Karate Mat Thickness vs. Taekwondo, MMA, Judo and Grappling Mats

Martial Arts Flooring Systems - Discipline determines thickness

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 a Taekwondo mat or , is 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 dojos and Taekwondo dojangs need flooring that will reduce impact on joints while jumping or running without impeding foot movement - 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 falling. 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.

A Karate mat between 3/4 inch and 1 inch thick, can provide the necessary joint protection for Karate and Taekwondo. These high density foam martial arts mats and are less expensive than the thicker varieties and often offer more stability.

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 karate mat and other martial arts flooring be made of closed cell foam which will not absorb moisture - or covered in a high quality vinyl - and is easy to clean and disinfect. Most foam martial arts mats 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.

On the high end of the spectrum are hygienic vinyl covered foam mats. These mats are typically thicker and larger than the puzzle mat variety of karate mat. The most common size is 1x2 meter, with straight edges.

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.

For more on this topic please review our Martial Arts Mats product page.