Grappling and groundwork are the basis of many martial arts and mixed martial arts practices. They also can be painful if you’re not practicing on the right surface. While basic foam tiles (like puzzle mats) may provide some protection, they are not the ideal mats for grappling arts like jiu jitsu. Sure, they can work, especially if you’re on a budget, but if you’re looking for the best grappling mats, here are the options you’ll want to consider.
What’s the Right Mat Thickness for Grappling Arts?
Realistically, any thickness of martial arts mats can work for grappling, even 1” mats. But not if you’re focused on optimal performance and comfort. Most gyms that focus primarily on grappling and groundwork opt for one of two martial arts mat options: 1.5” mats or 2” mats.
Does that 0.5” of extra thickness really help when it comes to grappling? That answer comes down to one word: takedowns. Most gyms that focus on grappling and groundwork can get by with 1.5” mats, but you’ll want that extra half inch if you are practicing takedowns, throws, slams, or more heavy grappling and groundwork.
TLDR: choose 1.5” mats if you are working on standard grappling and choose 2” mats if you are working on takedowns and throws. That extra half inch will make your training much more comfortable and help reduce injuries.
Tatami vs Smooth Surfaces
Some people love tatami surfaces because of the added grip and stability while on the mats. Others prefer a smooth surface, as they feel it’s more comfortable to roll and wrestle on. Surface texture can be a matter of preference, but there is something else to consider when it comes to choosing between tatami: whether you practice in or out of a gi. Tatami is best suited for standup martial arts because it provides additional grip under your feet, but it can also be used for grappling in a gi. For no-gi grappling, you’ll likely be better off using mats with a smooth surface.
Note: Zebra tatami mats are made with a tatami textured surface, not real tatami. Our smooth mats are also covered with very slightly textured vinyl to add stability.
TLDR: choose tatami mats for striking arts and grappling in a gi. Choose smooth mats for no-gi grappling and MMA.
Grappling Mats for Home Gyms
If you are working out at home, another option to consider is home roll-out mats. These grappling mats can be used as a permanent or temporary training space in your home. They are easy to roll out onto any space and can safely be stored away when not in use. Whether you have a dedicated training space in your home or use a spare room here or there, these mats are an affordable and simple option for at-home grappling training. Two roll-out mats can easily be taped together to create a 10’ x 10’ training space anytime, anywhere in your home.