Creating A Mat Space

So, you’re thinking of adding some mat space to your home? Well, as someone who’s done this already I have some points of advice to offer. The first thing to consider is what you’re going to be using this mat space for.

Skill Set Requirements
Ground Work At minimum some padding is needed – puzzle mats will work if all you’re doing is ground work with no standing component.
Takedowns A 1.5″-2″ thick mat is a good idea for takedowns. Some padding underneath the mat is usually recommended as well.
Throws High amplitude throws will require at least a 10′ ceiling. A 2″ thick mat and a sprung floor system are highly recommended for any throws.
No-Gi Due to the mat burn from a tatami texture, you’ll want a smooth surface mat (MMA surface) if you’re planning on using it for no-gi.

My floor was to be used for judo, BJJ, and wrestling, both with and without the jacket. My basement has a pretty good height – a bit over 9 feet. This means I can’t do high amplitude throws like kata guruma, but I can still do some high impact throws such as harai goshi or harai makikomi. Since I wanted to do judo throws I chose a 2″ thick Flexi-roll mat and a sprung floor. My instructional and the two blog posts about my experience are below which  include a couple of pictures if your needs are about the same as mine. It should be noted that I recommend a different layout in the foam than what I used because my corners ended up not stiff enough. This has become less of a problem since I tightened my border, but the recommendation stands.

If your needs are different than mine, consider the table above. You can also consult with whatever company you’re buying your mats from to see what they would recommend. Each manufacturer makes mats out of different density foam so it’s possible that they may recommend a thicker or thinner mat for your purposes. In general puzzle mats are less expensive and some companies even boast that their puzzle mats can be used directly on concrete for judo (I wouldn’t believe that).

As an additional variant to sprung floors – you can find what is essentially very thick carpet padding and use that under your mats. It’s relatively inexpensive. Fight Prime TC in Madison was using this as a solution under the mats they had when I first went to visit. Even high amplitude throws were good on their setup which was just a 1.5″ mat on top of the pad directly on concrete. If you’re worried about height because you’re on the cusp this is a solution which will save you a couple of inches over the full sprung floor, but I can’t speak for how well it will hold up over time.

My Instructional
Day One
Day Two

14 thoughts on “Creating A Mat Space

  1. Hey, could you please elaborate on that carpet padding method? Is it just multiple layers of shag carpet, and how high? Thanks.

    • Carpet padding is a foam that goes under carpets. It comes in different materials and thicknesses. You should be able to pick some up at Home Depot. Rener has a video about making the Gracie Academy mats and they actually use a method really similar to this – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehb7tfvrXe8. I thought it was pretty cool and it’s essentially what you’d be doing in this case with a pre-assembled mat instead of your own closed cell foam and vinyl cover.

      Lay down 0.5″ of carpet padding over your area
      Lay down your mat on top of that (the mat is just foam with a vinyl cover)
      Frame them in to keep them from sliding around

      To be honest, it might be worth laying down two layers of carpet padding (1″ thick) and using a 2″ thick mat. I’m not super familiar with the carpet padding method so take that with a grain of salt, but that’s all Fight Prime had when I first showed up and it was pretty comfortable to fall on.

      • Thank you so much for your reply. I’m in the process of opening my own dojo, but flooring is giving me a huge headache. I’m a karate practitioner so I don’t ” technically ” need a super thick floor, we mainly do stand up with a few take downs. However, I’ve been exploring my forms lately and reading up on practical applications and I’ve found karate to be full of judo throws! Down the road I want to hire a judo teacher to help me with my new found karate throws. This means I need a floor suitable for karate and judo. I don’t want a bunch of mats that I have to get out every time we throw. Especially since I would like to eventually merged the two style aspects together. My floor is concrete so I’ll definitely need a sub floor. I can’t really afford a ton of tatami or gymnastic mats, but I want my students to be safe. Do you think puzzle mats on top of carpet padding on top of a foam spring floor would be suitable? Thank you.

    • That depends on your puzzle mats. To be honest, if you’re getting puzzle mats designed for grappling (check out Zebra or Great Mats) you’ll likely not need the carpet padding. Denver Judo lays this out as an option that was used at the 2004 World Masters in Austria. Mat surfaces

      If you’re using the kind of puzzle mats typically used by karate/TKD schools I’d recommend first consulting the manufacturer to see what they say, but I don’t expect that this will be the appropriate density for falls even if it’s used on a sprung floor. The sprung floor helps absorb impact and take the edge off of being slammed, but I’d still not want to take a fall directly on the plywood so the top material is more about comfort and cushioning in my opinion. Having said that, too soft of cushioning and you’ll have problems with people’s feet sinking so I think tatami, a tatami-texure roll-out mat, or a tatami-texture puzzle mat is going to be your best bet for doing both karate and judo/jujitsu on. There’s also debate about people learning on firmer flooring surfaces having better ukemi out of necessity.

      There are a few ways to get around the cost of tatami. One way is buying mats used. This is a great option if there are large judo tournaments around you. Some tournaments rent the extra mats and it’s not unheard of for the rental company to sell them to anyone who’s interested at a used price rather than transporting them back. Roll-out mats with a tatami texture like the ones made by Swain and Zebra aren’t as comfortable as tatami, but work fantastically. They’re much cheaper than tatami and can be cut to your floor size so you don’t need to roll them up (you can roll them, but you can also just tape them together, use a sealant, and leave it forever – many MMA schools go this route due to cost). They’re also not so soft that you should have to worry much about students wrecking their knees trying to do spinning side kicks on them (not fun when it happens – again, why it’s a good choice for MMA where striking and grappling are on the same surface).

      In the end, if you’re doing the sprung floor anyway I don’t think the carpet padding is a worthwhile investment unless you’re building your own mats a la Rener Gracie.

      • Thank you for the advice, it’s greatly appreciated. Right now I’m leaning towards the grappling puzzle mats. On top of a sprung floor, is that an option you personally would enjoy falling on ? As far as the roll mats go, I haven’t been able to find any two inches thick with a tatami surface. I’m still looking into used tatami but I am having poor luck.

      • I think that’s a fine floor for falls. It should provide the appropriate level of comfort/safety. After that it’s just about having good ukemi.

        Since the puzzle mat option you’ve chosen will likely be cheaper these probably aren’t still useful, but here’s the links for Swain. The 2″ has to be ordered for custom sizes so you’d have to call for pricing unless your space is an even multiple of 5′ (the site notes 6×12 is a standard size also – it is not).

        Swain (custom sizing): http://swainmats.com/flexi_custom.asp
        Swain (5×10): http://swainmats.com/store/store/comersus_viewItem.asp?idProduct=19

  2. I feel much more comfortable with the puzzle mat set up now that a judoka such as yourself has endorsed it. If I decide to definitely go that route my mind will be at ease. If I could scrape up the funds though, it would be nice to say I have an Olympic quality floor “swain”. Thank you so much for all of your help it has been invaluable. One of the things I love so much about the martial arts is the great community. Even between differing styles the respect between true martial artists is a breath of fresh air. When I get my floor set up I would love to send you some pictures.

  3. I know you posted this a long time ago but we are planning on ripping up our carpet and putting down wrestling mats not only for my grappler son but for my gymnast daughter. DId you seal it to the floor?

    • No sealing to the floor is necessary for how I built my mat system. If you’re using light mats like I did (roll-up mats) they’ll slide around a bit if you just set them on the floor directly and you’ll want some kind of a frame to hold them in. However, if you’re building a sprung floor the frame will hold the mat in place and the weight of the floor will keep it from moving around.

  4. I was thinking of making a mat with a subfloor (the one from the youtube video made by Las Vegas Kung Fu, a post about it was made on Judoinfo), and then either putting a Dollamur Swain Smooth/Hybrid mat on it or putting the homemade mat as shown by the Gracie’s on their YouTube tutorial. I was wondering if this is possible? (It will be used for Gi/No Gi BJJ and Judo.) Which mat would be best and does the subfloor interfere with BJJ?

  5. I was thinking of making a mat with a subfloor (the one shown on YouTube by Las Vegas Kubg Fu, there is a post about it on JudoInfo) and then either putting a Dollamur Swain Hybird/Smooth mat on top of it or doing it how the Gracie’s did at their Torrance Academy (YouTube video on it by Rener). I was wondering if this is possible and which mat I should use? (It will be used for Gi/No Gi BJJ and Judo). Will the subfloor interfere with BJJ practice?

    • A subfloor shouldn’t interfere with BJJ. If it’s stiff enough it takes a bit of force to make it more than just a soft floor and actually get the rebounding effect.

      Either solution mat solution you’re proposing should be possible. As long as the mats fit on top of the subfloor it’s just a matter of preference as to what kind of mat you use. For both gi and no-gi I recommend a smooth or MMA texture as opposed to tatami textures.

      • I’m thinking of going with the Dollamur Swain Hybrid because it is a half tatami, half smooth which is supposed to give the best of both worlds and I think it would benefit both Judo (because of the tatami) and BJJ (because of the smooth). You have any experience with this type of mat?

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