After years of training, I still prefer the firmer padding of interlocking martial arts jigsaw mat (also known as puzzle mats) to soft and squishy martial arts mats found in old school training centers.
I have put puzzle mats to the test with hard-core mixed martial arts training. We have done everything from fitness kickboxing to full contact King of the Mat – grappling and mo hinh thep 3d sparring on them. Students of my long-term martial arts camps have experienced countless hours performing almost every type of martial arts skill on these easy to assemble martial arts mats and they have proven useful time and time again.
Unlike other mats – puzzle mats are a bit harder and offer a more realistic training surface. It is important when training in realistic self-defense that the mat you train on is not too soft or unrealistic (which will lead to ankle and knee injuries).
In our Personal Security Course (PSC) we teach students realistic self-defense. To do this we require that they also wear an outfit closer to what they might be wearing in daily life – such as jeans, shoes and a t-shirt or jacket. Since the students have on shoes, it is important to have a training surface that can hold up to taking a beating from shoes.
It must be noted that if you do plan to allow shoes onto your mat that you ask your students to bring with them shoes that are for training only. Although the mat will survive most shoes, it is best to have them wear a shoe that is less damaging to foam while still being as realistic as possible. This means that you do not want women wearing high heels to class. In our camps we usually offer the lightweight tae kwon do type of shoe made by Adidas and Pine Tree. Though the Vibram Five Fingers is a great shoe for training on the mat too. The only challenge with these shoes is that it will not be as realistic as wearing typical sneakers. You could allow them to bring almost any sport or tennis shoe as long as it is only worn during class. Otherwise you will end up with a rather dirty mat. Although these puzzle mats can be tough, if you get dirt ground into them from jumping and twisting – they will be much tougher to clean.