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Quick Guide to Martial Arts and Martial Arts Flooring

Quick Guide to Martial Arts Terminology & Flooring

Starting a home or commercial martial arts facility can feel like a daunting task. With hundreds of different martial arts disciplines originating from dozens of countries, how can you be sure you and your training space are speaking the same language when shopping for the safest, most durable and most appropriate flooring for your needs.

The following guide will help put you at ease. It will familiarize you with a number of different concepts and terms that will clarify the entire process of planning for a martial arts gym - particularly when it comes to the flooring.

Origin of Discipline

First of all, it is key to know where your discipline originates from. Are you creating a dojo, dojang, gym or kwoon? While all of those terms may refer to a similar space, each has a different origin and possibly a different intent. Knowing the terminology is important to the sport and its surrounding culture. Not all martial arts are created equal as each has a different focus.

Common Names for Martial Arts Training Rooms


A dojo refers to a training space dedicated to Japanese martial arts. This includes Karate, Judo, Aikido, and Jiu-Jitsu.


Next, a dojang is home to Taekwondo, Hapkido, and other Korean martial arts.


One of the more well-known terms is a kwoon, which is a training space for Chinese martial arts, commonly known as Kung Fu.


Finally, it may just be a gym your after. Gym is an American term often used as a catch-all for many types of martial arts. Specifically, however, gyms are training spaces for Western Boxing and Wrestling.

Factors for proper martial arts flooring

When considering flooring for your training facility, material and construction can make a big difference in comfort, safety, and ease of movements. Most martial arts flooring is made of an impact-absorbing foam material. Thickness, density and surface texture play vital roles in selecting the proper flooring for your discipline.

High-density foam is absolutely essential for martial arts that include striking, such as Taekwondo and Karate. If training with soft shoes a barefoot, a smooth, non-slip surface serves best to allow for proper footwork. Hard or slippery flooring can and will cause injury. Flooring experts recommend one-inch high-density foam in order to obtain the right balance of cushion and support for striking martial arts. Thatch top textures can increase the versatility and add resistance to wear and tear from shoes and boots for combat or aerobic training but are not as gentle on bare feet.

When the majority of your sport takes place on the ground, such as in grappling or Mixed Martial Arts, you will want a slightly softer, thicker and more durable material that has a fall height rating of at least 4 feet. It is also important that the surface does not cause burns when it comes into contact with skin. A 1 5/8 inch thick EVA foam mat with a tatami texture is ideal for these situations. It will provide excellent support for grappling, takedowns, and groundwork without burning the skin.

Crash pads that are at least two inches thick are recommended for high impact landings. For those participating in martial arts with hard-hitting landings or stunts, it is important to have enough cushion and protection underneath. Crash pads are often available in thicknesses up to 12 inches with durable vinyl covers. The greater the impact, the thicker the mat you'll need. These are ideal for practicing rolls, falls, and takedowns.

Different Types of Flooring

Martial arts flooring can come in many forms including, rolls, tiles or fold up mats. Generally speaking, rolls are the most inexpensive option but can be the most cumbersome to install due to size and weight. For greater freedom and versatility in installation, permanence, and design, interlocking tiles are the way to go. They are great for permanent or temporary installations and do not call for tape or adhesives. Fold up mats are good for crash pads. Large, vinyl-wrapped polyurethane core mats are the heaviest-duty option. Although these mats are not designed with a connecting or interlock system, they still stay in place. With effective traction on the bottom, they won't shift around during use.


All martial arts flooring should be non-absorbent, chemical resistant and easy to clean.

Below is a quick guide to the top 15 forms of martial arts today.

Top 15 Martial Arts


: Dating back to the Bronze Age (3300-1200 BC) in France, wrestling is the original form of martial art which involves throws, takedowns, grappling holds, clinch fighting and joint locks. The goal is to end the match by way of a pin.


: Boxing was developed shortly after wrestling, sometime in the Iron Age (1200-550). The sport was born in Mesopotamia and uses only the upper body to make contact. The ultimate goal is to knock out or knock down the opponent - almost entirely through the use of punches.


: A Japanese martial art of close combat that began during the Sengoku period (1467-1603) using no weapons or only a short weapon. Jiu-Jitsu is known as a gentle martial art. Its strategy is to manipulate the opponent's force against himself/herself using grappling techniques like joint locks, throws, and pins.


: Did you know there are only a few forms of martial arts in the Olympics and judo is one of them? Established in 1882, Judo calls upon throws, takedowns, joint locks, and chokes to immobile an opponent or force them into submission. Hand and foot strikes and thrusts are involved, but not in competition.

Muay Thai

: Originating in Thailand in the 16th century, Muay Thai, originally known as Siamese-style boxing, uses stand-up striking along with clinching techniques using fists, elbows, knees, and shins.


: The origin of karate is widely-debated, although it is believed to have developed and spread in the late 1300's in Okinawa, Japan. Some believe it may have been brought there from India a thousand years prior. Primarily a striking art using punches, kicks, knee and elbow strikes, Karate also utilizes open hand techniques such as palm-heel strikes, spear hands, and knife hands. Karate will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2020.


: Primarily used for self-defense, Hapkido is a Korean martial art that utilizes numerous forms of attack methods, including kicks, punches, weapons, joint locks, grappling and throws. Weapons can include various sticks, swords, knives, and ropes. Hapkido is believed to have begun in the 1940s.


: Alternatively known as Tae Soo Do, Taekwondo is another Korean martial art. Like Hapkido, Taekwondo emphasizes kicks but includes hand strikes as well. Taekwondo most likely originated in the 1940's or 50's.


: A Japanese martial art, beginning in the 1920s, Aikido is used for self-defense that also avoids injury to the attacker. Its techniques redirect the momentum of the opponent's attack and finish with a throw or joint lock.

Krav Maga

: Krav Maga is defined by a combination of skills developed from aikido, boxing, judo, and wrestling. The martial art originally started as a way of street fighting in Israel in the 1930's and 40's as a means for self-defense and counter attacks in real-world situations. If confrontation cannot be avoided, the goal is to end a fight as quickly as possible by attacking the most vulnerable parts of the body. There are no rules in Krav Maga.

Kung Fu

: While the term Kung Fu refers any skill acquired through practice, it is commonly used as a general term for Chinese Martial Arts intended for self-defense, hunting and military training using hand-to-hand combat and weapons. Legend has it, Chinese Martial arts began more than 4,000 years ago.


: There are two different types of kickboxing: Japanese and American. Japanese kickboxing started in the 1960's, and American followed in the 1970's. Both are an all stand-up sport that includes both punching and kicking.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

: A martial art that focuses on grappling and ground fighting, BJJ's roots are in Kodokan Judo ground fighting. It emphasizes the use of leverage and ground fighting to even the playing field between unevenly sized opponents. Opponents are defeated by applying joint locks and choke holds.

Jeet Kune Do (JKD)

: Founded by Bruce Lee in 1967, the premise behind his martial art is that it has no form or patterns, making it unpredictable and flexible. It is based on minimal moments with extreme speed, adjusting techniques for the given situation. JKD does use kicks, punches, traps and grappling techniques.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

: Mixed Martial Arts is as the name suggests: a mix of various martial arts styles. MMA techniques including both striking and grappling, standing and on the ground. Originally known as Tough Guy Contests, MMA leagues started in 1980. They did not get popular until 1993 when the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was founded.

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