If you’re into BJJ, you probably heard the term “open mat BJJ” thrown around at the gym or among your training partners. Wondering what it is and if you should go? We’ll dive deep into what open mat BJJ is and why it’s important.
Attending open mat sessions is smart if you want to improve your BJJ skills. It’s less structured, and you can work on the moves you learned throughout the week.
I enjoy open mats a lot, and I attend them often. And I have a feeling you’ll enjoy them as much as I do once you start going.
What Does Open Mat Mean?
So what does open mat actually mean in BJJ? Traditional BJJ training consists of warming up, drills, and positional sparring. In the end, the part everyone looks forward to—you start rolling. This is where you get to grapple freely with your teammates.
This structure is different from open mat BJJ sessions. Here, no structure, and no coach is telling you what to do. Open mat sessions were designed for you to practice and refine techniques, drill with your training partners, and ask any questions you might have.
In my experience, though, it’s mostly about rolling these days. Drilling? Not so much. Most folks at an open mat are there to roll. It’s way more laid-back. No coach, no lesson plan, just come in and start rolling.
Openmat sessions are important within the BJJ community and are a great way to improve your skills in the BJJ game.
8 Benefits of Open Mat BJJ
So, if you’re wondering why you should join open mat, here are some good reasons:
1. Extra Time for Rolling
In a regular BJJ training session, you only get about 30 minutes at the end to roll. For some of us, that’s not enough. We want more time on the mat. That’s where the open mat comes in. Here, you can roll as long as you like.
The cool thing about open mat BJJ is that you can take breaks. In a normal BJJ class, I feel rushed to roll every round because time’s ticking. But in open mat BJJ, there’s no clock breathing down your neck.
You can sit one out, watch other BJJ practitioners, and then jump back in when you’re good and ready. It’s a super way to get more rolling time.
2. You Can Drill Techniques
Even though open mats in BJJ are about rolling, let’s not forget it’s also a good time for drilling techniques. If you’re stuck on a move or just learned something new in class that week, Open Mat BJJ gives you extra time to hammer those techniques into your muscle memory.
Need a partner? Just ask around. In my experience, folks, especially those at my skill level, are more than happy to drill with me. If you’re a white belt, this is super important. Focusing on drilling now is a priority. Rolling gets more and more important the more experienced in BJJ you get,
In an open mat, you can do what you want (don’t take this literally please…). Some will be rolling, sure. But if you want to drill, go for it! Grab a partner and start practicing.
3. Get Ready for Competitions
If you have a BJJ competition coming up, then open mat sessions become more important. It’s perfect for getting into that competition mindset. Here you can roll with more intensity, pushing your limits and testing your skills in a way close to what you’ll face in competition.
Here, you can practice your moves, sharpen your techniques, and get your head in the game. More sparring time is a game-changer when you’re getting ready to compete. So make sure to go to the open mat sessions when the competition gets closer.
I always visit different BJJ Gyms for their open mats before my competition, and I found that it helps me a lot. It’s a perfect way for me to get into that competition mindset and makes me feel less nervous on competition day.
4. Good Time for Asking Questions
As we said earlier, open mats are less formal. So, it’s the perfect time to ask questions. Did you get stuck in a move? Just ask. Feel like you have a weak spot? This is the time to get advice.
What’s cool is that you pick what you want to learn. The coach sets the structure in a normal class, and you follow. But at an open mat, it’s up to you. So, if you’ve been watching some videos and want to know what people think about a certain move, just ask. Need help with an escape or a submission? Want to learn new techniques? Again, just ask.
In the beginning, I had trouble doing that. I was afraid to ask a dumb question. Also, I didn’t want to annoy anybody. But what I learned is that people appreciate when you ask them for advice.
We need to get out of our heads and leave our ego behind. It took me a long time to get over it. Especially as a beginner, it can feel intimidating to be the one who understands the least. But this is all insecurity – asking questions is so important, so we need to start asking more.
5. Connecting with Students
In a regular class, there’s less time to get into conversations with the other students. You won’t get enough time to get a real chat. Open mats are different. Here, it’s more laid-back. You’ve got time to meet new people and get to know the students in your gym.
The atmosphere is relaxed, and that makes everyone more chatty. If you’re new to the gym, this is a great chance to get to know people. You can talk, laugh, and make new friends.
I travel a lot to many different gyms. So, I find it hard to connect with people in a BJJ Gym class. Open Mats helped me a lot to get to know the people better. So take advantage of open mats to connect with your teammates.
6. Trying Out New Techniques
Open mat BJJ is a playground for trying new stuff. Let’s say you learned a cool move in class, or maybe you saw something online. Now you’re itching to see if it works for real. An open mat is the perfect place for that.
You get tons of time to roll, so why not use some of it to experiment? Try out those new techniques. See how they hold up when you’re sparring with different training partners. It’s one of the best ways to make sure those new moves stick in your memory.
I wasn’t good at trying out new techniques during rolling. I wanted to win at all costs, so I stuck to the techniques I knew best. This is a shame because I didn’t give myself a chance to put more techniques into my muscle memory.
Again, it’s driven by insecurity. I was measuring whether I was getting better at BJJ by how many times I was tapping somebody out. But that’s a poor measure. There are way better signs to see whether your getting better at BJJ.
Once I started trying out new techniques, I got tapped out more – but that’s okay because now I’m a better Jiu Jitsu player thanks to me exploring other paths.
7. Get in an Extra Workout
Open mat BJJ isn’t just good for your skills; it’s also a good workout for your body. Rather than killing yourself on a boring treadmill, go roll. Rolling is super intense and makes you sweat a lot. You’ll burn way more calories here than in a regular class. So, if you’re looking to get an extra workout, this is the place to be.
It’s not just about burning calories though. Rolling works your muscles hard. It’s good for building strength and making your cardio better. Whether you want to get in or stay in shape, adding open mat sessions to your week is smart.
8. Meet New People from Other Gyms
A lot of BJJ schools make their open mats open to everyone. That means you can hop over to another gym’s open mat and train there. Cool, right?
When you roll with people from other places, you see how your moves stack up. They might do things a bit differently, and that’s a good thing. You learn new stuff and test your own skills.
Also, some of these folks could be your future competition. So it’s like a sneak peek of who you might face in a tournament.
Plus, if you only roll with your gym buddies, you know each other’s moves after a while. But other BJJ gyms may put other challenges in front of you.
Different Gyms exposed new weaknesses in my game. I found it to be a great learning experience to roll with new people. But be careful, choose wisely who to roll with and tell them whether you want to do a relaxed roll or want to go a 100%.
Tips For Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Open Mat Sessions
Let’s talk about making the most of your open mat BJJ sessions. A plan helps you focus on what you want to work on. Here are my tips for when you’re going to an open mat.
- Listen to Your Body – Check in with how you’re feeling. Some days, you’ll be all pumped to roll hard. Other days, maybe not so much. And that’s okay! Let your training partners know that you want to do a relaxed roll.
- Pick Your Rolling Partners Wisely – Start with rolling partners at your level. Get comfortable, and then go ask the higher belts for a roll. Look for those who want to roll at the same intensity as you. Avoid those who are known for injuring people.
- Start Easy, Build Up – This isn’t a race. No need to go full speed right out the gate. Start off light and build it up as you go. Open mat is your time to practice and get better. It’s not a competition.
- Match Your Partner’s Pace – Open mats are about learning. So, if your partner is going slow, stick with that tempo. It’s not a contest. Plus, keeping the same pace helps keep everyone safe and happy.
So keep these tips in mind, and you’ll make the most of your open mat time.
Mistakes To Avoid During Open Mat
We talked about what to do, so let’s talk about what not to do at open mat BJJ. Here are the mistakes to avoid:
- Don’t Skip the Warm-Up – It’s casual at open mat BJJ, but your body still needs a warm-up. Many don’t warm up, but don’t be like that! No warm-up leads to injuries.
- Roll, Don’t Wrestle – Open mat isn’t the WWE. Don’t go all out trying to pin someone. That’s not what it’s for, and you’ll annoy people. Don’t be afraid to start on the ground or pulling guard right away. You don’t have to wrestle every roll.
- Cool Down After Rolling – Don’t just leave after the last roll. Take a minute to cool down. Your muscles will thank you, and you’ll dodge stiffness later on.
- It’s Not About Winning – Open mats allow for learning and improving. Forget about “winning” a roll. You’re here to get better, not to take home a trophy.
- Tap Early and Often – No shame in tapping. It’s a sign you’re learning your limits. Open mat is for practicing, not proving you’re tough. Let your ego outside.
- Be Nice, Keep It Clean – Show some love and respect to everyone, from newbies to old-timers. A good vibe makes for better training enjoyable for everyone. Respect is everything in BJJ.
I broke every one of these rules in the beginning. I paid with inflated ego and injuries. I’d be much further in my BJJ journey if I would have avoided these mistakes. So don’t be like me. 🙂
Should White Belts Go To Open Mats?
Where you’re training in Gi or No-Gi BJJ, you should totally come and train in BJJ open mat sessions! I only went after months of training and I think this was a mistake. You can start going after a few weeks.
- Start Rolling Early – Even though you should be drilling a lot at this stage, getting a feel for rolling is important. So open mats help you get used to it.
- Meet The Team – This is a good place to meet higher-ranked folks. They’ve been where you are and can offer some great tips.
- Drill, Don’t Just Roll – Remember, you don’t have to roll the entire time. You can drill techniques you’ve learned, experiment a little, and get some questions answered.
Open mats are less strict than your usual BJJ classes. So, it’s a great time to learn and connect with other students. Definitely worth it for white belts!
Open mat sessions are important for getting better at BJJ. Some of my best times on the mat have been during these sessions. Every gym offers these, and the cool part? They’re often free! This means you can visit other gyms and take part in their open mats too.
Just remember to follow the strategies we talked about and keep those common mistakes in mind. When you’re there, take it easy. No pressure to do anything you don’t wanna do. You’re free to roll and drill just the way you like. See you on the mats!