View Full Version : Dojo floor plans

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10-20-2006, 01:03 PM
I have the privilege of building my own dojo from scratch in a wilderness setting. I've been looking around, without success, for floor plans. I would like to build a sprung floor to go under the mat surface, something like you would find in a dance studio. I've come across the tyre method and would rather avoid it. Does anyone have any plans or know of any sources?

Much appreciated

10-20-2006, 01:53 PM
I have the privilege of building my own dojo from scratch in a wilderness setting. I've been looking around, without success, for floor plans. I would like to build a sprung floor to go under the mat surface, something like you would find in a dance studio. I've come across the tyre method and would rather avoid it. Does anyone have any plans or know of any sources?

Much appreciated

These folks used to have that type of floor in their dojo - the sprung floor type - they have since moved locations & I do not know if they continued this style of floor at their new location, but I am sure someone will be able to help you in how they built it or to go about building that type.


10-20-2006, 02:26 PM
I know some folks who built a large "sprung" floor using a foam block lattice and plywood over concrete. I know that much research went into the project, and there are engineered and manufactured systems available. I'll try to get more specific information about materials and sources, and forward it to you.

Jeff Sodeman
10-20-2006, 07:00 PM
Out of curiosity why do you want a sprung floor?

10-21-2006, 03:50 PM
It depends on your budget.

Money up the wazoo:
You can have one made using the same people who build dance stages.

Some money and free labor:

Source for foam blocks: http://wifoam.com/home.html

We just built one using foam blocks on plywood. The plywood runs about $12 to $15 for a 4x8 sheet. The foam blocks comes to about $12 per plywood sheet. The Liquid Nails to attach the foam is about 6 bucks per plywood sheet. The Zebra mats about $120 for a 1x2 meter mat, less if it's been used. The rest of the money we blew on beer.

Applying the foam took several hours plus a day to set. Building the wood floor just an hour or two.

When we're done we'll have 80 tatami on a spring floor.

Why? Because you get old. A more forgiving mat extends your fully practicing Aikido by another 10 years.

Jim Baker
(Hey Jeff, say "Hi" to your dad from Wendy on the Forensic Path Committee and her pony-tailed Jim.)

Jeff Sodeman
10-21-2006, 04:04 PM
I'll pass that along, small world.

We have a 2x4 and plywood subfloor under our mat which really helps it absorb falls and makes it a lot more forgiving while still being firm - I was just curious about the extra expense and effort to actually make it "sprung". Also kind of curious whether a true sprung floor hits you back.

10-21-2006, 05:34 PM
The rest of the money we blew on beer.That's AIKI, baby! :p

Also kind of curious whether a true sprung floor hits you back.I have never been hit by a floor, although a tree did jump out in front of my car once... (Seriously, the foam-sprung floors I have been on do not retaliate, because they don't keep going further after your body stops moving. They just sort of return to level when you do.)

10-22-2006, 09:05 AM
Like Clark says, it's the return. The floor doesn't mush in when you hit it; it allows the impact to dissipate and then returns to its original shape.In a sprung or foam block floor the compression rate of the floor is much faster than the rebound rate which allows the impact to dissipate more efficiently. You don't get that bouncy feeling since most of the energy is taken by the mat system and not just sent back into your body.


10-22-2006, 10:45 AM
Thanks for the input everybody.
My Sensei teaches at two different locations. The Granville Aikikai Dojo is in a dance school and the floors are sprung. For years the Gathering Place Aikikai mat surface was directly on concrete. I have really noticed a difference, especially on the body. Concrete just doesn't have the same give.

Well hopefully with the info I've gathered here, I can make some head way. If anyone else has some other ideas or helpful hints they would like to share, bring them on. :D


Carol Shifflett
10-22-2006, 12:00 PM
Out of curiosity why do you want a sprung floor?To save your body, your brain and your life -- and maybe even your student numbers. My own unfortunate experience has given me a fervent interest in head injury and its aftermath. I'm also convinced that years of repetitive breakfalls=years of repetitive microtrauma + the occasional macrotrauma is a potentially tragic mix. Dance floors (and even WWF rings) are "sprung" for good reason and dojo floors should be too. Otherwise, the same forces that destroy the legs and hips of dancers are tearing at brains and bodies in judo and aikido. And once you know what to look for, the Walking Wounded are everywhere. One obviously severely damaged fellow I know denied any history of actual "head injury" but admitted to 8 years of 300 breakfalls a night. "Serious Training" of course. How could that be harmful? Well, hmmm. Watch an Olympic judo film sometime but ignore the throws -- watch the heads bouncing off the solid mats. Imagine doing that to your computer 20-50-300 times a night and then being surprised that it was starting to not work quite so well as it did before . . . (never mind the backs and knees!)

Judoka Gerald Lafon has spent many years experimenting with home-made spring-loaded mats which are actually better and cheaper than commercial models. See his full article with photographs online at: http://www.judoamerica.com/helpforclubs/springmat/
Notice also his comment on falling vs. student retention:

"As a coach, I have always looked for ways to better my program. Looking back at my own training, the only thing that I never liked about Judo was landing on concrete-hard surfaces, especially in the cold winter. I also realized that many who started Judo in the clubs I was attending (including my own brother) soon quit because they didn't appreciate the falling. As a coach, I vowed that I would cease subjecting my students to unnecessary hardship just as soon as I could. When I opened my first permanent dojo, in came the spring-loaded mat for good!"

Carol Shifflett

Jeff Sodeman
10-22-2006, 04:44 PM
I guess maybe we're talking about different things. I certainly agree that some type of sub-platform is important in keeping longevity, whether of wood, tire, foam or other construction. Having done some gymnastics in highschool I tend to think of that surface as being "sprung" - the kind of thing where you can bounce back to your feet.

10-22-2006, 06:04 PM
Bouncing ukes make for poor practice, methinks. Not natural...

10-24-2006, 11:54 AM
The founder of Kokikai said he was told that when he complained of hitting his head on a wooden floor numerous times from Shiho Nage during Aikido practice that that was "what made him so smart."

Anyway, maybe don't throw so hard and you won't get hurt.

10-24-2006, 03:26 PM
I have to agree with the benefits mentioned in general, but...

I spend time in two different dojos. One has a sprung floor, the other is just foam on hardwood. The one which is foam (2" of it!) on hardwood was also on a sprung floor until recently.

The first thing I noticed after we moved into our new space without a sprung floor was that my knees hurt less after class. Actually, it's gotten to where they don't hurt at all. I'm tempted to give up my knee pads.

Now I notice when I'm in the other dojo that the mat feels "wobbly" to me. It's not actually the mat wobbling, though, it's my knees, both of which have hardware (screws and plates) in them. And my knees hurt after class.

It's a tradeoff, I think. A softer, more forgiving mat does make rolls and falls easier (up to a point), but these sprung floors can play havoc on knees which are already dicey.

At one point I had that 2" of foam on a concrete floor. Contrast this to the hardwood on 2x12 joists above an open basement that is the current situation. Even with 2" of foam, the concrete hurt. A lot.

The hardwood floor seems to be ideal. To me, anyway. I actually believe I could have done with the 1-3/8" foam that was an option.

For reference:

This is the foam we are currently using. (http://www.cartwheelfactory.com/mat_rolls.html#foamonly)
This is what we had been using on the concrete and sprung floor. (http://www.cartwheelfactory.com/mat_rolls.html#ezroll)
And this is where we got the canvas to cover our current mat. (http://www.customcanvas.com/)

They're the same foam, just one is cut to make rolling it up easy and has carpet top. The carpet top does have the benefit of making your rolls nice and clean; sloppy rolls mean carpet burn. But it's a pain to keep clean.

The sprung floor we had it on was when we shared space with a dance studio. They had built the floor and we just rolled our mats out onto it during class.

I've attached a couple of pictures of the new mat in the hope it may be helpful. Unfortunately (maybe, it might be a blessing, actually) I don't have any pictures of the old mat that would give any real insight, althought there is this picture. (http://www.aikiweb.com/gallery/showphoto.php?photo=855&sort=1&size=medium&cat=500&page=2)

Kevin Wilbanks
10-24-2006, 03:51 PM
I think the solution to the problem mentioned by Michael is to have a sprung floor but hard mats.

Knee stress is probably caused by instability of the surface that effects the function of your foot, which essentially encourages your arch to collapse. This is probably not the car or bicycle tires under the mat, but the softness of the mat itself. The "spring" of rubber, foam, or whatever under the and mat can't be wobbling in a way that would cause your foot to tilt or collapse, as there are 4' x 8' plywood boards and maybe 2x4s in between. If the spring material underneath were that soft, the mat would feel like walking on a small boat, the corners of the plywood boards would poke up visibly when you stood on the opposite end, etc... The stuff underneath should only "kick in" in terms of shock absorption when landed on hard. You shouldn't even notice it when standing or stepping. I think most dojo use mats that are too thick and soft. I've never tried it, but I envision the perfect floor as something pefectly sprung with synthetic tatami on top - possibly even the ones made for karate.

As far as constructing a dojo goes, the thing I don't like about the car tire sprung floor is the elevation relative to the non-sprung floor. It creates an extra hazard at the edge of the mat and I don't like the aesthetics. If I were building from scratch, I would elevate the whole floor to the same level and just spring the part under the mats. Another option for less spring and less elevation is to use bicycle tires instead of car tires.

Another thing I would do if building a dojo from scratch is to put moderate padding on the back wall, seamless with the floor, so that up-against-the-wall and into-the-wall techniques could be practiced.

Rupert Atkinson
10-24-2006, 11:09 PM
In Korea one dojo floor I liked had hardish mats on wodden fork-lift pallettes on old tyres. A great combination, and cheap too.