Martial Art Mat Article

Ninja Training on Martial Art Mats 

“I buy Puzzle Martial Art Mats for all my training camps and programs.”

Rick Tew - Founder of and the College of Martial Science.

My name is Rick Tew and I have been teaching and training in the martial arts for over 20 years. Over this period, I have trained on almost every type of terrain or surface. As a Martial Science and Ninjitsu practitioner, it is key that we train in conditions closer to the real world. This is one of the reasons most of my classes and camps are taught outside or at a local park.

However, there are times when going indoors or training under a roof or on a mat is a great alternative. In the last 10 years, I have come to love one type of training surface or martial art mat as the primary martial art mat for my indoor training. These mats are called, “Puzzle mats” and often times, “Jigsaw mats.” After training with them so often, we now call them, “Martial Science Mats.” Just as it is important to have a good uniform, we have chosen these interlocking foam gym mats to be our main mat of choice.

The reason we like them so much, is mainly because of their versatility and proven practicality for all of our various training programs. We have tested these mats with full contact sparring, grappling, fitness kickboxing, self-defense and of course, our main system of martial arts – the Martial Science training which includes rolls, falls, kicks, punches and most areas of the martial arts.

Until I opened my first of two Dojo’s in Fresno, California, I had never heard of puzzle mats. I remember when the order of about 100 mats came in. I (and one of my long-term camp students from Holland) opened them up and began looking at them with curiosity. When you first open the boxes, you will notice that new mats have a distinctive rubbery smell. Much like the smell you get when you enter a tire shop or after you have painted a room. If you are sensitive to smells like this, best to let the mats air out before taking the time to piece them together. We decided to get the mats out of the boxes (there were only about 5 in each box) and open all the windows to let them air out.

The first school was about 1000 square feet with a solid concrete floor. We began piecing the mats together by laying the interlocking sections on top of each other and then from our hands and knees – pushed each piece into the next (later with experience we learned to do all of this standing). Each mat was a little over 3 feet width and length. Therefore, we had plenty of mats to cover the space we needed to cover.

After about 15 minutes, our floor space was now completely covered in mats in beautiful red mats. However, the width of the mats was about a foot longer than the width of our floor. Since we wanted wall-to-wall mats, we simply used a box cutter to cut the mats where they met the edge of the wall. These EVA Foam mats are very easy to cut. This gave us a perfect fit and some extra mat pieces we could use elsewhere. Since this first installation, I have been using these mats everywhere. I use the when traveling to demonstrations, setting up an outdoor training area or any location that needs a mat or area of protection. 


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 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 Addidas and Pine Tree. Though the Vibram Five Fingers is a great show 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 grinded into them from jumping and twisting – they will be much tougher to clean.


If you want to be up and running with your training center on day one, you need to know what gear is best for your location, gear that does not take a week to install. There is an easy solution when it comes to safety flooring as you can choose multiple interlocking EVA foam martial arts mats (often known as jigsaw mats or puzzle mats).

Simply measure the length and width of your floor and divide each by the size of the mats you have chosen to purchase. It is okay to have mats that go over the edge as you can easily cut one edge of the mats to fit perfectly.

With interlocking jigsaw puzzle mats, you can add them to a dojo (training or fitness center) floor the day they arrive.

What I love about these martial arts and fitness mats is that you can get wall to wall mats by simply cutting them with a box cutter / razor and pushing the edge of the mats against the wall. In only a few hours, I had a great training surface across the entire floor. I would suggest that you cut them about a half inch or more longer than needed and mush (push) them against the wall. Since the foam is flexible, it should fit tight and adjust the pressure throughout the rest of the mats so that you avoid any bubbling effects. You can always cut the mats more but if you cut off too much, you will have to get new mats for the edge – best to work your way down to a perfect fit.

These mats are for people that want something more realistic and yet still have the safety from the concrete. I was able to simply throw them right on top of the cement surface with little to no preparation (though I do suggest that you clean the surface of dust and dirt that will be under the mats prior to placing them).

What we do is simply lay down our puzzle mats to create our main surface – then we use a foldable mat that we can pull out anytime we want to have something with more cushion. Nevertheless, having a wall-to-wall colored martial arts mats really makes your training center stand out.

I still have yet to find a better multi-purpose colored martial arts training mat than the puzzle or jigsaw mats. You can also mix and match the colors. In one dojo, we put laid out all red mats in one room and black puzzle mats in another room that we used for kids classes.


If you enjoy training in various locations or if you need to set up safety flooring in new locations on a regular basis, I highly suggest that you use interlocking martial art mats. These mats are a firm EVA foam material that come in large squares and connect together to make any sized mat or training surface you desire. They are also known as puzzle mats or jigsaw mats. Not only are they great as a martial arts training surface, they work well as fitness flooring, or protecting a kids play area. But most importantly, they are awesome mobile martial art mats.

Whenever I wanted to move or change martial art training locations, I could pull my mats up in a matter of minutes and stack them up on top of each other. A small truck, van or u-haul can easily transport them. When I give demonstrations, I simply pack them up in the van and take them with us. I remember taking my College of Martial Science students to a demonstration in Glendale California called, Dragonfest. I brought these mats for our demonstrations and every other martial arts black belt planning to do a demo, asked if they could use our mats too. We saved the day.

If these mats were too soft or too hard they would not have been very versatile and other martial artists would have had to adjust. But everyone was able to use these mats and thus prove to us that they really were the most versatile of mixed martial arts training surfaces.

But the real kicker is that you can create an instant training surface for martial arts in a matter of minutes. Since these mats are easy to move, you can be very creative in your options and save the day when someone needs a mat FAST. Since I give a lot of demonstrations I require a mat that is easy to take apart, will adjust to any size area, and be great on even the hardest of surfaces.

By far these foam puzzle mats are my favorite martial arts mat of choice. Even just having a few of them in the garage laying up against the wall or in storage will prove to be useful in a multitude of situations. Consider the various locations where you might want to take a mat. Here are just of few that I have used them.

* I used them as a stunt mats for TV commercials to protect stuntmen and actors
* I throw them over wooden stages for a quick safety surface
* I have even put them under a large carpet to provide safety cushion but still offer the look of a carpeted location or area.

These are only a few of the many ways I have put interlocking martial arts mats to use.


At my camp in California, I wanted a little more cushion at out outdoor dojo so I simply layered mats on top of each other like two slices of cheese. When I want to clean them, I can easily peel them apart, and stack them up, spray them with a hose and use a cheap rag with some safe cleaners (depending on how dirty they are). To dry them off I just stand them up in the sun. Try doing this with a full one-piece mat that covers your entire floor and you will need a crane, a fire hose and the Incredible Hulk.

Something else that few people realize with jigsaw mats is that they are easily reversible. Consider this, you have lined your entire floor with an expensive ONE piece traditional mat. But then, something happens that damages the surface of the mat. This could be from a lot of use over time or an accident. Either way, you are forced to replace your entire floor with a new mat. With Puzzle Martial Art Mats you don’t have to replace them at all. All you have to do is FLIP them over and they look BRAND NEW.

That’s right, just use your mats with one side up for a year or two and then completely flip the entire set of mats for a brand new look.  It is like getting two mats for the price of one. Since these mats are easy to move and flip you could also purchase mats that have different colors on each side. This way you can flip the mats and use them for very specific needs. For example, fitness kickboxing classes could be performed ONLY on the black side while the red side is for karate classes. This could be important to do if you allow shoes on the mat during your kickboxing class. So you have have one side that allows shoes and one side that is only for barefeet.

Also, if you do damage ONE of the puzzle mats, they are much easier to replace only one piece than it would be to replace an entire floor. You simply peel out the piece that got damaged and replace it with a new one. If you want to keeps your mats looking new, you can also just toss a cheap layer of carpet over them. This way you still get the cushion but protect the mats from dirt and cover up the lines and interlocking puzzle parts on the edge of each mat.


By Rick Tew founder of NinjaGym and the College of Martial Science – read full article here
One questions I often get asked is how to make your own martial arts dojo at home. This is usually a question from students that participate in our long distance home study course for the martial arts. So here is a simple list to create the best home martial arts dojo at a cost you can afford – simply buy what you can or need for your own focused development.

First, you need a place to train. Since this is about making a home dojo we are going to assume you have some space available. I have used a garage, a backyard, a room in the house and the combination of all three on numerous occasions. Since the back yard would be closer to creating a mini-ninja camp. Let’s focus on using an indoor location. The bigger, the better. If you can get a garage – great!

The first most important part of your home dojo is going to be the floor you train on. As most garages are cement, you need to find something you can train on without risking injury. I suggest that you get interlocking martial arts puzzle mats or what is commonly known as Jigsaw Mats. These mats come in squares so you can purchase only what you need. They can be placed on the floor in a matter of minutes by connecting them together like you would that of a puzzle. These mats are also easy to pick up if you want to have space for something else.

Try to get at least on full length mirror if you can’t devote one entire wall. A mirror is a great way to train and develop your skills. It is one of the fastest ways to turn yourself into a self-taught warrior.

I suggest two types of punching bags. First is a free standing bag that can be moved. Something like Century’s Body Opponent Bag would be perfect. You will use this to fine tune your strikes and kicks. Next you want to get a heavy bag. Something that is longer than your body and very tough – like a good Muay Thai bag. Century also sells a good one of these too.

Visit the hardware store like Home Depot and get some Peg Boards and Hooks. These are very easy to set up on a wall and can be used to store / display your weapons and training gear. This will give your home dojo more of a martial arts ambiance and feel.

Everything else you get should be personal and based on you own individual needs. I would add a climbing wall, kettlebells, stereo, and stretching devices. I also like to have a white board for goals setting or thoughts. Your home dojo can be a mental gym too.


If you want to run a fitness kickboxing course that combines aerobic and anaerobic activity with the martial arts – you are going to want to consider the ground you stand on. As you will be doing a lot of bouncing movements and standing, it is important that the surface you train on offers a little give and take in order to help protect the knees, ankles and back. However, you don’t want the surface to be too soft, which will actually do more harm than good.

A great floor for fitness kickboxing would be one made out of firm EVA foam puzzle mats like the ones used as martial art mats in many training centers. These mats are interlocking, so you can move them around as you desire and create your own fitness map. For example, if you have enough space you could have them run a small circle on the red mats. You could have them do kettlebell training on the black mats. How about rolls and falls, push ups or squats on the blue mats. You can even stack mats up for more padding and move them when you are done.

For example we will cover the whole floor with red mats. Then we have a stack of various colored puzzle mats in the corner. We can take the ones we need and create mats on mats when we want either more cushion or to separate a training area by using the different colored jigsaw mats.

What is great about the interlocking mats for fitness and martial arts is not only the durable foam but what I love is that you can even wear shoes on them or perform fitness kickboxing classes without fear of ruining your mats. They are truly multi-purpose. You also don’t have to worry about jump ropes or even dropping weights on them. Though you will want to keep anything with a sharp edge away from foam puzzle mats as they are easy to cut. However, this would not reduce their effectiveness.

A strategy that we like to also use is to cover the fitness kickboxing area with a full size carpet square. This gives us the cushion but also a cheap piece of carpet that looks nice and is easy to replace. Just pick out the cheapest carpet you can get from your Home Store. We usually do this if we want to allow members to wear any shoes that they own onto the floor, otherwise they will grind dirt into the foam mats which are harder to clean.

If you have your members only using shoes when they are on the mats then you don’t need to use a carpet cover. However, sometimes you might want to do it just to change the look of the floor.


Kids are very active and running around on a regular basis. The activity is great for their health but it also can put them at risk. A cement floor, slippery tile or brick wall can quickly put an end to the laughter if a child falls or bumps their head into one of these hard surfaces. This is why interlocking EVA foam mats are a great solution to any environment that will have active children. Kids love these mats as they are like a puzzle or jigsaw and often called, Jigsaw Mats and Puzzle Mats.

One of the big dangers of being active at home or near concrete (and other hard surfaces) is the risk of falling back and hitting the back of the head. This can lead to a very serious injury.

Because you can piece jigsaw mats together, you can form them to fit almost any location. You can even lay them up against the wall for added protection.

These mats are typical martial art mats for fitness centers and schools like Tae Kwon Do. But they are not limited to creating a safety floor for kids martial arts. You can use them for many other solutions too. Here are just a few:

* I have used them in the park to create a safety maze.
These mats do not have to connect to form a square or rectangle. You can piece them together to make your own design. With an open park, you can be creative. We use them for training games by piecing the jigsaw mats into a puzzle mat maze. The participants are blindfolded and walk on their hands and knees to find the exit.

* Outside other play areas
I put them in a house over tile where kids were slipping after running near a bouncy house. Kids falling back risk hitting their heads so these mats are perfect for placing around other existing play areas.

* Backyard Patio Protection
I put them over concrete in a back yard patio under a swing to protect kids that might fall. Since kids are always running around in the backyard I target key areas that I feel might be a risk. These mats are good outdoors too, so I don’t have to worry about them being damaged. Since the kids like moving them and playing on them, they become one of the best investments for a child play area that serves a variety of uses.

* Kids play room or martial arts flooring
Kids love to jump, roll, punch and kick. If you want a quick solution to turn almost any area into a play room, just get some interlocking puzzle mats and problem and you have an instant location for the kids to practice martial arts or just any area to play.

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