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What is Open Mat in BJJ? (What to Expect and Should Beginners Go?)

What is Open Mat in BJJ?

Open mat in bjj refers to a scheduled time where there is sparring or drilling with no instruction. Generally, this is open to all gym members, and often, it is open to members from other bjj gyms as well.

Open mat is great to get more sparring experience as well as experience training at different gyms. Often people who go to open mat sessions at different gyms improve quicker since they are exposed to different techniques and styles of grappling along with more mat time.

However, there are a few key things to be aware of if you are planning to go to your first open mat session:

Open Mat – Key Things to Note:

  • Again, there is no instruction during open mat sessions, you are free to spar with other people or drill any techniques you’d like
  • If you are completely untrained, generally, going to a bjj gym’s open mat session is not recommended
  • If you are a beginner (<1 year in), you are still welcome to go to an open mat however, I would recommend:
    • being open about your experience level
    • be respectful to the gym you are visiting and training partners
    • lastly, newer students would likely be more comfortable and get more out of a structured class
  • Often, both gi and no gi practitioners are allowed
  • While many times open mat is open to members from other gyms, some bjj gyms only allow their gym’s members or affiliate gym members
  • If you are going to a different bjj gym’s open mat, always train respectfully and safely
    • do not immediately go 100%, try to match the pace of your sparring partners
  • Next, usually open mat sessions are free but this can vary among different Brazilian jiu jitsu gyms
  • Lastly, it’s always best to call the bjj gym beforehand to confirm if they have any restrictions or cost for their open mat session

Again, open mat in bjj refers to a scheduled time where there is sparring or drilling with no instruction. Generally, this is open to all gym members, and often, it is open to members from other bjj gyms as well.


Should Beginners Go to Open Mat?

Beginners are welcome to go to open mat, but they may feel more comfortable in a structured class led by an instructor.

Additionally, if you are completely untrained and have not background in grappling martial arts, it is not recommended to go to an open mat.

Some Open Mat Beginner Tips: 

  1. Stay courteous. 
  2. Respect everyone. 
  3. If you are meeting someone new or you are unfamiliar with, be open about your skill level.

Benefits of Going to Open Mats in BJJ

Going to an open mat can definitely have several benefits – the most common ones are:

  • offers you more sparring time (more time training = quicker improvement)
  • exposes you to different techniques and styles
    • every gym has their own prominent techniques and going to an open mat exposes you to more of them
  • allows for competitive rolls (but always be respectful)
  • also allows you to drill certain techniques or positional sparring

As a newcomer, you are welcome to join open mat session. However, you may benefit more from a structure class.

This means that you will be able to roll/live spar with your teammates. This is the designated time for you and others to use the mats as you would like. Therefore, aside from rolling, you have the opportunity to practice new things you want to work on or even execute drills to improve your  moves. 

Aside from using the gym on your own device, it is your chance to get to know more of your teammates and gain advice and insights about the sport. 

Moreover, you must know when the schedule is for the open mats session. This will give you the chance to prepare if your BJJ gym requires something. Moreover, by knowing the schedule, this will give you the opportunity to review things at home that you want to try then. 

What Is “Almost Open Mat”

Almost Open Mat is only for gym members or for those people who train jiu jitsu regularly and are invited by an existing member.

Almost Open Mat is a way for a bjj gym to safeguard against unsafe training by not allowing untrained people or prevent non members from coming in. Often times people who are new to bjj may be too aggressive and move in sporadic, unpredictable ways which can cause injuries to themselves or others.

Should White Belts Go to Open Mat

As a white belt in BJJ, yes, you can attend attend open mats. However, you may benefit more from an instructor led class.

Lastly, what is great about the BJJ community is that it is highly open for everyone and most people are willing to train and spar regardless of your experience level (as long as it’s done safely)

If you are a white belt, this will be a great opportunity for you to learn and practice the techniques you want to improve on. Alternatively, if you are a higher rank, then this is the perfect time to refine your skills. Also, it is an opportunity to teach and guide lower ranks.

BJJ Open Mat Etiquette Explained

Despite having no structured lessons during open mats, proper decorum and etiquette is expected of everyone. 

  • Respect – Respect on and off the mats goes a long way. Here are several ways that you can show it during BJJ open mats:
    • Greet people with a smile 
    • Answer and communicate politely if engaging in conversation 
    • Introduce yourself and your experience level honestly if asked or if about to roll 
    • No abusive language and behavior
  • Hygiene – One thing about BJJ is that you always have to be at your best groomed self. You do not want to come home with bacteria or virus. Moreover, to spread it around in the gym.
    • Come in a clean uniform. This can be your Gi or No Gi. 
    • Have your nails and toenails cut short. This is to avoid any injuries to yourself and others. 
    • Remove all body accessories for your safety and others. Moreover, you do not want this to break during BJJ live sparring. 
    • Do not chew gum, or chew candy during the session. You do not want to accidentally drop this on the mats.
  • Live Sparring or BJJ rolling sessions 
    • Be prepared 
    • Greet your opponent before and after each match 
    • Let go if they tap 
    • Compliment politely. 
    • Do not provide negative feedback or foul words after. 
    • Only provide feedback if asked. 

What Should You Do At Open Mat?

Each time you show up to training or an open mat session, have a goal. This goal will be the basis of how you will go about your session. However, these are the things expected from you. 

  • Good hygiene – Just like we always say, one sign of respect to others is by showing up well groomed. We all know that BJJ is a combat sport. Therefore, to prevent the spread of virus and bacteria, you are expected to have good hygiene. 
  • Respect others – Make new friends, meet new people and engage in conversation. However, make sure though that you still remain respectful towards others. Do avoid making negative comments and things that may cause embarrassment to others. 
  • Engage – Open mats gives room for you to engage with others to learn and understand the sport better. Therefore, go ahead and invite people to roll with you. Moreover, just always make sure that you explain to them your experience level to avoid any possible injuries to both parties. 
  • Learn and share – Acknowledge things that you can improve on and share to others how they can improve if asked. 

Be Respectful

On and off the mats, you must be respectful. You should always keep in mind that you have to respect others in the open mats session. Keep in mind that everyone who shows up is there to learn. 

Moreover, another way to show respect is by maintaining good hygiene. As we all know, BJJ is a combat sport and not only should you protect yourself but your training partners as well. 

Lastly, be humble. Do not provide unsolicited advise that can degrade or embarrass others. 

Be Open About Your Experience Level

If your training partner will be new during the open mats session, then you have to open up about your experience level. The reason behind this is because if they are a higher belt, they know that they should be more relaxed and guide you. Also, if they are of the same rank or experience level, then you can guide each other with your skills and knowledge. 

What to Avoid When Going to an Open Mat

Some common mistakes to avoid when going to your first open mat are:

  • arriving late
  • sparring too hard
  • Not tapping out early
  • Not warming up properly
  • Not being respectful to others
  • Showing up unwashed or in dirty gear (poor hygiene)

Benefits of Open Mat

Consider open mats the free style of jiu jitsu. This means, it is still like training, but it is up to you what you would like to work on for that day. 

There are so many things that you can gain if you join these sessions, namely: 

  • Improve your performance – This is the time that you get to practice drills and techniques you would like to do. There are training partners and usually a dummy that you can train with. 
  • Competition preparation – During open mats, you are free to invite anyone present to roll. This will give you the chance to try out your skills with different ranks. 
  • New people – This will give you the opportunity to meet new people. There may even be BJJ practitioners from other schools just dropping by to join. This though, will depend on your gym policy. However, as for your teammates, you get to see new faces who may train on a different class and schedule as you. 
  • Extra work out – This is extra mat time that you get to roll, drill and practice. Therefore, it is a full body workout experience. 

1. Refines Your BJJ Skills Against Different Practitioners

Showing up to an open mats session allows you to refine your skills. Since there is no structured lesson during BJJ open mats, you will have the opportunity to improve your skills as you please. In addition to this, you will have the time to actually drill the technique you want to focus on with your training partner. 

2. Exposes You to New Techniques

Now that you get to switch up training partners or sparring partners during the open mats, you learn more things. This will give you a variation of different techniques and submissions that you can eventually apply too. 

3. Helps You Try Out New Techniques

If there is a new thing you learned from class or at least watched on a video, this is the perfect time to try it. Well, having open mats sessions gives you the chance to have a live partner that can guide and assist you as you try to learn new techniques in BJJ.

4. Allows for Competitive Rolls (and helps prepare you for competitions)

If you are preparing for a competition, then open mats are highly recommended. This gives you room to test your skills with different people. 

Moreover, you can advise your training partner or live sparring partner that you are preparing. Therefore, they can also exert the same effort. Thus, allowing you to fully test your knowledge and skills. 

In addition to that, you will also get to see things that you need to improve or prepare for before the competition. 

5. Meet New People from other Gyms

Another great thing about joining a BJJ open mats, is that you get to meet new people from other gyms. What is interesting here is that you will see similarities and differences with your techniques. 

Moreover, you will get to share knowledge and test your skills. You will never know, these people in the open mats might compete against you in future competitions. 

6. Get Advice from Higher Belts on a Technique, Position, or Submission

Open mats does not mean you will only have a chance to spar with someone of the same level. Hence, you can actually approach anyone and politely ask if they will roll with you.

Therefore, if you approach a higher belt, then that is totally fine. You will actually gain a lot the more you expose yourself to rolling with them. 

Trust us when we say, these higher belts will be gentle if you are a lower rank or much lighter. They will give you the opportunity to find openings and practice your attacks and skills. 

Moreover, after each match, they can give you an honest breakdown or feedback of how you did. They can give you advice on what they did to improve those things at a certain point. 

Open Mat Strategy

We here at HeavyBJJ recommend that you always have a goal set every time you step on the mats. This is to allow you to focus on things that you want to do or improve in. 

Here are some of the strategies that we recommend: 

  • Pace yourself – Gauge how you are feeling for the day. This will give you the opportunity to see what you can and can not do. If you are feeling like just doing some dummy training, that is ok. If you do not want to roll with others, that is fine. It is okay to just sit and watch others. 
  • Choose your sparring partners carefully – Of course, there will come a time that you will feel confident to roll with a higher rank. But if you are a beginner, you can start with people of your own belt. Then the more familiar you are with your capability and confidence in your skills, then you can approach other people to get advise or to invite to roll. 
  • Start off with low intensity – Do not explode immediately. This is not a competition. Open mats were made to give BJJ practitioners practice and improve their skills as they please. Therefore, start with low intensity and build it up as you go along. 
  • Follow the same tempo that your sparring partner sets – This is not a competition. Again, do not explode, unless you tell your sparring about this. Open mats is about learning and seeing where you stand to improve your skills. Therefore, make sure you and your partner are the right balance. This is to avoid any possible injuries and negative effects on both parties. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do You Do at a BJJ Open Mat Session?

At an open mat in bjj, you will generally spar with training partners for timed rounds. At an open mat there is no scheduled instruction or curriculum being taught. Aside from sparring, you are free to practice and drill any techniques you’d like.


What Should You Wear for Open Mat?

For an open mat session, you can wear your usually Brazilian jiu jitsu attire which is a gi or no gi apparel. Most gyms allow both gi and no gi training during open mat, but it is always good to give them a call before hand.


Are Open Mats Free in BJJ?

Generally, open mats are free. However, we highly recommend that you check with the bjj gym beforehand as some gyms do charge a drop in fee.

To add to that, each gym or BJJ school has their own set of rules and regulations. Therefore, it is always best to check with them before hand especially if it is your first time there. 


Is It Worth Going to Open Mat as a Beginner?

While you can go to open mat as a beginner, it may not be worth it since you would likely benefit more from an instructor led class. Plus you may feel more comfortable in a structured class.

Again, an open mat is just sparring so you may struggle to perform techniques if you don’t have enough experience with them yet.


How to Improve When Going to Open Mat

When going to open mat, to improve you should focus on a drilling specific techniques, positional sparring, and even competitive sparring.

By focusing on these three things you are able to expand your exposure to new techniques while learning and better understanding techniques you may already be familiar with.


What Does Almost Open Mat Mean?

Almost Open Mat means an open mat session that is only open to existing gym members or experienced bjj practitioners that are invited by members.

It is a way to safeguard against inexperienced bjj practitioners coming in and injuring themselves or others.


Do Certain BJJ Gyms Have Open Mat Restrictions?

While it is generally understand that open mat means a scheduled time with no guided instruction that will allow you to spar freely or drill what you’d like, some bjj gyms do have restrictions.

It’s not uncommon for bjj gyms to charge for an open mat or to limit access to non members or inexperienced practitioners – that’s why it is always best to call the gym before hand.


How Much Does Open Mat in BJJ Cost?

Generally, open mat is free. However, some bjj gyms may charge a drop in fee so it is best to always call the gym beforehand.

Again, the cost and restrictions can vary among bjj gyms so calling is always best.


Should You Go to an Open Mat if You Are Smaller and Less Experienced?

Often when you are a beginner, you may feel that since you are less experienced or if you are smaller your sparring partners may not benefit from rolling with you. However, this shouldn’t really be your concern since it is up to your sparring partners to find benefits from training and sparring with everyone.

If they are more experienced or bigger, they can focus on using only technique and not strength or put themselves in less advantageous positions to practice their escapes and defenses.


Is Open Mat Gi or No Gi?

Are there open mats for Gi and No Gi? Well, this will depend on the gym that you go to. More often, gyms will host open mats for both gi and no gi at the same time so you can likely choose which you prefer or both.

However, it is always best to check with the gym ahead of time to confirm so that you can prepare your gear accordingly. 

Moreover, there are schools like 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu who do not train in traditional Gi. Hence, open mats with them will always be in No Gi attire. 


What is Open Mat Muay Thai?

Just like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, there is also an open mat session in Muay Thai. One thing different between the two sports is that there is no striking in BJJ. 

Hence, for Muay Thai open mats, the martial artist can focus on doing drills and doing live sparring with their teammates. 

Moreover, these open mat sessions have a lot of benefits too. Aside from improving skills, it is a great workout. 


What is Open Mat in MMA?

Mixed Martial Arts is one of the fastest growing sports globally. Similar to Muay Thai and BJJ, this sport has an open session as well. 

This includes drilling and practicing different techniques and attacks from different sports. Therefore, it will include some ground fighting and striking. This is good practice and improves one’s skills and techniques. 


What Is Open Mat in Wrestling?

Similar to the other martial arts mentioned, open mat in wrestling follows the same standards. It is a designated time where you can get extra training in the gym without a coach leading a class.

It will often involve heavy sparring done at your own pace.