The Utility of Visiting Open Mats

This past weekend I went and visited an open mat at a new school that recently opened in my area. The new school’s owner was a friend and old training partner of one of the guys I regularly train with, and we thought it would be fun to check it out and to show some support for a new local school. Since this was the first week that this school was open we didn’t expect to see too many people, but luckily some guys from other gyms also decided to show up to see the new place. This turned out to be a friendly open mat with a variety of jiu jitsu practitioners from various schools in the area.

I don’t often hit open mats at other schools, so I don’t get a lot of chances to roll with people outside of the circle of athletes that I train with. But at this open mat there were people from at least 3 different schools, and when I rolled with some of these practitioners I got to experience different styles of rolling than I’m used to. The first thing I noticed was how contrasting most of the guys I rolled with were in terms of aggression, which was a little lighter than where I normally train. Our school is a highly competition oriented school, and though we have a tight knit group, all willing to help each other grow, the rolling style tends to be aggressive, with a lot of speed and smashing. At this open mat, however, most of the guys I rolled with had a smooth and fluid style that seemed to be more centered on waiting for you to make a mistake rather than trying to force you into making a mistake. Rolling against this more fluid style was a strange transition, in that I wasn’t sure how to counter some of their moves (or even effectively pass their guard) since the level of resistance I’m used¬† to wasn’t there. I had new puzzles to solve, and that made things challenging and a lot of fun.

After leaving open mat I had the thought that my jiu jitsu could probably gain a lot just from rolling with as many different people from as many different schools as possible. This is actually one of the benefits of doing competitions, but I never really thought about it in terms of visiting open mats. I’m fortunate in that my instructor encourages cross training at different schools, I think he sees the benefit of training with different people with different styles of learning and rolling.¬† He’s said this many times, but until this past weekend I hadn’t really explored this idea.

I’ll be hitting more open mats in the area regularly going forward. And will make more of an effort to roll with people that show up to the open mat at our school when they come. I’m pretty sure that doing this will be a big push in my progress towards better jiu jitsu.

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