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View Full Version : I give up, time for a home dojo


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rachmass
10-27-2008, 07:19 AM
I have been out of the loop for the past 2 years, as I moved out to the hinterlands, a good hour away from the dojo where I normally practice. While I have managed to make it there occasionally, due to job and family constraints it has not been feasible to make it there even a couple of times a month. I am very frustrated to say the least.

So, my husband made the offer to practice with me at home. He's practiced only for a couple of years on and off, but is a good egg and willing to try. We don't exactly have the best space in the world for this, but do have a loft area in our house that measures about 14 x 14 and we have talked about putting mats down on the whole space and converting it into a home dojo for the two of us. Has anyone had experience having a place to practice in their own home, with limited training partners (we might be able to get friends out once in awhile)? If you have, how have you practiced?

At this point, just doing gentle pins is good (husband has bad knee, I no longer have an operational ACL brace and tore that ligament years ago so it is weak and the brace was a good source of stability). So, we can do a lot of basics without vigorous ukemi, but there is just the two of us. I would love to hear recommendations from anyone who has faced being in a place that practice at a dojo was just a bit logistically difficult and tried to do this from their home.

Any input is greatly appreciated!

Nafis Zahir
10-27-2008, 08:43 AM
My dojo is 1 hour & 10 mins away. So that's over 2 hours of driving for a 45 - 60 minute class. To be able to practice at home sometimes would be nice if I had the right training partner, but nothing beats training with my Instructor and the classmates that I have. To me, it is worth the trip. I have been making this trip for almost 2 1/2 years now. It has gotten old and one day I plan to have my own dojo and not travel there as much. On a side note, I am about to move and that will make my trip to class about a 35 -40 minute drive. That's going to be nice!

rachmass
10-27-2008, 08:48 AM
Nafis, I work in a business that doesn't afford me the luxury of that drive right now (without losing my much needed job). I also have family constraints that make it very difficult. I am asking this question to those who have trained at home, as at this point, short of starting my own dojo or club, it seems to be my best option. I don't need suggestions about it being worth the drive, I need input from people who have done this. Not meaning to be harsh, but that was the question, not making the drive.

Thanks, Rachel

Nick P.
10-27-2008, 11:33 AM
Hi Rachel,

Until someone who has trained in their home steps-up...

Koodos to you for taking the step of creating a training space in your home; it might be out of neccesity, but dont let that diminish how empowering the decission is.

Like you, I am embarking on the home dojo project; mats might be down as early as December.
Like you, my spouse will be my most frequent training partner.
Like you, I am asking myself how to practice and how that will be affected by who is present (or not) to train.

If I may suggest, I think we have to keep in mind why we are venturing down this (training at home) road; we want to train, hopefully often. Duh. But beyond that, what do you want to train? What do I want to train? And, will those arriving for practice want to train the same way/ with the same goals? Or should there be any goals?

My point, I guess, is that we might be venturing into a relatively uncharted area of our training. I am not building the space to teach, I am building it to train. But what will the dynamic be with those who accept my invitation to come train at my home? I think we all like the idea of a sensei, and a dojo, but this is neither of those, yet I suspect some of that will be transfered over; there will be a picture of O-Sensei in mine, I will call it a dojo, no shoes, lots of bowing....and then what? Perhaps a "schedule" of sorts would be best for everyone; mondays & thursdays is "class" led by you, but all other sessions are "open", as an example. "Class" could simply mean techniques are pre-selected, and guidance offered, but am I the teacher? Not sure yet. Those showing up might think so, especially if I am their senior, and the dojo is my home.

Hope my rant helps.

PS - Like you, my space will be about 14x16!

PPS - A friend of mine now living in Japan, on a trip home recently, explained to me that one of the senseis he is training under gives class in his home; 15 tatami of as many students. Once I heard that, i knew my idea of a home dojo was not so far fetched...

rachmass
10-27-2008, 12:02 PM
I just remeasured my space and it gives me a tight 8 tatami space. Enough room for me and my husband, and if I am lucky a friend or two to join us occasionally. I think that I am going to keep this as informal as possible as my husband did not appreciate my trying to teach him aikido in the past (spouse thing). At least this way I can do more than tenkan in my living room. Should also help me get used to training without a brace before I get back into the fray of my friends dojo (the one too far from my house to get to often enough) or a seminar.

When you get yours up and running, maybe we can talk. I am not really comfortable with the idea of having people come to my home to practice other than folks I already know and trust; certainly not people off the street just looking for a place to train (liability would be great). I have done the Sensei thing with my own dojo. I don't have the personality for it, nor really the rank. This for me is coming out of the need to practice again. After 20+ years (almost 26 since I started) of practice, being off the mat these past 2-years has been a real problem and I am itching to get back at it, but without going in full tilt to start. I rather knew it would be difficult to practice when I bought the new house, but I had no idea it would be as hard as it is (ever hear of the subprime mortgage meltdown? I am working on some of the after effects so you can imagine how busy I am).

Glad to see someone else is contemplating doing this! If others have experience with it, please chime in.

gdandscompserv
10-27-2008, 12:12 PM
Got kids?:D

rachmass
10-27-2008, 12:23 PM
Yes, why?

gdandscompserv
10-27-2008, 12:48 PM
Sometimes they make good training partners.:D

rachmass
10-27-2008, 12:51 PM
Oh, I get it. Actually he has practiced more than he ever wanted and is off in university now so it will just be me and hubby unless I meet someone who fits in as well. Something is better than nothing for sure.

Nick P.
10-27-2008, 01:05 PM
Got kids?:D

That is one reason why the basement dojo is coming into existence; I would like to introduce my kids (2.5 and 4.5 yrs old) to the art.

Ricky, what ever happened to your dojo project? Didnt you buy a building?

Garth Jones
10-27-2008, 02:03 PM
Rachel,

I have had a positive experience along these lines, although I wasn't the homeowner. Back in the early nineties I trained for two years in a one car garage. The owner was very serious about his aikido (and sandan at the time) but VERY busy with work, etc.. He had gathered up a small (about 6) group of people - friends and co-workers - and they had class twice a week. I met him at a seminar and was invited to come over - my wife and I trained with him until we moved away.

The dojo wasn't really open to the public (it wasn't listed anywhere and so would be practically impossible to find) and the teacher only let people train who he was willing to have in his home.

If, over time, you find a few people who want to train and who you are VERY comfortable with, it could be a really good training situation.

Anyway, that was my experience - I hope the example is useful.

Cheers,
Garth

PS If you are ever passing through Pittsburgh, stop in and train with us....

mickeygelum
10-27-2008, 03:04 PM
Greetings Ms. Massey,

I had a 4mx5m (15'x20') mat area in my old house...it was great!

Be prepared,SOMEONE will always come over and want to do some sort of training.

I had a heavy bag that could be suspended from the center of the room, giving 360 access. Great for jo work and kick/punch,as I still train Kenpo. Ukemi does not have to be pretty and eye-catching, simple and practical. Although your are suffering an injury, Shikko and Suwari waza are always a great way to train.

Mount a DV camera and television to the wall that gives a good cross section of the room, you can video your technique and critique it yourself. Your training will progress immensely. You will find those sticking points and move appropriately to make them more fluid.

I was able to decorate it to serve as a place to entertain, giving that Japanese ambience for special functions.

You will be surprised how it can become a family endeavor without even trying.

Good luck...Train well,

Mickey

Train well

rachmass
10-27-2008, 03:10 PM
Thanks guys. Glad to hear others experiences. One thing I am not going to do is any suwari waza, and only limited shikko. That has been a problem for some time and without the brace I am not going there. I am going up and down steps a lot and lifting weights for both my knee and my rotator cuff (yes, tear there too) injuries. You just don't heal as well in your 40's as you do in your 20's, simple fact of life.

My home is always open to my many aikido friends, and if some of them want to come visit, and practice then, it is all the more a bonus for having done this. I just ordered the mats, so in a couple of weeks we should be good to go. It works out nicely since my husband is a zen practitioner and he gets a zendo at the same time I get a dojo. We just have to put up a dog gate at the top of the loft so no dogs come up.

I am actually pyched now. Thanks guys!

gdandscompserv
10-27-2008, 03:38 PM
That is one reason why the basement dojo is coming into existence; I would like to introduce my kids (2.5 and 4.5 yrs old) to the art.

Ricky, what ever happened to your dojo project? Didnt you buy a building?
Nick,
Yes, I bought a building but am using it for storage right now. I found a really good deal at the community center ($20/month). The liability of a home dojo is also much greater than at the community center.

ramenboy
10-27-2008, 07:28 PM
hey rach

long time no see!!!! saw the gang at fox valley for chiba sensei's seminar and just had yokota sensei out last weekend!

anyways, right now, there's like 6.5 tatami in the master bedroom here at the apartment (helps when your landlord is also your sempai!!) we've had a couple very informal practices... mainly working on stuff we weren't sure of in class, and i've had a couple students who've wanted to work on stuff before testing.

its definitely not set up as a little dojo, but it serves its purpose.

have fun with your space (and hubby :P) you gotta do what you gotta do...

hope to see you soon!!!
jvc

Dunken Francis
10-27-2008, 07:42 PM
I have been out of the loop for the past 2 years, as I moved out to the hinterlands, a good hour away from the dojo where I normally practice. While I have managed to make it there occasionally, due to job and family constraints it has not been feasible to make it there even a couple of times a month. I am very frustrated to say the least.

So, my husband made the offer to practice with me at home. He's practiced only for a couple of years on and off, but is a good egg and willing to try. We don't exactly have the best space in the world for this, but do have a loft area in our house that measures about 14 x 14 and we have talked about putting mats down on the whole space and converting it into a home dojo for the two of us. Has anyone had experience having a place to practice in their own home, with limited training partners (we might be able to get friends out once in awhile)? If you have, how have you practiced?

At this point, just doing gentle pins is good (husband has bad knee, I no longer have an operational ACL brace and tore that ligament years ago so it is weak and the brace was a good source of stability). So, we can do a lot of basics without vigorous ukemi, but there is just the two of us. I would love to hear recommendations from anyone who has faced being in a place that practice at a dojo was just a bit logistically difficult and tried to do this from their home.

Any input is greatly appreciated!

Rachel,
Any practice is better than none at all! I recommend that you try to see your physical limitations not as barriers but as opportunities. Perhaps also explore something like feldenkrais as well to help you re-learn movements that wont stress your bodies.

I have trained with many people over the years that have long-term physical disabilities, including a one-legged shodan, a sandan with permanent knee-braces, a 95% blind shodan and the usual old crocks like myself with knackered shoulders/backs/elbows etc.

Might also be an idea to make sure that your training area is supportive, but soft!

good luck with it, and give us an update...

rachmass
10-27-2008, 08:45 PM
Thanks for the info Jerry! Good to hear from you too.
Thanks Duncan; I've actually been training with the injury for a better part of 13 years now (rotator only 6) but my brace recently broke so now I don't have that crutch. I am trying to do lots of flights of stairs and weights simply to strengthen my supporting muscles but I don't have stability for much in the way of suwari waza and am happy to be able to do shikko without shooting knee pain, so think I'll just skip that ;)

One possible upshot of this is if my husband can actually enjoy training, I might get him to go to the dojo on Saturdays, giving us at least one day a week with formal training. A lot better than nothing for sure, but training at home itself is a lot better than the (practically) nothing I have been doing for awhile now.

Jerry, hope to see you at a seminar soon. Means if we do, I have become a regular aikidoka again!

Akako110
01-17-2009, 11:10 PM
I think training at home is okay... But you should at least try to make it out to the dojo you go to at least....As often as you can! Personally I think it's worth travling that distance!

"When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky."
-Buddha

Jorge Garcia
01-18-2009, 06:00 AM
Hi Rachel,

We have 4 home dojos in our group (Shudokan Aikido Association). One is www.shugenkanaikido.com. Joe is a long time practitioner (like you) who went out on his own and in order to save the rent, he started a dojo in his garage. He did expand the garage a little (there are pictures at the website) and he has taught there for several years and has a small but steady group.
We have three home dojos here in Houston. Memo Almaguer has been training a small group in a garage in Katy for almost 5 years now. They add about one person per year but with no rent, it doesn't matter, only the training. Russ Thomas and Alberto Pena also have home dojos with 10 tatamis each. We have trained up to four people at full speed on 10 mats and it was the best Aikido training I have ever had. It also added an extra element of watching the other partners and the walls. Joe in San Antonio attends lots of seminars (He is at one in Laredo now) to make up for lack of outside training and my guys in Houston try to make the main dojo once a week. By the way, here in Houston, that can mean a 40 minute drive in the traffic. Alberto is 25 miles away. Some of my people travel an hour (within the city limits ) to get here.

When we were doing the buildout on the new dojo, I had no place to train so for months, four of us went from home dojo to home dojo training. Tuesdays and Thursdays, we met at home dojos. If I had started one myself, I realized that I could have trained the entire group at four home dojos on different days.
The reasons that wasn't practical was that long term we could not have grown the group and also, we could not have generated the income or have the location to host our Shihan but it has been a good experience for the limitations of some of our yudansha for getting around in Houston. Two of my guys made their garage dojos very nice even sealing the floor and giving it a very elegant look. They train a few neighborhood people and friends and it serves it's purpose.

I think two can train on 8 mats but 10 is ideal and can host four people.
As always,
I wish you the best.
Jorge Garcia

rachmass
01-18-2009, 08:05 AM
Thanks Jorge, as always :)

I have given up on the idea for the home dojo for the moment. The room we would use is needed for other things and it is a chunk of space from our 1,000 sqft home. No garage either. I am going to have to simply make the trek once a week to practice, if I can manage that (for one reason or another it isn't working most of the time). My husband doesn't really want to practice anyway and was just humoring me.

Thanks for the comments and it does look quite feasible if you have the space. Here I am way out in the country in a tiny house with no garage or space for anything. It is challenging to say the least, but the peace and quiet of being in a lovely spot with trees and water all around are worth it.

Larry Feldman
01-18-2009, 04:41 PM
1. Get a good waiver (for visitors)
2. Get an umbrella policy on your homeowners insurance, $1 Million in coverage for about $200/year
3. Make sure you get to a seminar or class once a month to make sure you are 'still on track' and not reinforcing a personal bad habit.

Jorge Garcia
01-18-2009, 08:02 PM
...Here I am way out in the country in a tiny house with no garage or space for anything. It is challenging to say the least, but the peace and quiet of being in a lovely spot with trees and water all around are worth it.

That scene sounds pretty wonderful to me. I wish I could trade with you. I think that the distance of the dojo is a minor problem in comparison to the wonderful life I hope you are having.
best,
Jorge

gdandscompserv
01-19-2009, 01:33 PM
I rent the local community center for a very reasonable price. Have mats, will travel.:D

dps
01-19-2009, 04:20 PM
You might even find a local church that will let you use a room big enough for your purposes.

David

Walter Martindale
01-19-2009, 04:41 PM
Before the Queenstown dojo was opened, and the sensei who opened it had just moved there, we used to meet for an hour every so often and do suwariwaza on the lounge carpet with the furniture moved away to the sides. We JUST had room to do some careful ura movements but there was no room for standing practice.

With your knees and those of your hubby it sounds like this isn't quite as feasible for you.
W

Jedi
01-20-2009, 05:00 PM
I have been out of the loop for the past 2 years, as I moved out to the hinterlands, a good hour away from the dojo where I normally practice. While I have managed to make it there occasionally, due to job and family constraints it has not been feasible to make it there even a couple of times a month. I am very frustrated to say the least.

So, my husband made the offer to practice with me at home. He's practiced only for a couple of years on and off, but is a good egg and willing to try. We don't exactly have the best space in the world for this, but do have a loft area in our house that measures about 14 x 14 and we have talked about putting mats down on the whole space and converting it into a home dojo for the two of us. Has anyone had experience having a place to practice in their own home, with limited training partners (we might be able to get friends out once in awhile)? If you have, how have you practiced?

At this point, just doing gentle pins is good (husband has bad knee, I no longer have an operational ACL brace and tore that ligament years ago so it is weak and the brace was a good source of stability). So, we can do a lot of basics without vigorous ukemi, but there is just the two of us. I would love to hear recommendations from anyone who has faced being in a place that practice at a dojo was just a bit logistically difficult and tried to do this from their home.

Any input is greatly appreciated!
Rachel:

I and my wife Karen have been practicing aikido and Roppokai in our garage dojo (9 Swain mats) once or twice a week for almost 4 years. We have also had Roppokai workshops 2 or 3 times a year (between 4 and 8 participants at a time). For safety reasons, we don't have two pairs throwing at the same time. Basic suwariwaza and non-throwing techniques work fine.

We don't teach at our dojo (though a weekly Roppokai study group meets at our place), as we teach aikido at a separate nearby dojo. Best part about a home dojo is that it is right there, you don't have to travel in rush hour traffic, and you can suit the training to the way you prefer - we sometimes like to sit in zazen before practice. It is good to have some experience before going out on your own like this, so one doesn't distort the techniques too much. Difficult part is it requires self-discipline - if you don't have any outside dojo to teach or train at, it requires self-discipline to even drag yourself to the garage.

One other thing is doing weapons work is harder - especially jo and iaido-type work unless you are mindful of short ceilings (our problem).

Overall, a very good experience. If you and your husband wish to do it, go for it - it is a good way to also work on skills that one is weak at, and patiently study techniques with an understanding partner - sometimes that may not happen in a dojo setting - we got an extra gymnastic mat so my wife could practice koshi nages on me for her nidan test!! We actually felt just two people training together has provided us many insights into techniques, and lack of partners was not a problem - again, supplement it with some outside training to refine waza, and to play with other body types.

Best regards and good luck

Jaideep Mukherjee, Ph. D.
Sensei, Yuwakan.com

Will Prusner
01-21-2009, 02:39 AM
We just have to put up a dog gate at the top of the loft so no dogs come up.

Dogs = Training partners