I recently released an article discussing the joys of training on a holiday. Well today I got a lot of that brand of joy as I had not one but two opportunities to train (at Hoy’s Martial Arts in Broadview Heights Ohio and Connection Jiu Jitsu in Sheffield Lake Ohio.) Both schools are Pedro Sauer Affiliates but the open mats were just that, open. I saw people from at least three different affiliations and it was awesome!
At the first open mat at Hoy’s there were a lot of people in a relatively small room (I’d say 20-30), at the second (Connection) there were about 6 people total. This brought to mind the advantages and disadvantages of having a lot of people on the mat!
For starters, when you’ve got a lot of people on the mat you’ve got a lot of potential training partners. This is great. One can never have too many different people to roll with as each individual brings to the table various strengths and weaknesses that you can benefit from experiencing. On the other hand, sometimes having a lot of people on the mat will mean that the guys you really want to roll with are unavailable due to high demand. No offense to lower ranks but generally everyone wants to roll with the purple brown and black belts, that’s where the real action is, and as a result those higher ranked people will be less available at a packed open mat.
A major drawback to a packed open mat is the lack of space. This may not sound like a major issue, but it is. It really is. A packed open mat means less dynamic rolls. And people looking to roll dynamically? Those guys are hated at packed open mats. I know because I have many times been one of those guys.
I guess that the quality of an open mat really depends on the quality of the prospective training partners. I’ve been to open mats that were boring for me either because I didn’t have good rolling “chemistry” with the people there or because there was a huge gap in skill (either they were far too good or far too bad at jiu jitsu for us to enjoy rolling with each other.) I need a challenge, but not to the point where I feel like I have literally no affect on the other person. I also like to roll with people that I have rolled with before who know my tricks and how to counter them. Fortunately for me, both open mats that I went to today felt like good fits, for different reasons. The one had a LOT of people on the mat but it was generally well spaced and the good training partners were plentiful. The other gave me everything I needed from a smaller open mat, strong dynamic training partners.
The quality of open mats varies depending on many different factors. Sometimes I show up at open mats that I think are going to be super active and fun, and it turns out that the turnout is very weak. Sometimes I show up and the turnout is huge and awesome. I never regret going to an open mat though because I always benefit from every moment I spend on the mat.