Tatami-esque Packing Material Martial Arts Mat




Introduction: Tatami-esque Packing Material Martial Arts Mat

My family and I just moved into a new house in the city which, fortunately for me, comes with a 20'x19', fully finished basement. My first thought was, "Now I can practise Aikido without running into walls!". Unfortunately the basement is build on solid concrete (or at least it feels like it), so practising break falls and rolls is a little painful. I eventually realized that we also had something else because of the move - packing material, and lots of it.

Now, some background about mats, and Aikido. Tatami mats are a traditional Japanese mat used for Martial Arts, sleeping, and flooring in general. They're normally constructed out of a top layer of woven straw, and an inner packing of rice straw. Most importantly, you should always take off your shoes before you walk on a Tatami mat.

Aikido is a Japanese art with, literally translated, means something to the effect of "way of the harmonious spirit". The emphasis in Aikido is using your opponent's force to deal with their attack, and disable them while leaving them with their dignity. The idea is that they will figure out that anything they try to do to you will result in their getting thrown on the ground, and rather than seeking revenge for an injury they will give up. One of the first things you learn in Aikido is falling. This teaches you how to fall safely, builds up the impact-resistance of your body, and gives you a way to safely feel where the power of a technique is applied without getting injured. Because a person studying Aikido knows how to fall, they are not injured (hopefully), by a technique practised on them, and they can continue the practise for several hours. An attacker who didn't know these techniques, however, wouldn't be able to keep up that long.

That being said, all of this background information is either from Wikipedia, an essayessay I've read on the web, the few classes I've taken, or what little I've picked up on the way, and I won't try to guarantee the accuracy of any of it.

On to the Instructable.

(The following image is a picture of an awesome, albeit poorly executed roll. DO NOT TRY IT! What I am doing here is STUPID. A poorly executed roll would send my head and neck into the wall or the concrete floor beneath the mat, likely breaking them. If you want to do this stuff, make a bigger mat, and take Aikido. To be fair, I've only done this twice so that I don't break something. )

Step 1: Gather the MATerials

Now it's time to gather the MATerials (you would have noticed the pun anyway, admit it). Here's what you'll need:

-Card board boxes (U-Haul medium size is what I used. it's about square and about body sized)
-News paper (I used unprinted because that's what I had. If it's not already crumpled, crumple it)
-Bubble wrap

You'll need LOTS of all of these depending on the mat size you want. I used about half of a medium sized boxes of bubble wrap and one of news paper. You'll also need a fair amount of duct tape, and a knife (if the boxes are taped together).

Step 2: Flatten and Begin Layering

Break the box down, then layer with a box, paper, bubble wrap, paper again, and then top it off with another flattened box. It should be about a foot high (uncompressed), when you're finished. You'll compress it later, but for now you want to get as much padding as possible. Don't neglect the edges! When you join the two mats together you'll want padding on the sides as well.

Step 3: Tape It Down

Now you need to go around taping the boxes together. This is where you compress the box. Compress it to about mat-thickness (about 3 inches). It will bulge in the center, but that will be resolved the first time you sit on it. I find it's easiest to tape diagonal corners to start. You want at least two pieces of duct tape per side, although some sides may require three, you be the judge. If it looks like part of the mat isn't padded enough, feel free to stuff more news paper in. You could use bubble wrap, but I did any finishing packing with news print because it's a little more "fluffy" than bubble wrap, and it doesn't pop.

Once you've taped from top to bottom, tape orthogonally (perpendicular-ly) on those pieces of tape (see picture for details). This will keep the tape from coming undone when pressure is applied to the centre. Do the same on the bottom.

You should probably also tape the flaps of the box (on the top at least) so that you don't get caught on them or trip on them or whatever. You want this surface to be as flat as possible.

Step 4: You're Finished. Make More!

Congrats, you've finished your first mat. That was tough, huh? Now it's time to make another. While this is a fairly aerobic activity, so is Aikido or whatever you intend to use the mat for, so get used to it. Besides, the second mat is much easier than the first, just don't skimp on the padding - you'll regret it later.

I made a second mad and taped them together. I used strips that crossed the boxes and then taped orthogonally over them. You'll see in the picture.

On my first roll I reached the join between the two mats and my shoulder slammed into the ground, causing my back to hit the second mat pretty hard. I added padding to fix that (see the third picture).

Step 5: Use It!

That's it! Now use the mat (or make more sections). My mat is a little small, which provides a painful incentive for me to straighten out my rolls (I plan to build more mats before I try it again). The nice thing about this mat is that it's cheap and made of fairly available materials, so you can destroy it as much as you want. For example, if I wanted a tape strip down the centre of my mat to guide my rolls, I could use duct tape to mark it off and not worry about cost.

Please don't try rolls like that unless someone has taught you, especially not on a mat over a concrete floor. What you see me doing in the opening picture is DUMB. A poorly executed roll could smash my head into the floor, which is why I only tried it twice. And if you want to try anything dangerous, get a real mat.

I'm pretty pleased with the quality of the mat. What it lacks in padding it makes up for in awesomeness, and even then it's much, much better than a concrete floor.

Thanks for reading.

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    Very nice post, I am die hard lover of martial arts.
    this post covers all aspects of tatami Martial arts mats


    13 years ago on Introduction

    I admire your commitment to your training to come up with such a practical solution.

    It looks like a bit of target practice if nage is throwing uke into a breakfall on such a short mat. :)

    Keep training. Gambatte!


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Well, to be perfectly honest, I actually haven't been practising that much recently. My studies have gotten in the way and the move hasn't helped, but I do plan to get back into it once I find a good dojo here. Thanks for the feedback.


    13 years ago on Introduction

    Good job here. You've successfully extracted all of the important aspects of a tatami mat, structurally and functionally, and applied them to your own design. At this stage I think I would have started making the mats more uniform, and standard size (not 3x6, probably just 3x3), so they could interlock. Essentially going for the flooring function as well as the padding function. After all, tatami mats were used primarily as flooring.


    13 years ago on Step 5

    That's great for people on an ultra budget. i learned this when visiting a very interesting Tai Kwon Do school many years ago. The teacher created his own mats by using thick layers of carpet underlay padding and canvas. The mats aren't the best in the world by any means but if you know how to break your fall properly and are on a budget, you can make these very easily and can find half of the materials just laying around somewhere. This is great for kids regardless of the discipline practiced. Depending on how thick you and dense you make them, you can easily walk on them without your feet sogging into the mat and you can still do some full-on judo throws. The cost of materials can range anywhere from $25-100 depending on if you have to buy the padding. The carpet padding, you will want to find the thickest and densest padding you can. You can always look around construction sites or befriend a carpet installer. They always throw away the old padding when installing new carpets in a house or building. You can easily clean up used padding by just soaking them in a solution of water, lysol and dishwashing detergent. DO NOT SCRUB THEM! The padding will just break apart. Just let them soak for a bit, then roll and squeeze them down to get the water out. Rinse, sqeeze and let them dry out in the sun. As for the canvas, i found some at home depot. Went to the back where the painting materials was and found a giant canvas drop cloth for about $15 dollars. Depending on how big your mat is and the drop cloth you might need more than one. Wash the canvas to shink and soften the cloth. Now, you will also need a can (or more depending on how big the mat is) of spray contact cement. Spray down one side of the layers of padding and let them sit for two or three minutes. Then set the pieces together like a sandwich. Add more layers until the padding is acceptable for you. Once you have the padding to your acceptable level, you simply spray a section of the top of the mat. Carefully begin to lay your canvas over the area. Be careful not to allow wrinkles or bubbles on your mat. Lay the canvas one section at a time. Once it's done you have a cheap mat that will last you a long time at a fraction of the cost of commercial mats.