Mat Thicknesses for Striking vs. Throwing or Ground Martial Arts
What effect does the martial art discipline have on which training mats should be used?
By Brett Hart
When looking into martial arts flooring, you'll find that there is a pretty good range of thicknesses. You may also notice that mats for the striking arts, such as Taekwondo or Karate, are much thinner than those intended for Grappling or MMA. Why is this?
The simple answer is - fall impact.
Generally, unless you are knocked out, you won't be falling much when participating in Karate or Taekwondo. As a rule, thicker mats are designed to absorb more impact from falls and throws.
Karate and Taekwondo training halls need flooring that will reduce impact on joints while jumping or running - as their moves are designed to be executing from a standing or upright position.
For martial arts such as BJJ, Judo, Hapkido and Jujitsu, the body-to-floor impact level is significantly increased during the process of throwing and fallings. For that reason, foam flooring designed for these arts can be up to twice the thickness of those intended for striking arts. In many cases, studios for the throwing arts will often use landing pads or crash pads during throw training. This adds significantly more cushion to the landing process - a helpful tool for beginners just learning to break their falls.
High density foam is often the preferred material for martial arts flooring as it provides cushion without losing stability. The 1 inch thickness tends to be the crossover point between mats for striking and throwing arts.
Between 3/4 inch and 1 inch thick, most high density foam martial arts mats can provide the necessary joint protection for Karate and Taekwondo and are less expensive than the thicker varieties.
For throwing martial arts, the recommended bare minimum is 1.25 inches thick with 1.5 inches and above being preferred for shock absorption without injury.
It is important that the flooring be made of closed cell foam which will not absorb moisture and is easy to clean and disinfect. Most foam martial arts flooring of this kind comes in interlocking, puzzle style tiles. They are lightweight, easy to install, and easy to remove. Often times they are also reversible.
Note: Should an interlocking martial arts mat become damaged at a seam (example: missing a tooth), this tile should be replaced, if the flooring is used for barefoot training. Toes can slip into these holes and become trapped during spins.