Deighton proudly showing off his “King of the Mat” belt along with fellow contender and brother Nixon
Many different drills and training methods go into a well-rounded education in Jiu-Jitsu, and one of the most common and productive methods is the “King of the Mat” drill. At Arashi-Do St. Albert we use the format quite often, sometimes even officially for the chance to win the championship belt for the day and take some pictures with it.
The basic idea is to take an objective that is relevant to what the class has been working on. If the last few lessons have been on bear hug escapes, the objective may be to escape a fully locked in bear hug. If a tournament is coming up, the objective may be escaping mount, getting a particular takedown or something else the class in general has been struggling with. The class is then split up into groups and take turns trying to complete the objective. In the example of the bear hug, one student bear hugs the other and if they manage to hold on for ten seconds they win but if the other escapes, they win. Each time, the winner stays in the middle as acting King, and tries to stay in as long as they can.
This drill works well for a few reasons:
- The matches tend to be short, but high intensity. If two students know they’re going to be doing something for a while then they will pace themselves but if they know they have less than a minute to make something happen they’ll really go for it.
- There are always going to be differences in ability and size in any given class, but every student has different skills that they’re particularly good at. Since King of the Mat usually sets very tight objectives and those objectives are different each time, all students get their chance to shine when it comes around to their specialty.
- The process is self-regulating for all abilities. If there are multiple kings on the mat that are rotating through opponents, the student that is more athletic or more highly skilled will remain in the middle having to fight fresh opponents every minute until they lose, so everyone tends to get the workout that’s right for them by the end of the class.
King of the Mat can be a tough drill both physically and psychologically, but it’s also a lot of fun and is an excellent way to make great improvements on a particular technique in a short period of time. Don’t be afraid to take chances and lose in class, at the end of the day everyone is on the same team, and training partners that push you to be better are one of the greatest gifts you can have on the mats.