If you are new to BJJ or considering joining the classes, you may have encountered the term “open mat.” You may wonder what BJJ open mat is and how it differs from other parts of training.
BJJ open mat is a session with no lessons, plans, or instructions to follow. It is a part of training where students are welcome to spar at their own pace and against who they want. They also may use open mats to drill specific techniques and work on certain areas to improve their game.
Open mats are also used to discuss and exchange experience and advice with training partners.
But what are the benefits of open mats? Should white belts participate? Do these extra training sessions come at an additional cost? Read this article to find all the answers.
What Is BJJ Open Mat?
An “open mat” is a BJJ training session where students can spar, drill, or do other exercises on the practice mats without a scheduled plan or coach instructions.
A regular training session is structured according to belt levels. It includes working on specific techniques, drills, and sparring under the guidance of coaches. Open mats enable students to use the mats to roll.
This part of training usually comes after the main training session or could be scheduled separately, lasting around 1-2 hours. Still, you don’t have to stay and participate in open mat training as this remains optional. Students can use extra training time to improve their technique further, socialize, and interact with other students.
You are left on your own to do whatever you want freely. No one will bother you if you sit in the corner and observe other people rolling without doing anything.
You can also attend the open mat session without being in the class. In fact, some gyms allow students from other gyms to visit their classes. This is a common practice as their students get the chance to roll with new people.
Most BJJ schools have scheduled open mat sessions. Some gyms would have one after each workout, while some scheduled it on the weekends. Overall, each gym has different rules when it comes to open mats.
What Do You Do At BJJ Open Mat?
Most students use open mat sessions for sparring and rolling with other students. Each grappling exchange usually lasts around 5 minutes, and you can roll for as much as you want to. In most cases, the session lasts the same as the class, around 1-2 hours, but this varies between the gyms.
Using open mats to spar with different training partners further improves your form. But above all, sparring is how you learn to apply techniques you learned in a real grappling scenario against a fully resisting opponent. And, you can freely ask any student, regardless of the level, to roll with you or share some tips and tricks.
Other people may use open mats for other exercises. For instance, if you spend the class working on escapes from the bottom, you will stay in open mats to drill this technique until you master it to perfection. Other students come to open mats to do other exercises, such as stretching or socializing with other students.
The overall atmosphere is casual, but all people must maintain a high level of discipline and respect.
BJJ Open Mats Rules To Follow
Open mat sessions are designed to give students additional time to use the training facility as they would like freely. However, although the sessions go without any plan or structure, there are general rules all students must follow.
Give Respect To All People
BJJ is rooted in respect and a supportive environment where people help each other toward achieving their individual goals. Always be respectful toward other students, whether you are a black belt or a white/blue belt. Being humble and kind is one of the best ways to show respect.
If you are an experienced student wanting to give advice to a newcomer, stay humble and do it in a way that is not discouraging or embarrassing. And newcomers should always respect the senior students and understand the hierarchy.
Be Open About Your Intentions
Open mat sessions are a place where you can practice whatever you want, and it is important to be open about your intention to the people you roll with. If you are preparing for competition and want to go harder, find a partner who will accept a more intense exchange.
Others might want a lighter sparring session where they will have more time to think and practice applying specific techniques they learned in classes.
During open mat sessions, no one will force you to do anything. If you don’t want to roll hard, be open and politely refuse the offer.
Focus On Learning And Not Winning
Open mat sessions are designed for practice and skill improvement. Do not approach each grappling exchange as if it is a competitive match. This is toxic, dangerous, and will get you in trouble with other students and gym owners. Instead of winning, keep the ego low, focus on learning, and take each “loss” as a lesson.
Open mats are not a class where you must constantly pay attention to what the instructor says. If you get caught in a submission multiple times against the same partner, ask them politely to explain what you are missing out on.
They will be more than happy to show you where you are making mistakes and expose your bad habits, which results in you improving your game. That’s what open mat sessions are all about.
Are Open Mats Free In BJJ?
You can attend as many training classes as you want in most academies, including the open mat sessions. For instance, gym fees vary between $100 and $200 monthly. For this price, you get to use the classes and training equipment at the gym and attend the open mat sessions. No proper BJJ school should ever charge you additional fees for open mats.
As for the visitors who come to open mat sessions from other schools, they are also allowed to train for free in most cases. This is because these people do not regularly attend classes or get coached by the instructors.
Having new people in the gym is beneficial for both sides. It enables both sides to test their skills, improve their technique, prepare for competition, and meet new people.
However, there are BJJ gyms where newcomers must pay a small fee to attend open mat sessions.
Benefits Of Open Mat Training In BJJ
Open mat sessions benefit everyone, whether you are a black belt or white belt. Following is a list of how this aspect of training may improve your overall game:
Extra Time To Learn Techniques
Open mat sessions are great because you get extra training time to work on your skills. For instance, some people can only attend classes 2 or 3 times a week. Open mats come in handy for them as they get extra time to drill the moves they have learned in classes. Without it, they wouldn’t be able to keep up with the classes and progress at the same rate.
Or, you might need extra training time to focus solely on improving the weak points in your game and work on specific techniques you don’t get to in regular practice.
Either way, open mats enable dedicated students to get more out of the BJJ experience and improve their skills in the long run.
Chance To Get Advice From Experienced Students
During the BJJ class, you will mostly share mats with people similar to your level and experience. But you can talk and roll with more experienced black belts during the open mat sessions.
Despite the apparent difference in skill, politely ask them to roll with you and ask them to evaluate your skills. In most cases, they will be more than happy to explore your game and provide valuable advice on the areas you need to work on.
Or, you can sit down and talk with them and share mutual experiences from your BJJ journeys. The atmosphere is friendly and supportive, so feel free to approach more experienced students.
Teaches You To Stay Calm Under Pressure
Sparring in open mat sessions differs from during the class, notably in intensity. Most instructors emphasize technique and a gentle approach during regular classes to develop the proper technique.
However, open mats enable you to test yourself under pressure and roll at a much higher intensity. At first, you might get overwhelmed with adrenalin and have difficulty keeping your mind calm.
But with enough practice, you will learn how to cope with the pressure and apply the moves against the fully resisting opponent. This prepares you for high-pressure self-defense situations or competitions where you must react fast and rely on your instincts.
Great To Prepare For Competition
If you are preparing for l competition, attend as many open mat sessions as possible. The conditions you face are very similar, and with the right partner, you can simulate a real match.
During the sessions, you will change multiple training partners, see and learn how to handle new techniques, and improve your offense and defense.
Rolling with different training partners also has many benefits because you learn how to deal with different styles. And, you get to roll with people different in strength, size, weight, and body shape, which is crucial in gaining experience.
You have to know how to deal with short/tall people with long/short limbs and necks. You never know what type of opponent you will face, so the more you train, the better prepared you will be.
And if some visitors from other gyms come, you will get a chance to roll with someone you don’t know, which adds to the realism of the competitive environment.
Should BJJ White Belts Attend Open Mat?
White belts and inexperienced BJJ students should attend as many open mat sessions as possible. They should use this extra training time to drill specific techniques they learned in practice and roll for as much as possible.
White belt days and beginnings generally are hard on your body, mind, and spirit. You will be exhausted after each class, overwhelmed with knowledge, and submitted hundreds of times during the opening months. Putting extra work in open mat sessions is beneficial because it enables you to progress faster.
For instance, you will spend the class working on learning certain techniques such as escapes for example. You can then attend the open mat session, drill this specific move against the partners until you master the motion to perfection, and stamp it into your muscle memory. Following this approach, you will progress faster than students who don’t attend open mats, that’s for sure.
Open mat session in BJJ is a unique part of training, beneficial for all practitioners regardless of rank and experience. It is considered an extra training time students use to enhance their skills further, socialize and practice without any strict plan.
So if you have extra time, attend as many open mat sessions as possible. Attending classes is where you learn techniques, whereas open mats are where you master each move to perfection.