Open Mat Etiquette


Open Mats are one of the great things about the jiu jitsu community. They’re a great way to test your skills against someone who’s not already aware that you’re all about the leg locks. They’re also a way to simulate the nerves and adrenaline of competition without paying $60 for for one or two matches. It’s a solid chance to work on your cardio, as most open mats are two or more hours. When going to another gym, you’re also representing your own gym, your coach, and your teammates, so it’s important to follow some key etiquette when attending an open mat.

Respect Upper Belts

This is a firm rule at most gyms, but at open mat, it helps to be especially aware of this mainstay of jiu jitsu etiquette. Gym culture varies, and what one gym considers respectful, another gym might consider outright sacrilege. Until you get a feel for the culture of the gym you’re attending, follow jiu jitsu etiquette when it comes to those who outrank you. Move out of the way if you’re rolling near someone who outranks you. If you’re a lower belt, don’t invite upper belts to roll. Be respectful in your conversation and introductions. If the owner of the gym or the highest ranked belt from that gym in attendance is informal, you may be able to bend the last two points slightly (we still suggest the first as a concrete rule), but it’s better to err on the side of caution when representing your team.

Show Your Best Self

Show up with a clean, stink-free gi, freshly showered and with your fingernails and toenails clipped. Ladies, make sure your hair is tied back and jewelry is off. No one wants their memory of open roll forever scarred into their wrist because you forgot to take those earrings off. Be respectful of those you roll with. If someone wants to go light, don’t go full gorilla on them. When someone asks you to avoid leglocks, stop diving for their feet. Avoid cranking on submissions. Don’t try anything sketchy – leave the can openers and blast doubles at home. If you’re getting your butt kicked, smile and thank your partner at the end of the roll instead of spazzing out so you can be the open mat champion.

Wear A White Gi

You’ve worked really hard to earn that blue, then black gi. We hear you. But as we noted, gyms have different cultures, traditions, and rules, and there are gyms who do not allow colored gis. Consider the white gi your business suit. You can never go wrong with that conservative choice. If you have one without patches, even better, though that is the extreme end. Most places have no issues academy patches. If for some reason you only have blue and black gis, go with the blue.

Open rolls are incredibly fun and a great way to meet more people who love to do this unique martial art. Keep them less awkward and more fun by following a few simple rules, and let the rolling begin!

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Nicki Klein is a mom of three girls who are all too sassy for their own good. She has no idea where they get it from. She enjoys wine, coffee, and long chokes on the beach. If she's not training, she's hunting for deals on rash guards online, buying yet another bottle of Essie nail polish, or hiding from her children in the closet with a bottle of wine and the last ice cream sandwich. Follow her on Instagram at @nickiklein Find more of Nicki's work at