Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is more than just self-defense. Aside from being one of the most effective self-defense martial arts, it’s a combat sport. It’s a sport where two athletes share the mat in a battle of strength, speed, technical mastery, and endurance.
The technical and physical demands of Jiu-Jitsu are put on full display during live “rolling” sessions. These sessions can take up only part of a structured formal class. After all, in Jiu-Jitsu, one soon learns that there’s so much to learn.
For those on the fence when it comes to testing their skills, a class can only provide so much time. Warm-ups, skill drills, and conditioning work can take up as much as three-fourths of the average time.
Luckily, there’s a time for everything — including live rolls. This is “na-waza” or open mat.
What is it and why do Jiu-Jitsu schools have it? We answer these questions and more.
What Is Jiu-Jitsu Open Mat?
Jiu-Jitsu academies often hold classes in nearly the same format. These classes occur in the following order, barring a few differences:
- New techniques
- Drills of both new and previously taught techniques
- Live rolling
The first four items on the list can take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. It can take longer if many students struggle with a certain technique. Q&As can also take time. Overall, the format leaves little time for rolling, especially given the fact that most classes last one hour. Sometimes, classes can extend for about half an hour.
Rolling is when a student can apply much of what he or she has learned. With little time to do this given the above format, a separate session dedicated specifically to live rolls are necessary.
This is where a Jiu-Jitsu open mat session comes in. An open mat session is exactly what it sounds like — anyone can come in to roll with their training partners.
Open mat is also “open” in the sense that trainees from other academies can join the session. For the most part, academies open these sessions to their members for free. However, other academies allow members or athletes of other academies to join in for a small drop-in fee.
Why Do Academies Hold Open Mat?
Most — if not all — BJJ academies hold open mat sessions. Some will require a small drop-in fee whereas others don’t. The ones that don’t are often new gyms that try to get the word out that they’ve just opened.
In detail, here are the reasons academies hold open mat sessions:
For Additional Training Time
As mentioned earlier, the average BJJ class may leave little room for live rolls. This means that the application of techniques might need a separate training session for students. Open mat sessions provide the perfect opportunity to roll, have fun, spar with new training partners, and even see areas of improvement.
It’s also an opportunity for competitors to get extra training volume. For instance, when there’s a tournament or around the corner, Granite Bay Jiu-Jitsu has open mat sessions more often. We do this so that our athletes can add more training time on top of what they do in classes.
To Make Up for “Slow Days”
At the end of the day, BJJ academies are businesses. Like any business, there are days when profits are good, and there are slow days. To offset the lack of income on these days, some academies would hold open mat and charge small drop-in fees.
These fees are reasonable enough for even cash-strapped athletes to come and train. At Granite Bay Jiu-Jitsu, we hold open mats daily — including Sundays.
For Marketing Purposes
Every BJJ gym or academy needs to market itself in some way to attract new customers and students. Other than creating a website, sponsoring an athlete, or advertising on social media, there are other ways to do this. For most academies, open mat can have marketing applications as well.
Holding an open mat session can achieve one of two things or both. First, it can attract new students to join the gym or academy. An open mat provides an academy an opportunity to show off its facilities by allowing newcomers to try the gym.
Secondly, an open mat can be used to advertise itself as a BJJ gym. When students from other academies show up, they can spread the word to other practitioners. Some gyms can even co-affiliate with established ones to create a network of gyms for cross-training.
What Can Trainees Expect During Open Mat?
Whenever a new student asks whether he or she should attend an open mat, we answer with a resounding “oss!”
Open mat may be optional. However, we’ve seen that students and trainees of every level can benefit from the “openness” of open mat.
New students are often on the fence owing to the unfamiliarity of the experience. Here are some of the things that are present during an open mat session:
Rolling or Sparring and Lots of It
Open mat sessions are usually as long as regular BJJ classes, if not longer. This means an hour or two of simply sparring with someone on the mats.
During open mat, not much discussion on technique occurs. For the novice, it’s an opportunity to learn on the fly. For the more seasoned BJJ trainee, it’s a fun experience grounded in exploration and discovery.
Sparring with Trainees that are on a Different Skill Level
Open mat also allows trainees to roll with other BJJ students with different belts. It’s during open mat where white belts can go against blue belts. A black belt can roll with a brown belt. A purple belt can roll with a fellow purple belt.
Rolling with different partners of varying skill levels is a special learning experience. It’s an experience that trainees may or may not get in a regular class.
New Acquaintances from Other Disciplines
Depending on a trainees school, open mats are available to anyone — including those from outside the academy. Sometimes, academies will invite interested trainees of other disciplines to roll during open mat.
Everyone from wrestlers to Sambo athletes have taken to the art of Jiu-Jitsu due to the positive atmosphere of open mat sessions.
It’s more than an opportunity to test skills and apply what was learned. Open mat allows people to socialize with more people who may or may not be from the academy.
“Are There Any Jiu-jitsu Gyms Near Me That Hold Open Mat?”
Open mat is the perfect opportunity for students to try their skills against other trainees. Any student who has attended one of our open mat sessions will attest to what a positive experience it was. If you’re looking for a gym that holds open mat sessions, look no further. Drop by Granite Bay Jiu-Jitsu and try an open mat session today. Check out our live calendar to see our schedules for open mat.