How Thick Do Your Martial Arts Mats Need to Be?

One of the most important choices you will make when outfitting your facility with martial arts mats is thickness. Mat thickness will range from 1 to 2 inches, but thicker isn’t always better. The thickness that is appropriate for your facility is entirely dependent on the discipline/s you teach.

1-inch Mats: Ideal for Stand-up and Striking Arts

Striking arts like karate, muay thai, taekwondo, kickboxing and kung fu benefit most from a thinner, 1-inch mat with a higher firmness. The 1-inch thickness provides ideal protection against light and low falls, but the extra firmness provides ideal support for movement and stand-up techniques. While it may seem like thicker mats equal greater protection (they often do), overly thick mats that aren’t as firm and are not ideal for facilities that focus on striking arts.

2-inch Mats: Ideal for Groundwork and MMA

The extra padding provided by thicker martial arts flooring makes it ideal for grappling and throw-heavy disciplines like judo, jiu jitsu, aikido, and Hapkido, where bodies can hit the ground after falls from as high as 3-4 feet.

Mixed martial arts-focused facilities also require these mats because of the protection they provide. The slightly lighter and softer foam core creates a more cushioned surface, and the 2-inch thickness provide the optimal protection needed for groundwork and slams.

Are 1.5 Inch or 2-inch Mats Better?

Most martial arts mats with more than a 1-inch thickness are suitable for slams and throws, but it’s recommended to use mats that are at least a 1.5-inch thick. This is an area where more is better. The International Judo Federation and the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation both require official tournament mats to be 1.5-inches thick. If you incorporate high altitude throws into your curriculum, it may be best to go with the maximum protection provided by 2-inch mats, or purchase a Zebra Landing Mat to practice on.

What About Foam Density?

A common misconception about foam density is that is has to do with thickness. The foam density of a martial arts mat is its mass per unit of volume (measured in kg/m3). The higher the foam density, the more impact resistance the mat has because it can push back against the force that is applied to it. This prevents the mat from collapsing down and causing athletes to feel the impact of the hard floor below the mat.

For example, our Pro Series MMA mats have a foam density of 12.5 lb/ft3, while our Elite Grappling Mats have a foam density of 15 lb/ft3. This makes the Elite Grappling mats more ideal for disciplines that focus on heavy groundwork.

Contact a Sales Rep to Learn More

Confused about foam density or mat thickness? Contact a Zebra Athletics sales representative and ask which mats are right for your facility.