I recently watched a video of a former student of mine competing in a wrestling competition. The flooring was comprised of thick, soft mats that allowed the competitors excellent traction. I was surprised how easily she defeated boys twice her age. Her skills are excellent, and I wondered how many other girls out there could be competing at or beyond their age level.
Martial arts have almost always included girls and women – that’s why some have such great respect for the arts. One of the things that evens the playing field when it comes to the martial arts or wrestling, is the surface on which one practices. Smaller athletes can find traction for fast moves when the flooring is designed to help them execute such moves. Larger athletes rely on their size and strength, but the smaller ones can be equally as competitive by using their size and speed to defeat opponents. That’s why practice and competition mats, whether for wrestling or martial arts, should be thick enough to protect the practitioner, but with a high-traction surface to provide superior footing. Tatami finished martial arts mats provide the look and feel of the original rice straw tatami mats for which they are named, but today’s mats are thicker, more resilient, and are designed to protect and support.
Of course traction on a martial arts mat is beneficial to both older and younger students, both boys and girls, large and small. But the padding of a good martial arts mat will provide protection against injury, and ultimately that’s the goal, whether the athlete is a young girl going up against a much larger boy, or two equally-sized competitors. Keep it safe, folks.