If you have checked out the schedule at your local BJJ gym you will have noticed that time slots are filled with classes such as kids, fundamentals, advanced, and competition. These all make sense even for BJJ newbies, but you may have spotted one strange class, open mat.
What Is A BJJ Open Mat?
A BJJ open mat is an unstructured practice session where students can train whatever they like. Most athletes choose to spar or drill techniques. A coach will supervise but will not run the class or teach technique.
A BJJ open mat is a completely unstructured training environment. Athletes can turn up and leave when they like. While also organizing and planning their training as they please.
During an open mat there is typically no formal warm up and while there will be a coach supervising the practice they will not be demonstrating technique or controlling the training session like they normally do.
At open mats it is totally up to the athlete how they want to train. If you want to drill a certain technique you can grab a partner and smash out some reps. If you want to do some positional sparring or free rolling then that is also totally acceptable.
During a standard BJJ open mat most practitioners will just choose to do rounds of free sparring. The coach will set a timer and you will just go through the room sparring with different people. You can sit out and jump back into the rotation whenever you want.
While most people use open mats to spar you can also use the training session to drill techniques and ask other athletes for tips. Most BJJ athletes are happy to show you different techniques.
BJJ open mats are a great way to get extra rounds of sparring, learn new techniques and sharpen your existing skills by pumping out extra drilling reps.
Are Open Mats Free BJJ?
If you are a member of a gym then open mats are free as a part of your membership. If you belong to a gym’s affiliation then they will often be free. However, if you are dropping in most gyms will charge around $20.
If you are a member of a BJJ gym then you will have free access to open mat training sessions. These will be included in your standard membership. If your gym is trying to charge extra for open mats this a red flag and you should find another Jiu Jitsu academy.
BJJ gym’s are often a part of affiliations similar to a franchise. If you go to an open mat at a BJJ gym which is a part of the same affiliation as your home academy then the open mat will usually be free. If it is not free you will be offered a discounted drop in fee, often around 50% off.
If you decide to attend an open mat at a random BJJ gym you will usually have to pay. The drop fees often range from $10 to $30 depending on the academy and its location.
Before you drop in at a random gym it is best to contact them first and check their fees. You don’t want to show up and then they try to price gouge you and charge you some crazy fee.
Also some gyms don’t let non members attend their open mats so make sure you call them first unless you want to risk wasting your time.
If you are lucky you may be able to attend an open mat for free. I would estimate around 20% of gyms don’t charge for open mats even if you have no relationship with the gym.
In the past, a much higher percentage of gyms would let people drop into open mats for free but as the sport has become more commercialized gym owners are squeezing more money out of people. Some big gyms are even charging obscene $50 or $60 fees.
You have a better chance of training at open mats for free if you are an upper belt as coaches value learning from new high level athletes and getting in some hard sparring.
Should White Belts Go To Open Mats?
White belts should go to open mats. Open mats are a great training environment to learn new techniques, receive personalized advice from your coach, and get extra rounds of sparring against some new opponents.
White belts are often intimidated about attending open mats. In their minds, they think it will just be upper belts rolling at 100% trying to kill each other. While if you want this training environment you can definitely find it this is not how your typical open mat is run.
When white belts finally start attending open mats they quickly realize that it is a great environment to get personalized training and spar with some new faces.
In your standard BJJ training session you are forced to practice the techniques that your coach has selected. You are also limited to how many reps you can perform before you move to the next technique.
This can result in you not learning techniques that are best suited to you and being forced to move on to other techniques before you fully grasp them.
At open mats you can drill techniques that you enjoy and practice them at your own pace until you truly get the hang of them.
For example, you may love leg locks but your coach is only showing 1 or 2 leg lock techniques a month. You can take your leg lock game to the next level by turning up to open mats partnering up with your gym’s leg lock specialist and drilling for hours and hours.
Open mats are also great for getting extra sparring against new opponents. In your standard BJJ class you may only be able to get in 3 to 5 rounds of sparring. While at open mats you can easily spar 10 + rounds. This extra sparring can result in rapid progression.
Open mats attract BJJ athletes from nearby gyms and members who train on different days or times to you. By attending open mats you get the chance to spar against different athletes which can expose you to different strategies, techniques and force you to develop a well rounded game.