The fighting surface of an MMA gym forms the foundation of all future training, and the best MMA mats provide cushioning for falls, grip for fighters, and prevent injuries. Mixed martial arts is a hybrid sport, drawing together many combat sports disciplines under one umbrella. Therefore, the martial arts mats that you use need to be tailored for the use of different fighting disciplines, focusing on creating the optimal fighting surface for grappling, throws, trips, striking, and groundwork. In this article, we’ll discuss what MMA mats are made from, the different types of MMA mats, and how to maintain them.
What are MMA mats?
Mixed martial arts is often referred to as ‘no holds barred’ fighting, so fighters have many techniques at their disposal. It’s common to see fighters switch from trading blows whilst standing, to transition on to the ground with a well timed throw or takedown. As a result, the mats used in MMA training need to be multipurpose, having both surfaces that promote grip, whilst also being thick and dense to prevent injuries from falls. in addition, the surface of MMA mats should prevent friction burns when athletes are on the ground.
Ultimately, MMA mats are the most important form of personal protection for athletes.
MMA mats should also be well suited for both training and competitions. You may want to create a full-sized ring in your gym, so that your athletes can train in a competition atmosphere. The mats offered at British Martial Arts Mats work brilliantly for both training and competitions, and our XPE Tatami line of mats have been featured in international competitions like WUKF 4.
What are MMA mats made of?
MMA mats are made from different types of foam materials, and are great for cushioning falls and preventing injuries. The most popular type of foam used for MMA mats is EVA foam, which stands for ethylene-vinyl acetate. EVA is a closed cell foam which is formed from thousands of tiny pockets of gas and has great shock absorption properties. EVA is incredibly durable and is also water resistant and can be used outdoors.
Another type of foam used in martial arts mats is XPE foam, also known as cross-linked polyethylene foam. XPE is made using a technologically advanced manufacturing process, wherein the polyethylene particles are cross-linked, creating a netlike structure. These mats are incredibly strong, dense, and durable, able to take repeated abuse and return to its original shape time after time. XPE mats have great thermal insulating properties, and are used in the automotive industry to reduce heat caused by friction. XPE mats are also a closed-cell foam, which is resistant to moisture.
Types of MMA Mats
There are many types of mats to use for an MMA training centre. Some of the best include judo mats, rollout mats, and jigsaw puzzle mats. Each has their own benefit and drawbacks. Judo mats are thick, high-density foam mats made from reconstituted foam, recycled PU foam which has been bonded together under high temperatures. This foam has tremendous cushioning ability, and PU foam is commonly found in crash mats. Roll out mats are made from durable XPE foam, and are so named because to deploy them you simply have to roll them out. Stored in large cylinders and easy to use, just simply grab a training partner and roll out the mats. Each roll out mat has velcro strips which hold the mats together, even during intense training sessions. But the gold standard for MMA training centres is puzzle mats. One of the most versatile endurable types of mats available is MMA jigsaw puzzle mats. Jigsaw puzzle mats have individual connector pieces which lock into each other, creating a hard to break connection. Puzzle mats are easy to assemble and easy to cut to fit any room.
MMA Mat Size and Thickness
There are many types of mats of varying sizes and thicknesses which you can use for your MMA gym. When you’re trying to find the perfect mat to outfit your gym, the first two things you should consider are the size and thickness of the mats you’d like to purchase. Price also factors in, but the price of the mats that you purchase depends primarily on the size and thickness of the mats. Let’s examine these two factors:
MMA mats come in a variety of sizes, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. For example, the most commonly purchased type of mat is the jigsaw puzzle mats, which are 1m by 1m. Easy to cut and customise, these work best when creating a bespoke mat layout. However, if you have a lot of space to work with, larger roll out mats may be best to cover your mat space. Rollout mats come in three lengths—3m, 6m, and 12m—and they’re easy to set up and tear down. Another type of mat you should consider is the Judo mat, which is available in 1m x1m and 1m x 2m sizes. The large 1mX2m size comes in handy when creating a full-sized ring for your training centre, as they are available in many colour combinations, allowing you to easily differentiate between training space and safe zones.
Since there are so many martial arts traditions meeting on one mat, the most important consideration is protecting against impacts from throws, trips, and takedowns. Let’s talk a little bit about the thicknesses of different mats.
There are three different types of thicknesses that martial art mats come in: 20 mm, 30 mm, and 40 mm. Each different thickness of mat is perfect for different martial arts disciplines. 20 mm mats are great for standup sports like karate, Tae Kwon Do, and boxing, sports that primarily involve kicks and strikes from a standing up position. Some 20mm mats have a higher hardness level, which provides a solid footing for balance when performing complex combinations.
30mm mats are the next level up, and are perfect for combat sports that straddle the edge between stand up and ground game, like MMA. They provide enough traction to provide solid footing for quick blitzing strikes, whilst also having enough cushioning ability to prevent injuries from impacts. The 30 mm mats offered on British Martial Arts Mats are some of the best mats available in the UK, especially the XPE Tatami line of mats, which feature a nonslip tatami surface.
40mm mats offer the greatest protection against falls from a critical height of over 1.5m. These mats are perfect for grappling sports that focus on takedowns and throws. In fact, 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. So If your primary focus is Brazilian jujitsu, jujitsu, or judo, and you dabble in mixed martial arts, then I would suggest purchasing thicker mats to protect against falls from critical heights of 1.5m.
Where to Use MMA mats
- Training surface: Of course, the primary use of jigsaw puzzle mats is for the training surface. There are many ways to layout the mats in your gym, from individual training spots to full competition sized rings, but since many of the mats offered on this site are double-sided with two colours, you can use contrasting colours to create different spaces. If you’re interested in learning a little more about different mat layouts for your training centre, consider checking out this article in our blog Martial Arts Ring Sizes.
- Walkways: One of the perfect ways to break up the fighting surface is to use different coloured mats to create walkways through the training centre. These walkways are ideal for allowing movement in and out of the training surface, and this allows you to maintain social distancing procedures. Consider purchasing two different kinds of mats, as that will open up more colour possibilities and allow you to properly space out a training centre. For example, make the fighting surface blue, safety spaces red, and then purchase grey/black mats for the walkways and change rooms. That way, visitors to your training centre will never get confused about where they should stand and new athletes will see exactly where to go.
- Change rooms: Change rooms are the perfect spot for foam mats as well, as it creates a comfortable, anti-fatigue surface for people to change. Foam mats are also water-resistant and easy to clean, which makes maintenance easy, even in high-traffic areas like change rooms which may come into contact with outdoor shoes.
- Safety Areas: Consider having safety areas in a different colour to provide a visual cue for all athletes to stay back when training is underway.
How to maintain MMA mats
Proper upkeep and maintenance are required to prevent damage to your mats and to keep your athletes safe from harmful bacteria. Luckily, cleaning your mats is a relatively straightforward process: just sweep off all dirt and debris and then clean with a mild sanitising solution. Also, in order to prevent scuffs and indents, avoid walking on the mats with shoes that have sharp treads or high heels. One suggestion is to make a rule that no outdoor shoes are to be worn on the fighting surface. If you’re interested in learning more about how to maintain your mats, check out this article: How to Clean Martial Arts Mats.
MMA mats FAQ
- What is MMA good for?
MMA is a combination of great martial arts disciplines like jui jitsu, boxing, karate, judo, and wrestling. It’s a great sport to get a grasp of many martial arts techniques, whilst also gaining cardiovascular endurance. There are competitions for MMA throughout the world, and the top athletes in the world gain recognition through their tenacity and skill.
- What’s the difference between thickness, density, and hardness
Although thickness and density may seem identical, all three are distinct qualities in MMA mats. Thickness is the physical height of the mat and has nothing to do with the density. Density is the mass of material packed into one cubic metre of space. Mats with a higher density can resist compression better than mats with lower density, making them ideal for higher traffic areas.
Another thing to consider is the hardness of a mat. Hardness is measured in Shore C densities, which come from the Shore C durometer machine used to determine hardness. Most foam mats range from 30 to 55. Mats with a 35 Shore C are softer and excellent for impact absorption, whilst mats that are a 55 are firmer and provide solid footing for balance. The EVA mats at British Martial Arts Mats range from 30 to 45 Shore C, but there’s one mat on the site which tips the scales at 61 Shore C: The Indoor Walkway EVA Jigsaw Mat. The Indoor Walkway EVA Jigsaw Mat is an ultra high-density mat which is ideal for taking the regular wear and tear of an indoor walkway or a change room.
If you’re interested in learning more about thickness and density, check out our blog post What Martial Arts Mat Should I Buy?
- How much do martial arts mats cost?
Just like any piece of fitness equipment, quality and quantity factor into the price of each individual martial arts mat. Even two mats of the same thickness could be priced differently based on the density level or material used. Let’s look specifically at two different jigsaw puzzle mats: MARTIAL ARTS TATAMI JIGSAW FOAM MATS 20MM 80KG/CBM RED BLUE KARATE and the XPE TATAMI 20MM JIGSAW MAT. Both mats are 20mm thick, the thinnest mats available, and yet the Martial Arts Tatami Jigsaw mats are less expensive than the XPE Tatami mat. The reason is that the XPE Tatami line of mats are made from XPE foam, a superior foam for cushioning falls than EVA foam, which the Martial Arts Tatami Jigsaw mats are made of.
Many martial arts disciplines fly under the banner of MMA, including BJJ, Judo, or Jiu Jitsu, and depending on the primary martial art you practice, purchase mats that fit your style. If you focus your training on a discipline that focuses on grappling, like BJJ, then it would be best to purchase a thicker mat, like 30mm or 40mm mats. However, if you practice karate, purchase a harder, thinner mat, like a 20mm. With all the above considerations swimming around your head, you might like a little clarification. Reach out to us with the chat box in the right-hand corner if you have questions.