Everything You Need to Know About Tatami Mats

Whether used for martial arts training or yoga practice, tatami mats are a great surface option for your facility. These high-quality mats are comfortable, provide stability and excellent surface grip, and, most importantly, will protect you and your students while you train. 

Zebra Mats and Yoga Tiles are available in both tatami and smooth surfaces, but what exactly is tatami? And what are tatami mats? Is tatami the right training surface your facility? Before you make a purchasing decision on your martial arts mats or yoga tiles, learn more about this type of flooring. 

What is Tatami?

Tatami is a traditional rice-straw texture traditionally used in Japanese flooring. It has been used for centuries in Japanese homes and martial arts training centers. Today, traditional rice straw flooring still exists, but most tatami mats are made from other materials.  

Woven tatami mats are textured; your feet naturally grip its surface. This allows for greater stability and balance during martial arts and yoga training. 

The Difference Between Traditional Tatami Mats and Tatami Zebra Mats

Zebra does not use rice straw as the material in our Mats and Yoga Tile tatami textures. This is because rice straw is not a very durable material. It’s also susceptible to rot and moisture damage.  

Zebra’s Tatami Textured Mats are specially designed to replicate the natural rice straw texture of traditional Japanese tatami mats, which are known for their comfortable texture that allow for better grip.  

Zebra adds its high-quality waterproof vinyl to the mix to create a tatami-textured mat that offers superior grip for stand-up martial arts, reduced mat burn and a strong resistance to mold and humidity.  

Are Tatami or Smooth Mats Better?

There is no objective “better” when comparing smooth and tatami mats. It comes down to what is better for your facility and style of martial arts or yoga training.  

Tatami-surfaced Zebra Mats are slightly denser and firmer, providing the highest level of surface grip for fast movement. The density of tatami Zebra Mats is 14 lbs. per cu. ft.  

Smooth-surfaced Zebra Mats are less dense and softer, allowing for more cushioning on top of providing a surface that helps prevent mat burns. The density of smooth surface Zebra Mats is 12.5 lbs. per cu. Ft. 

Tatami mats are more ideal for: 

  • Karate 
  • Judo 
  • Aikido 
  • Hapkido 
  • Taekwondo 
  • Traditional Gi Jiu Jitsu 
  • Yoga 

Traditional Zebra mats and yoga tiles feature a vinyl covering with a smooth texture that is resilient, waterproof and comfortable to practice on. These mats offer excellent stability and grip while eliminating the issue of mat burn. Smooth Zebra Mats are slightly less dense than tatami-textured mats, making them a bit softer and more ideal for: 

  • Mixed martial arts 
  • No Gi BJJ 
  • Combat sports 
  • Law enforcement training 
  • Yoga 


Need help choosing between tatami and smooth mats? We can help! Get in touch with a Zebra sales representative to have all your questions answered today!