Guide to Martial Arts Disciplines and Appropriate Flooring for Them

Know Your Martial Arts Terminology, Origins and Fundamental Styles When Choosing Flooring for Your Training Space


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By Brett Hart

If you're gaining interest in the exciting world of martial arts and are looking to take your commitment to the next level by setting up your own home or commercial training facility, knowing where to begin can be intimidating. With hundreds of different martial arts disciplines originating from dozens of countries, how can you be sure you and your training space are speaking the same language when shopping for the safest, most durable and most appropriate flooring for your needs.

The first thing to keep in mind is - where does your discipline originate? Are you creating a dojo, dojang, gym or kwoon? While all of those terms may refer to a similar space, each has a different origin and possibly a different intent. Knowing the terminology is important. Not all martial arts are created equal as each has a different focus.

Here's a quick reference to some of the most popular forms of martial arts studios, their origin and some common disciplines performed in those spaces.

Common Names for Martial Arts Training Rooms
Dojo: training place for Japanese martial arts such as Karate, Judo, Aikido or Jiu-Jitsu
Dojang: training space for Korean martial arts such as Taekwondo or Hapkido
Kwoon: training facility for Chinese martial arts (aka Kung Fu)
Gym: general term for an American training hall for martial arts such as Western Boxing or Wrestling

Factors for proper martial arts flooring
When considering flooring for your training facility, material and construction can make a big difference in comfort, safety and ease of movements. Most martial arts flooring is made of an impact-absorbing foam material. Thickness, density and surface texture play vital roles in selecting the proper flooring for your discipline.

For striking martial arts such as Taekwondo and Karate, a high density foam is needed. If training with soft shoes a barefoot, a smooth, non-slip surface serves best to allow for proper footwork. Hard or slippery flooring can and will cause injury. A 1 inch thickness of high density foam will provide the ideal cushion and support for striking martial arts. Thatch top textures can increase the versatility and add resistance to wear and tear from shoes and boots for combat or aerobic training, but are not as gentle on bare feet.

When the majority of your sport takes place on the ground, such as in grappling or Mixed Martial Arts, you will want a slightly softer, thicker and more durable material that has a fall height rating of at least 4 feet. The surface texture should also be one that does not cause rug burns. A 1 5/8 inch thick EVA foam mat with a tatami texture is ideal for these situations. It will provide excellent support for grappling, take downs and ground work without burning the skin.

For high impact landings, you'll want a crash pad with a thickness of at least 2 inches. Crash pads are often available in thicknesses up to 12 inches with durable vinyl covers. The greater the impact, the thicker the mat you'll need. These are ideal for practicing rolls, falls and takedowns.

All martial arts flooring should be non-absorbent, chemical resistant and easy to clean. Martial arts flooring can come in many forms including, rolls, tiles or fold up mats. Generally speaking, rolls are the most inexpensive option, but can be the most cumbersome to install due to size and weight. Interlocking tiles provide the most versatility for both design and installation. They are great for permanent or temporary installations and do no call for tape or adhesives. Fold up mats are good for crash pads. You can also find large, vinyl-wrapped polyurethane core mats. These mats the most heavy-duty option. They do not interlock or connect together but are heavy and feature a no-skid bottom surface to prevent shifting.

Below is a quick guide to the top 15 forms of martial arts today.

Top 15 Martial Arts
Wrestling: Dating back to the Bronze Age (3300-1200 BC) in France, wrestling is the original form of martial art which involves throws, takedowns, grappling holds, clinch fighting and joint locks. The goal is to end the match by way of a pin.

Boxing: Born in the Iron Age (1200-550 BC) in Mesopotamia, boxing is a martial art in which all contact occurs using the upper body - almost entirely through the use of punches. The goal is to knock down or knock out the opponent

Jiu Jitsu: A Japanese martial art of close combat that began during the Sengoku period (1467-1603) using no weapons or only a short weapon. Jiu Jitsu is known as a gentle martial art. Its strategy is to manipulate the opponent's force against himself/herself using grappling techniques joint locks, throws and pins.

Judo: A Japanese martial art with the objective of immobilizing or subduing an opponent with a pin or forced submission. Established in 1882, Judo uses throws, takedowns, joint locks and chokes. Hand and foot strikes and thrusts are involved, but not in competition. Judo is one of two olympic forms of martial arts.

Muay Thai: Originating in Thailand in the 16th century, Muay Thai, originally known as Siamese-Style boxing, uses stand-up striking along with clinching techniques using fists, elbows, knees and shins.

Karate: Primarily a striking art using punches, kicks, knee and elbow strikes, Karate also utilizes open hand techniques such as palm-heel strikes, spear hands and knife hands. Karate is believed to have begun secretively in the late 1300s in Okinawa, Japan, under a fighting system know as te.

Hapkido: Primarily used for self defense, Hapkido is a Korean martial art that utilizes numerous forms of attacking methods, including kicks, punches, weapons, joint locks, grappling and throws. Weapons can include various sticks, swords, knives and ropes. Hapkido is believed to have begun in the 1940s.

Taekwondo: Also a Korean martial art, Taekwondo places heavy emphasis on kicks, but also includes hand strikes. Believed to have originated in the 1940s or 50s, it has also been known as Tae Soo Do.

Aikido: A Japanese martial art, beginning in the 1920s, Aikido is used for self defense that also avoids injury to the attacker. Its techniques redirect the momentum of the opponent's attack and finish with a throw or joint lock.

Krav Maga: A martial art developed in Israel for self defense, Krav Maga is derived from street fighting skills and combined those from Aikido, Boxing, Judo and Wrestling in the 1930s and 40s to focus on counter attacks in real world situations. If confrontation cannot be avoided, the goal is to end a fight as quickly as possible by attacking the most vulnerable parts of the body. There are no rules in Krav Maga.

Kung Fu: While the term Kung Fu refers any skill acquired through practice, it is commonly used as a general term for Chinese Martial Arts intended for self defense, hunting and military training using hand-to-hand combat and weapons. Legend has it, Chinese Martial arts began more than 4,000 years ago.

Kickboxing: This form of martial art comes in two styles, Japanese kickboxing (started in the 1960s) and American Kickboxing (started in the 1970s), but in general includes all stand-up combat sports that allow both punching and kicking.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ): A martial art that focuses on grappling and ground fighting, BJJ's roots are in Kodokan Judo ground fighting. It emphasizes the use of leverage and ground fighting to even the playing field between unevenly sized opponents. Opponents are defeated by applying joint locks and choke holds.

Jeet Kune Do (JKD): Founded by Bruce Lee in 1967, the premise behind his martial art is that it has no form or patterns, making it unpredictable and flexible. It is based on minimal moments with extreme speed, adjusting techniques for the given situation. JKD does use kicks, punches, traps and grappling techniques.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA): MMA leagues began in the United States in 1980, but were originally known as Tough Guy Contests. They really gained popularity in 1993 with the founding of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). These leagues allow various martial arts styles with both striking and grappling techniques using both standing and ground attacks.
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