The Ultimate Guide to Building a Martial Arts Facility

Opening a martial arts or MMA training facility is one of the most exciting ventures a professional athlete or coach can undertake.

It’s also one of the most daunting. Making the transition from athlete to coach, or coach to business owner, comes with much more added responsibility than just practicing or teaching your craft. There are also a ton of considerations that must be made when it comes to opening your facility. Where should it be located? What should it look like? Which products do you need to train your students well? This is all on top of having what it takes to run and market a successful business.

Sound like a lot of work? We believe you’re ready and are here to support you every step of the way.

If you’re serious about opening a martial arts studio or MMA gym, you’ve likely already put a lot of thought into the above questions. But sometimes the answers aren’t clear.

As a business who has worked with countless MMA, martial arts, fitness, and yoga studios across the globe, we here at Zebra Athletics have seen our fair share of facilities. We’ve helped some of the industry’s leading BJJ, MMA and other martial arts professionals put their facilities on the map, and now we’re here to lend our facility design expertise to you.

This guide will walk you through some of the most important considerations you must make when designing and building your martial arts training center and your business.


Looking for something specific? Skip to one of these sections below.


Key Considerations When Opening a New Gym
Getting ready to open a new business? Find out everything you need to know before you start planning your facility.

Choosing the Right Size Facility
How much space do you need? Find out how to size your facility based on your class sizes, martial arts discipline, and other needs.

Designing and Laying Out a Martial Arts Facility
Where should you place your mats? How should they be configured? What about common areas? Reception desks? Find out how to design the best facility possible.

Making Room for Other Essential Products
Find out how to design a space when considering rings and cages, training bags, weight-lifting rigs, and everything else your gym needs.

Customizing Your Gym to Your Brand
It’s your gym; build it your way. From the colors you choose to matching your brand and covering all the awkward spaces you have, we’ll show you how to build your dream gym.

Installing Zebra Mats and Other Products
Need help prepping floors, installing mats, building rings and cages, or hanging bags? We have all the printable resources that can help you get it done.

Design Inspiration from Leading Zebra Facilities
Had enough reading? Get some design inspiration from leading Zebra facilities all over the world! We’ll show you some of the best facilities in the business.

Have questions about this guide? Get in touch with us and let us know how we can help!

Key Considerations When Opening a New Gym

It only needs to be said once: the location of your facility can be critical to its success, not only because it will dictate how far your students will have to travel, but also because the size of the space you rent/buy will determine what type of training space you can set up.

When choosing a location for your martial arts facility, consider the following:

  • Its proximity to residential areas and your target business audience
  • Available parking either onsite, in the street, or in nearby lots/ramps
  • Its proximity to other facilities that offer the same types of martial arts training

You want your gym to be located as close as possible to as many of your clients as you can. Where do your potential clients live? Are they in a city, the suburbs or rural areas? Take the gym to them, rather than making them come to you.

Try locating your gym in an area where your target customers frequently go (shopping areas, etc.). This is a great way to expose your gym to them. It’s free advertising by location.

Target Customers

How do you know who your target customers are? The most important thing you can do is determine the following about them:

  • What is their age range?
  • What is their level of skill in their martial arts discipline?
  • What are their goals for training?
  • Which types of martial arts are they interested in pursuing?
  • How far are they willing to travel to attend training sessions?

Getting to know your target audience and where they are located will help you choose a facility location that is best for your business. If your facility isn’t placed in a location that is convenient to your target audience, they may begin to look elsewhere.

Beware of Overcrowding

Research your potential locations carefully. You want to achieve the best mixture of potential clients and competing gyms. The more people that live in an area, the more likely there are to be competing gyms.

Try not to locate yourself in an area that is awash with competition, but also be careful not to place yourself too far outside of your clients’ reach, either. Find a place in a certain area where there is a need for a gym like yours.

Further Reading





Choosing the Right Size Facility

Once you have an idea where you want your facility to exist, it’s time to choose the right building to rent, purchase, or, if you have capital, build from the ground up. Sizing your martial arts or MMA gym is a critical step in the process of opening a facility. Choose something too small and you severely limit your options as far as the types of classes you can offer. Choose something too large and you will likely be paying for unused space.

Keep in mind that not all martial arts disciplines require the same amount of space. A modest jiu jitsu or aikido facility only needs space, depending on the class size, for a layout of mats with one center ‘ring’. An MMA or Muay Thai facility will likely want to include room for heavy bags and racks, rings/cages, and an additional weight training area.

When thinking about the ideal square footage for your facility, consider the following questions:

  • How many people will your typical class have?
  • How many rings will you need on your martial arts mats?
  • Will you be using an enclosed sparring ring or cage?
  • Will you be including a weightlifting or fitness area, or a section for bag workouts?
  • Will you need additional space for a pro shop, reception area, office space, storage, etc.?

What Do You Want to Offer Your Students?

It’s also important to consider the amenities you want to offer your students. In particular, will you need a locker room/changing area? Will that area turn into two areas, one for men and one for women? Will it include showers?

Think about the minimum amount of space you need for your facility and what you can afford. Then build upwards from there, adding in new space for any additional areas you need to successfully run your business.

Designing and Laying Out a Martial Arts Facility

Getting down the final details. It can be hard to imagine exactly what the interior of your facility will look like, even if you’re standing right in the middle of it while you read this. But the layout of a martial arts or MMA training facility is important for reasons both aesthetic and utilitarian.

The Basics of Facility Layout

You want the design and layout of your gym to feel inviting, which can help you if you want to grow your business. You also want the flow of traffic to be smooth throughout your facility. Nothing should look or feel cluttered to people coming and going. Students shouldn’t feel confused as to where they need to go when they arrive. Your design should make the building easy to navigate.

It’s also important to give every student and class the space they need to train comfortably.

Some thoughts to consider on martial arts and MMA facility design:

  • Your mat, ring, and/or cage training areas should be the center of attention at your facility
  • Create a social space that is an inviting and clean area where people can just sit down and hang out. Social time in facilities is important for growing martial arts communities.
  • Place weight training sections towards the back of the facility and by ample storage space for extra equipment.
  • Sections for bag training can be kept close the walls, allowing for trolleys and racks to be easily mounted.
  • If possible, any office or storage areas should be enclosed and kept out of sight.
  • Add new lighting to brighten up the space.
  • Add pictures and graphics of fights, lifestyle and training photos, or even local art.
  • Declutter: organize your facility from the front desk to the back of the space. If things must be stored in the open, keep them clean and well organized.

Choosing the Right Facility Flooring and Martial Arts Mats

The flooring and the mats you choose will be one of the most important decisions you can make for your business. The surface students train on is important for their safety, their confidence, and their perception of your business. Serious students will go where they can feel safe and comfortable while rigorously training, and parents will bring their children to places where they can rest assured that the chances of them getting hurt will be minimal.

Thickness Matters in Martial Arts and MMA Mats

There are three basic thicknesses for mats suitable for martial arts and MMA training:

  1. 1-inch mats: Provides secure footing for stand-up martial arts training. Ideal for disciplines like Karate, Taekwondo, Kickboxing, etc.
  2. 1.5-inch mats: Provides secure footing for striking while offering cushion for light takedowns. Ideal for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Aikido, etc.
  3. 2-inch mats: Firm enough for stand-up martial arts while the need for subflooring is minimal, if not eliminated. Enough cushion for throws or hard takedowns. Ideal for MMA, Judo, combat sports, Jiu-Jitsu, and law enforcement training centers.

Need More Information? Sign up to receive our guide to choosing the right mats for your facility.

Alternative Types of Facility Flooring

There are a few other options that some martial arts and MMA gym owners may choose to consider when designing their space:

  1. Roll Out Mats: Gyms may often have several rollout mats taped together in training rooms. These mats are typically quite large, with a standard measurement of 40’ x 40’, and often come with several rings outlined on the vinyl surface.
  2. Puzzle Mats: These budget-conscious mats feature interlocking sections and are a simple way to mat a room. They come in multiple thicknesses and are often used in traditional martial arts, striking sports, and other stand-up fitness activities requiring a lightly padded floor.
  3. Rubber Flooring: Generally used for weightlifting and cardio fitness areas. Our Rubber flooring comes in rolls as well as puzzle mats. Can also be used for reception and other common areas of a facility.

See the pros and cons of choosing different types of mats for your facility.

Design a Facility Layout with Zebra’s 3D Rendering Technology

At Zebra Athletics, we want to help you achieve the vision you have for your martial arts or MMA facility. That’s why we offer an exclusive 3-D design that allows owners to see their gym before they finalize their design and make their purchase. Over the past 20 years, we’ve worked with tens of thousands of gym owners and professionals all over the world to help them design their dream facility. From the smallest dojos to the largest facilities in the world, everyone deserves to have a training space fit to their needs. Zebra has worked with facilities of all size in nearly every martial arts discipline.

Don’t settle for a just another 2-D floor plan. Get an exclusive 3-D walkthrough of your future facility with Zebra!

Zebra has partnered with Axonom, a worldwide leader in marrying Visual Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) software with Virtual Reality (VR) experiences to bring their 3D Product Configurator to our customers. This technology allows us to use an interactive floor space planning tool (FSP) to create, customize, and furnish each room in your facility. From floor and wall pattern automation to drag-and-drop placement of Zebra’s training products, Powertrak 3D allows even the finest details to be accounted for in your design, all in a real-time virtual reality environment.

Want to get started right away? We’ll put you in touch with a facility design specialist for a free consultation and a no-obligation quote.

Choosing the Right Mat Layout

There are many ways to design a mat formation. Different mat layouts provide certain benefits to different facilities and the types of students they teach. Depending on the class size, type of martial arts practiced, facility size and layout, and teaching style, one of these mat layouts may be right for your facility:

  • Single Color Mats with Printed Logos: This mat formation creates a uniform look by using a single color of mats with a single mat placed in the center printed with the facility’s logo. This layout is ideal for smaller facilities, as uninterrupted space appears bigger to the eye.
  • Border Colors: This mat formation features a block of single-color mats surrounded by a border of mats with a contrasting color, with each of the two colors generally echoing the most prominent colors in the facility’s logo. The lighter color mats typically make up the majority of the mat space while the darker color forms a contrasting border around the edge.
  • Single Ring Space: This mat formation consists of a single center ring, allowing coaches to gather students in a single place when demonstrating techniques. Single rings also serve as a space to highlight student matchups at the end of class.
  • Defined Ring Spaces: Larger facilities with bigger spaces and classes often choose to have several square ring spaces defined by a uniform mat color and outlined with a contrasting mat color. This makes for an ideal setup when managing larger classes with several sparring partners practicing all at once. For facilities with children’s programs, defined rings can help students identify where to go and allow coaches to break them into smaller, more manageable, groups.

Standard and Custom Wall Pads for Unique Spaces

Zebra wall pads lead the industry in protection and style! Not only do we have standard 4’ and 6’ wall pads fit for most facilities, we also supply custom wall pad heights, widths, lips, colors, and logos!

It’s vital to cover every space with appropriate padding in order to keep students safe while they practice. General wall padding is not always going to do the job, even if you try to cut and shape it yourself.

Not every space is the same shape. Some have poles and support pillars, others have complex nooks, corners and other awkward spaces that interrupt otherwise flush walls. It’s important to account for these spaces, especially if they are near training areas.

If you have a lot of awkward, exposed spaces in your facility, work with your mats provider to order custom walls and pole pads to safely cover them up.

Further Reading






Tired of reading? Just want to talk to someone about your gym plans? Get in touch with a facility design specialist today!

Making Room for Other Essential Products

If you train in MMA or one of the striking arts, you’ll need more than just mats to fully outfit your facility. These are some of the essential products your facility may need.

Training Bags

Heavy Bags: Weighing in at 4ft tall and 100 lbs. Heavy Bags are perfect for stand-up striking and most high kicks.

Muay Thai Bags: Available as either 100 lbs. or 130 lbs. The length of Muay Thai bags makes them perfect for high and low kicks as well as other striking techniques.

Uppercut Bags: Uppercut Bags feature ultra-durable outer skins that are cross-stitched and filled evenly from end to end. Reinforced heavy duty nylon straps allow this bag to be hung at multiple heights.

Aqua Bags: Water Training Bags have a unique teardrop shape that allows for the delivery of powerful combinations, including deep uppercuts. Energy is absorbed, giving you the ability to train harder and longer. Their design eliminates settling and hard spots common in traditional heavy bags.

Punch King Heavy Bag: Made from a durable synthetic leather shell that is extremely tough and resilient, yet economical. These heavy bags are manufactured for the rigors of both gym or home use. They are professionally packed with shredded poly fiber material and have a balanced center weight and foam rubber inside liner that keeps the bag’s cylindrical shape and alleviates settling. Punch King Heavy Bags are finished with ultra strong nylon-reinforced seams that increase durability and top hanging D-rings that make the bags easy to install.

Punch King Muay Thai Bag: Made from a durable synthetic leather shell that is extremely tough and resilient, yet economical. These muay thai bags are manufactured for the rigors of both gym or home use. They are professionally packed with shredded poly fiber material and have a balanced center weight and foam rubber inside liner that keeps the bag’s cylindrical shape and alleviates settling. Punch King Muay Thai Bags are finished with ultra strong nylon-reinforced seams that increase durability and top hanging D-rings that make the bags easy to install.

Punch King Wall Mounted Striking System:
We are excited to introduce a smaller, lighter version of the original bag, without sacrificing the benefits of the larger product. The bag retains the same patented targeting striking points, making it ideal for gyms that want to maximize space or simply in the garage. At 30-40 pounds, the bag is a fraction of the original bags. The custom mounting system allows either wall or post mounting freeing up room space.

Bag Racks, Hangers, Trolleys

Wall-Mounted Single Bag Racks: Made from strong steel that can be easily mounted into wood studs or concrete, and accommodates heavy bags up to 200lbs.

Floor-Mounted Single Bag Racks: Mounted directly into concrete subfloors, this industrial steel bag rack supports bags up to 300lbs.

Bag Rack with Cage Panel Walls: Install our cage panel walls in your facility and mount your bags above or beside them. Can be done with floor or wall mounts.

Multi-Station Bag Racks: Offers hanging options for a variety of heavy bags. Industrial steel I-beam sections can be added in 5’ or 10’ sections to fit your space. Zebra’s specialized curved option allows your rack to make a 90 degree turn if desired. Can be done with floor or wall mounts.

Rings and Cages

Zebra’s MMA Cages are designed with a unique, “no bolt” frame system that makes them easy to set up, disassemble, and move with ease and without sacrificing structural integrity. Used by leading facilities like Invicta FC, Zebra Rings and Cages are the ideal sparring solution for every boxing and martial arts facility.

Zebra Showcase Series MMA Cages

Zebra Pro Series MMA Cages

Zebra Training Series MMA Cages

Zebra Showcase Series Boxing & MMA Rings

Zebra Pro Series Boxing & MMA Rings

Zebra Training Series Boxing & MMA Rings

Customizing Your Gym to Your Brand

It’s your facility, and it should be built to match your training style, brand, and the students you train. How do you make a facility unique to you? Here are several ways to customize your facility:

  • Develop a unique and well-defined brand for your business
  • Choose mat and wall pad colors that match your brand
  • Add custom logos on mats and wall pads
  • Invest in custom logos printed on training gear and fightwear (gis, rash guards, gloves, mitts, etc.)

Installing Zebra Mats & Other Products

Good news — you don’t have to be a trained carpenter or contractor to install Zebra mats and training equipment. We’ve assembled all the easy-to-follow installation guides and how-to videos you’ll need to build out your facility, from floor to ceiling, and start to finish.

Prepping Your Floors for Installation

Mat installation begins with prepping the floor that the mats will be installed on top of. Martial arts mats can be installed on top of most types of flooring — concrete, wood, tile, etc.— so long as the flooring is prepped properly beforehand. If, for some reason, you have mats on your floor that are attached or glued down in some way, you will need to remove them.

Here’s what you need to know about prepping floors for martial arts mats installation.

Design Inspiration from Leading Zebra Facilities

10th Planet

10th Planet

10th Planet

ATA Headquarters

ATA Headquarters

ATA Headquarters






Checkmat Headquarters

Checkmat Headquarters

Checkmat Headquarters

Checkmat Headquarters

Pedro Sauer

Pedro Sauer

Pedro Sauer

Ready to Get Started?

Building a gym from the ground up can feel overwhelming at times, but don’t let that stop you from chasing your dream. Zebra’s design specialists are here to help bring your vision to life and guide you each step of the way – from design and product selection to installation and maintenance.

Tell us more about your project and we’ll be in touch right away.

Are you ready to dream with us?