BJJ Open Mat: What is it and should new people attend?

A jiu jitsu open mat in progress
An audio version of this blog post to take with you on the go!

What is open mat time

If you’re new to Jiu Jitsu you’re probably not familiar with the term open mat.

You may have seen it on the gym schedule, or you’ve overheard teammates ask each other if they’ll be there or not.

You’ve probably debated whether or not you should go to an open mat session, and you’re wondering what you might be missing out.

What is Jiu Jitsu open mat, and should new people attend? The short answer is yes, but you should expect to roll(spar). Open mat is a designated time for you and your teammates to use the mats as you’d like. There’s no actual class at these times, so it’s up to you to decide what you use it for.

Most of your teammates will be rolling, drilling moves, practicing new things they’ve been working on, generally being social, and likely talking about Jiu Jitsu.

Open mat time is a time when you can come to the gym, and there is no set class, but the mats are “Open” for you and your teammates to use.

You and your training partners are left to your own devices, and you can use this time for lots of things.

No one is going to warm you up or go over any positions, so you don’t necessarily need to be there on time either.

Many gyms have different open mat days and hours. Often if a gym will be open for a holiday, it may hold an open mat instead of a regular class.

Some gyms hold open mats on weekends; some even have a “No politics” open mat. My old gym did this, and my coach allowed anyone from any gym to come and train on those times.

What to expect at a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu open mat

Lots of rolling, that’s mainly what people go to an open mat for. You will see some drilling and talking.

You may also be asked to be someone’s grappling dummy so they can try something new they’ve been working on.

Occasionally your instructor might show a move or ask a visiting black belt to show something. This would happen from time to time at our gym’s open mat.

Sometimes during open mat, you might even have people drop in as visitors, and you can have some new people to roll with.

You can also check other gym’s open mat times and see if they allow visitors as well.

If your gym has rules on new white belts rolling and you haven’t started sparring yet, you might want to check with your instructor before showing up to open mat.

I started at a gym where everybody rolled. It didn’t matter if it was your first day. If you wanted to roll, they let you.

I know not all gyms are like that, and if your gym has specific rules about how long you train before you roll, open mat might be closed to you, so check beforehand.

If you’re new and don’t feel comfortable rolling yet, you might want to think about holding off on open mat until you get used to sparring.

Check out our article on 10 Tips & Tricks to Improve Your Jiu Jitsu Rolling Sessions

How can you benefit from going to open

Get to know your teammates

Some people are all business when it comes to Jiu Jitsu, I know I can be, with my busy schedule and life. I don’t have time to hang out and socialize at the gym as much as I’d like.

At open mat, I’m able to talk with my teammates and get to know them better. At regular classes, there isn’t enough time for me to do this. Usually, after rolling, I have to head out.

Since open mats are usually between 1-2 hours long, after a few rounds of rolling, you’ll find yourself resting and more than likely chatting with your training partners.

Sometimes after an open mat, some of your training partners might even go out for drinks and food afterward.

Once in awhile, although not valid for every gym, there may even be drinks and food at your open mat session. The first gym I went to would occasionally have BBQs/open mat days; those were always fun.

Get advice on your game

Open mat is one of the best times for you to seek and ask for help with your BJJ game. I think this is one of the best things that you can use this open mat for.

If you’re having a hard time in a particular position, go and ask someone to put you in that position.

You can ask people to show you what to do from a position that you don’t understand or often struggle with.

You can also ask a higher belt to show you that move they always catch you with. Ask them what it is that you blatantly do wrong that you can improve on.

You can even ask your professor to go over the move that he taught earlier that week that you might have forgotten a step to.

Maybe you tried the move, and it got countered, ask him what to do if that happens again.

Experiment with that new technique you’ve wanted to try

Like you can ask someone for advice on your game, you can also try something you’ve wanted to work on.

We’ve all seen that move on YouTube that makes us think, “I wonder if I can catch someone with that,” well go try it on someone at open mat.

You can do this in a live roll, or you can ask a training partner to be a willing victim while you work through the steps.

A lot of times, people are interested in learning new things as well. It’s possible that they watched the same video and were curious about it too.

Just ask someone, “Mind if I try something on you real quick,” I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say no to this at open mat.

Visit other open mats to get new people to roll with

I mentioned earlier that my old gym had a “No politics” policy for open mat. This was great, and it’d be nice to see more gyms do this, it’s such a great way to build a sense of community in our sport.

We were a competition focused school, and we loved getting new people to roll with. Our coach also encouraged us to cross-train as much as possible.

Dropping in at other gyms is something you should take advantage of. You can do this in your city or when you’re on vacation.

Always make sure to check a gym’s website or call to make sure it’s ok to drop in. Also, be aware that some gyms might have a drop-in fee.

We have a whole section of our site dedicated to finding the best BJJ in cities around the world. Check it out here.

Make sure to check out open mat next time and get some good rolls in. It’s guaranteed to be a good time.

Let us know what’s your favorite thing about open mat.

Thanks for reading!

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