For hundreds of years, practitioners of martial arts have used their skills for many purposes. They have successfully fought off attackers using nothing more than their hands and feet. They have wowed audiences around the world with their athletic prowess and amazing discipline. And they have reached out to teach the next generation of martial arts students, instilling confidence in young people and helping them face the wider world.
If you are ready to join the ranks of past martial arts practitioners, you need to get off to the best start possible, and that means choosing the right equipment. And no matter which martial arts you choose to pursue, the choice of mat will be fundamental to not only your comfort but your long term success with this ancient art form.
To the uninitiated, all martial arts mats may look the same, but the masters of this ancient pursuit know better. They know that there is a real difference in martial arts mats, including the popular jigsaw mats that allow enthusiasts to take their workouts with them.
Jigsaw mats have a number of built-in advantages, starting with their portability. With a jigsaw mat, martial arts enthusiasts can enjoy their favorite pastime virtually anywhere, from the grass at the local park to a corner of their own living rooms. But how do you choose the best jigsaw mat for your money, and what should you look for when you start shopping for the perfect martial arts mat? Here are some key considerations to help you choose a great martial arts mat.
The Type of Material
When choosing a martial arts mat, the choice of material can be key. Understanding the PU/EVA ratio and how it impacts the thickness, comfort and durability of the mat is an essential first step in the shopping process.
Martial arts mats are comprised of various kinds of materials, including EVA, polyethylene and polyurethane. The majority of martial arts mats on the market today use a combination of materials, mixing the qualities of these materials into a blend that is strong and durable yet comfortable and forgiving.
Unlike other mat materials, EVA does not contain any rubber. The combination of buoyancy, softness and flexibility make EVA a popular choice for jigsaw mats. EVA is also UV-resistant, making it the perfect choice for outdoor use.
PE foam, also known as polyethylene, is another common component of martial arts mats. Known for its waxy appearance and superior shock absorption, PE foam is an excellent choice for all kinds of athletic mats.
Last but not least is polyurethane, also known as PU. The open cell structure of polyurethane makes it extremely good at cushioning shocks, and that helps account for its popularity in martial arts mats. But while PU is great at absorbing shocks, it does not have the same stability as either PE or EVA. For that reason, martial arts mats often use a combination of polyurethane and other materials, giving the finished product a combination of stability, strength and buoyancy.
While ascetics should always take a back seat to durability and quality, the grid pattern is still an important consideration. After all, you will be looking at the jigsaw mat you choose every time you practice your moves, and a pleasing pattern could matter more than you realize.
There are many different grid patterns on the market, from single color mats to mats that use complementary colors and unique shapes. When choosing a mat, think about the most pleasing pattern, then make your choice accordingly.
The density of the material is a key consideration for any type of exercise mat, including the jigsaw mats used for martial arts. The denser the foam, the softer and more forgiving the mat will be.
On the other hand, a thick mat could make it harder to perform certain martial arts exercises, and it is important to weigh the pros and cons carefully. If you practice martial arts at the local gym, you can try out several densities until you find the one with the right balance.
Compression to Zero
The journey to martial arts mastery is a long road, and you will be learning from your mistakes. That means you will be hitting the ground lots of times, so compression to zero is a vital consideration when choosing the perfect mat.
As the name implies, compression to zero refers to the force it takes for the mat to compress completely. This is an important rating, since it relates directly to both the comfort and the durability of the mat. There is no perfect compression to zero rating – you need to choose the mat that is most comfortable and useful to you.
One of the biggest advantages of jigsaw mats is their expandability. If you are new to the world of martial arts, you can start out with a small mat, one that fits comfortably into a corner of the room.
As your skills increase, you can expand the original jigsaw mat, taking advantage of the additional space to try out all the new moves you are making. But before you expand, you need to take a close look at the jigsaw teeth – not all martial arts mats are compatible with one another, and the new mat may not fit seamlessly with the ones you already own.
Whether you are partial to karate and kickboxing, Kung Fu and Tae Kwon Do or one of the dozens of other martial arts, the mat you choose will impact your comfort and your ability to stick with your workout. The tips listed above can help you find the perfect mat, so you can get your new practice off to a great start.