When it comes to designing your own martial arts centre, the possibilities are limitless. You get the opportunity to make it look exactly how you want it, from the colour of the mats to the specific mat layout of the training area. You can tailor it to the needs of the trainers and athletes.
Yet with all the possibilities, it’s hard to settle on what you need to properly utilise your gym. You don’t want a single centimetre of your training centre to be dead space that could be better put to use.
Let’s discuss some way to make the most out of your training centre. This article is going to focus on the most popular mat layouts for both sparring and competitions using 1m X 1m jigsaw mats. If you’re interested, we have another article on setting up your training centre using Judo mats, 1m X1m and 1m x 2m high density foam mats with anti-slip bottom.
Although each gym owner has a different idea of how to arrange mats for their gym, the tips and tricks that you find below can help you make an informed decision on how to best set up your own gym. Adapt any of these layouts to best fit your own needs and training style.
The Best Mats for Each Sport
The most important decision to make when purchasing mats is what thickness you’ll need for your sport. Jigsaw mats come in three different thicknesses: 20mm, 30mm, and 40mm. For striking sports, like Taekwondo, Kickboxing, Boxing it’s recommended to use 20mm mats because they offer pressure reduction and strain protection for competitors who are barefoot, in shoes, or boots.
The least expensive and lightest mats, 20mm jigsaw mat are also incredibly easy to tear down and set up. However, 20mm Karate Jigsaw Mat with 80kg/cbm of density, the perfect mats for striking sports, offer very little padding for falls and resistance to falls. The higher the foam density, the more impact resistance because the mats can take a lot more impact before compressing to ‘zero’, the point where an athlete will hit the floor.
There are some 20mm mats with a density of 120kg/cbm, and these are more suited to sports that are primarily striking but also involve some ground work.
The next size up is 30mm jigsaw mats, a mid range thickness with varying densities and grips. These mats are ideal for MMA, and other combat sports that involve ground work. They are light enough for staying on your feet, and provide enough cushion for takedowns.
The thickest mats offered on British Martial Arts Mats are the 40mm mats. The UKBJJA (United Kingdom Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Association) recommends 40mm mats with a density of 230kg per cubic metre for the tatami (training surface) 1. British Martial Arts Mats offers a 1mX1m Judo Mat made from chip foam wrapped in a PVC outer shell with an anti-slip base, which is 40mm thick and has a density of 230kg/cbm, perfect for BJJ. These Judo mats also pass a critical fall test of 1.5m, making them incredibly safe for combat sports with throws from chest height.
There are also 40mm jigsaw mats which are perfect for mixed martial arts, wrestling, aikido, and jiu jitsu where throws and ground work are predominated. We offer reversible mats in four different colour combinations—black/grey, red/blue, red/black, and blue/black. These colour combinations allow for multiple may layouts for both training and competitions.
Competition Mat Layouts
There are three words that define Karate, all starting with the letter ‘K’ in English: Kihon, Kata, and Kumite. Kihon refers to the basic techniques that are taught and practiced as the foundation of Karate. These movements aren’t worth a lot unless learned to be strung together in complex combinations in a fight. This is where Kata and Kumite come in2.
Kata means forms, the specific set of movements that are performed in the same way. There are competitions in which judges critique the techniques of combatants.
Kumite involves competitions where two combatants square off against one another, using forms and techniques to score points against one another.
The World Karate Federation stipulates an 8mX8m square ring made of athletic mats for Kumite competitions, with two metres of safety space around the outside of the combat area3. Besides the combat and safety areas, the WKF also specifies 1m border around the whole competition area in a different colour than the safety area.
Two mats, each one metre from the centre, are inverted, with the red side turned up. This forms a boundary between competitors. When resuming combat, the competitors will face each other on their corresponding starting places.
Mat of Choice for Karate Training and Competitions: 20mm Karate Jigsaw Mats High Grip
WAKO (World Association of Kickboxing Organisations) states that the fighting space (referred to as the Tatami) should be 7mX7m in all WAKO world and continental championships4. They also stipulate a “one metre no entry matted safety boundary must surround the fighting area.” These mats must be non slip and interlocking.
Mat of Choice for Kickboxing Training and Competitions:30MM BJJ JIGSAW MATS
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
The International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation suggests a competition space of 8mX8m for regulation matches, and a 10mX10m ring for championship matches5. According to the IBJJF guidelines, the tatami of 8m x 8m includes both a combat area (6m X 6m) and a one metre border. The outside 1m border is distinguished from the fighting area by using a different coloured mat. Also, an additional safety border of one metre can be used as deemed necessary.
According to the International Boxing association, boxing rings should be 6.1 metres square6 covered in no more than 20mm thick mats7.
Mat of Choice for Boxing Rings: 20mm Karate Jigsaw Mats
Four Different Layouts for Your Training Centre
Setting up a training space requires a distinct set of principles than setting up a competition. Getting the most use out of the space available allows you to have more students in each training session.
However, safety should certainly be taken into consideration when bringing more students in. A good rule of thumb for training space comes from the British Judo Association8: the minimum training space for an athlete under the age of 12 is 3m X3m, whilst an athlete over the age of 12 needs at least 4mX4m of space to train in. Using reversible jigsaw mats, with two different colours on either side, allows for easy to identifiable training space for each athlete.
Sticking with one uniform colour can be one of the simplest ways to set up your training centre. This layout style works best if you train older athletes who don’t need as much help spacing themselves out in the training space. Also, it works best if you pair the colour of the mats with the primary colour of your logo. A gym with a single colour palette can look incredibly sharp, especially if it’s a bright, primary colour like red or blue.
If you have less than 2m of safety area between the wall and the training area, include wall pads in that same colour to create a floor to wall symmetry.
One major drawback with going with a single colour is that there are fewer opportunities to define the training space, allowing you to space out your athletes. However, after a session or two, adults and teenagers will have no problem spacing themselves out.
Border Around Training Area
Some gym owners choose to use contrasting colours to differentiate between training space and safe spaces used for walkways. Usually, the inside is a lighter colour than the border, and both colours are typically taken from the gym logo. This style can be incredibly helpful for larger gyms with two metres of room between the walls and the training area.
A border also allows for spectators to gather around the periphery of the training centre without disrupting the training session. A vividly coloured border can signal to those who are not involved in the training session where they can stand, allowing the coach leading the session to not waste any time in needless explanations.
Individual Ring Spaces
For larger gyms, a vast space can be split into several rings with the use of contrasting coloured mats. This layout allows younger participants to become acclimated to the size of a competition ring. Splitting the training area into several competition sized rings can also provide sufficient safety space for walkways to move foot traffic through your space.
One Ring Space Surrounded by Individual Training Space
Allowing for multiple uses, this hybrid mat layout lends itself best to competitive training centres. Having a single ring can allow coaches and students to gather to work on technique and provide feedback. Also, it allows a competition space for students to square off at after the training session has ended. With a full sized competition ring, you can allow your younger and less experienced athletes to gain experience in the ring in a safe, controlled environment of your gym.
All the information provided in this guide is general in nature, and as such cannot be relied upon as professional advice for the design of sporting facilities. Check with your local martial arts association to learn more about the rules that govern your sport. All the links below in the sources for this article are great jumping-off points for further research on designing your own training centre.
Author: David Van Kooten