu training area at home, you can simply link multiple rollout grappling mats using vinyl tape.
You've likely seen these mats before, and you have probably rolled on them. They are all the rage lately and rightfully so. These mats like the folding ones work great for both long term and temporary use. Thanks to their sturdy construction and compact nature they are easy to set up and take down.
If you need a more permanent solution for jiu-jitsu mats for your home the rollout mats are perfect. You can easily roll them out and buy mat tape and stick them together. This is great as it eliminates cracks. Plus, the other not so obvious benefit is its easier to avoid cauliflower. Puzzle mats tend to cause cauliflower at a higher frequency due to the material they're built from and how they shear against your ears.
Just like investing in Gis and rash guards, researching, determining, and ultimately buying the best Jiu Jitsu mats entails a lot of needs analysis. Considering that there are various kinds of grappling mats readily available, it is important to put a premium on examining the type that fits your budget and lifestyle.
If you are more inclined to self-training at home or plan to start a small Jiu-Jitsu school, then roll out and/or folding mats are your main options. These grappling surfaces are known for its convenience of use, as well as its versatility.
On the other hand, if you are planning to enroll or invest in a more established dojo, then you should probably lean toward puzzle and/or 1x2-meter mats. The former is the cheaper, easier to install variant between the two, while the latter presents an ideal mix of overall quality and eye-catching appeal.