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Conrad Gus
12-09-2009, 01:10 PM
Hi all,

I'm sure someone out there has some good advice for me. I'm turning my garage into a practice space. It has concrete floors.

I'm looking for a budget solution for mats. I don't want to go out and buy mats or tatami.

What I was thinking of was getting really dense foam and covering it with a big piece of nylon, securing the nylon around the edges to keep it nice and tight. I think it can be done for a much more reasonable cost than mats. At my previous dojo, Sensei had mats but covered them in this fashion with a big "tarp" of high-quality ripstop nylon to keep people from getting their toes caught between the mats. (I had a student break her toe that way last year).

So my question is this: do I need to create a sprung floor before putting down my mats? With gymnastics mats I would definitely do it, but this foam is a lot denser than gymnastics mats (it isn't mattress foam, it is way denser). If I were using nice tatami, would I need a sprung floor or could I go straight onto concrete?

Thanks for the wisdom and experience of the aikido community on this question.

Conrad

chillzATL
12-09-2009, 02:30 PM
what you're looking to do will work just fine. Several of our dojo and our summer camp mats are just like what you described.

Michael Hackett
12-09-2009, 02:38 PM
Another solution that works well and is inexpensive is to lay down a layer of used bicycle tires, then a layer of cheap plywood, your foam on top of that and then your cover, with all held down by a frame. That gives you somewhat of a sprung floor underneath the padding. Most bicycle shops will give you all the used tires you need.

chillzATL
12-09-2009, 02:39 PM
Another solution that works well and is inexpensive is to lay down a layer of used bicycle tires, then a layer of cheap plywood, your foam on top of that and then your cover, with all held down by a frame. That gives you somewhat of a sprung floor underneath the padding. Most bicycle shops will give you all the used tires you need.

That's one great idea!

Marc Abrams
12-09-2009, 03:09 PM
Jason:

My school has Zebra mats directly on top of a poured concrete floor. I actually prefer that because it provides for a more realistic, yet safe surface to train on. Cushioned floors tend to allow people to become a little too complacent with their ukemi. Just my 2 cents, lately, only really worth 1 cent....

Marc Abrams

Conrad Gus
12-09-2009, 03:42 PM
Thanks for the great ideas.

I'm not really going for "street" realism, more safety. I just want to make sure that people don't wreck their knees or spine from training on concrete. If it is safe enough to go straight to concrete then that's probably what I'll do (much simpler and easier).

I save my concrete ukemi training for when I'm bombing around on the skateboard!

Having said that, the bicycle tire idea sounds like it might be a bit too bouncy. Do you really notice it, or is it more subtle?

Conrad Gus
12-09-2009, 04:00 PM
One more thing,

For anyone who has done this, do you happen to remember the thickness and density of the foam you used?

It might save me some trial and error.

Thanks,

Conrad

Russ Q
12-09-2009, 04:15 PM
Hi Conrad,

I have the 2.5 inch foam "tatami" mats from Hatashita Intl (based in Kingston Ont) on top of poured concrete. Works just fine. They're cheaper than real tatami but still pricey at about $150 each....

Good luck,

Russ

Conrad Gus
12-09-2009, 04:47 PM
Thanks for the info Russ,

I'm glad to hear about your experience. From the Hatashita web site I would have been led to believe that a sub-floor is necessary.

They have a whole page on "how to build a perfect sub-floor" and they sell the foam blocks to put between two layers of plywood. The dojo in the pictures is huge. I don't have time to do the math, but that is a LOT of plywood (a bottom layer and a top layer) and also a lot of mats at $150 a pop.

I'm going to go with your experience and just put it down and see if it works. If I decide to put a sub-floor in later I can always do so. Mostly I was interested in the danger factor, but it sounds like you don't have problems.

BTW, I'm just across the water in Victoria. I'll drop in some time if I'm in the area. My grandparents used to live in Gibsons, so I've been there many times. Also, I've heard great things about your seminars and the ones in Vancouver.

ChrisHein
12-09-2009, 06:07 PM
This is in a garage, on concrete. We've been using it for 3 years now and it has held up very well.

http://www.aikidostudent.com/content/?p=324

Good luck

Michael Hackett
12-09-2009, 06:29 PM
Conrad,

With the bike tires you get extra compression under the foam, but I've never felt it personally. It felt very stable underfoot. We used two inch Ensolite brand foam. With everything, including the purchase of a hammer drill, the total came to less than $ 500. It was nice looking and safe to work on. It also was a good surface for some BJJ students to grapple on too. Very easy to clean and disinfect.

I really like the Zebra tatami, but they are expensive and quite hard if laid on solid concrete. Still safe and easy to clean though. Good luck with your project.

Carrie Campbell
12-09-2009, 08:36 PM
Conrad,

With the bike tires you get extra compression under the foam, but I've never felt it personally. It felt very stable underfoot. We used two inch Ensolite brand foam. With everything, including the purchase of a hammer drill, the total came to less than $ 500. It was nice looking and safe to work on. It also was a good surface for some BJJ students to grapple on too. Very easy to clean and disinfect.

I really like the Zebra tatami, but they are expensive and quite hard if laid on solid concrete. Still safe and easy to clean though. Good luck with your project.

Hello. We laid borrowed tatami on concrete for awhile and it worked, but it was a little hard. When we built our mat on concrete, we started with blocks about 4" square and 1.5"? high, spaced and glued to sheets of plywood. A second layer of plywood was velcroed overlapping like bricks. (The velcro was stapled on). On top of the plywood is a polyurethane?? foam 1 3/8" thick. Canvas is stretched over it. I believe there are some pictures on our website at aikidooflincoln.org.

Michael Hackett
12-10-2009, 01:00 AM
I personally don't care for the canvas covers much. They are too hard to keep clean and sanitary in my opinion and show stains too easily. Again, my personal preference is for the heavy weight vinyl material for ease of cleaning and maintenance. That said, I don't like catsup or red cars either.

Carrie, can you describe the spacing of the blocks under the plywood? Sounds interesting and I'd like to know more about your experience/situation. Thanks.

Abasan
12-10-2009, 02:56 AM
Chris thanks for sharing. Superb guide.

Not sure if we can get the phone books or tire shreds here for free though, but its definitely something we can explore when the need arises.

DonMagee
12-10-2009, 10:38 AM
Lately I've been training on a old high school wrestling mat bought from a local high school rolled out on a gym floor.

Seems to handle judo ok.

Rob Watson
12-10-2009, 10:56 AM
I personally don't care for the canvas covers much. They are too hard to keep clean and sanitary in my opinion and show stains too easily.

At Berkeley Aikikai the canvas mat (shredded tire 'dust' as an underlayment) was not too bad but quite abrasive. After only a few months it smelled quite a bit of sweat.

At Aikido of San Leandro the canvas mat is painted and does not smell or stain and is not abrasive. I'm not sure what the underlayment is as the new canvas just went on top of the old mat ... we mop it regularly and I find it quite easy to clean and maintain. Painting the canvas does bring up the fibers so a good sanding and 2+ coats of paint over primer is called for. If you don't sand between coats the raised fibers act like sand paper and it does exfoliate nicely, at first, but soon there is torn clothes and blood and crying ...

I have no idea how much the canvas costs (from a sailing supply shop) but I'd imagine it is not inexpensive. Now, if only we can get folks to stop digging their swords into it and cutting gashes ...

ChrisHein
12-10-2009, 11:18 AM
At Berkeley Aikikai the canvas mat (shredded tire 'dust' as an underlayment) was not too bad but quite abrasive. After only a few months it smelled quite a bit of sweat.

At Aikido of San Leandro the canvas mat is painted and does not smell or stain and is not abrasive. I'm not sure what the underlayment is as the new canvas just went on top of the old mat ... we mop it regularly and I find it quite easy to clean and maintain. Painting the canvas does bring up the fibers so a good sanding and 2+ coats of paint over primer is called for. If you don't sand between coats the raised fibers act like sand paper and it does exfoliate nicely, at first, but soon there is torn clothes and blood and crying ...

I have no idea how much the canvas costs (from a sailing supply shop) but I'd imagine it is not inexpensive. Now, if only we can get folks to stop digging their swords into it and cutting gashes ...

Wow, I had no idea! I've trained on that mat a few times and I always thought it was the same cover we use, marine grade canvas. It is a really nice covering, and smoother then our top. However after reading the work put in I think marine grade canvas might be easier. It comes with a water proof coating, and I know of at least one that has been in service as an Aikido mat for well over 20 years, with little more then a patch here and there.

Walter Martindale
12-10-2009, 01:02 PM
Our judo dojo in the vancouver YMCA in the 70s had tatami on plywood, on top of used car tires. When I trained at UBC with tatami on concrete, the ukemi there hurt. A lot.
Kawahara (Aikikai shihan in Canada) usually says that the mats at most dojo are too soft and we should be able to do our ukemi outside on the street. (yes, but.... )
Walter

ninjaqutie
12-10-2009, 01:53 PM
In my old dojo the concrete was covered with thin carpet and the mats were on top of those. Worked just fine. I never had a problem. My current dojo has our tatami on top of their old hard canvas mats. I think my new dojo has harder mats then the one's on the concrete I trained at previously.

Russ Q
12-10-2009, 02:37 PM
Hi Conrad,

It is a cheaper way to go (just buying the "tatami"), as it is difficult enough to pay the lease, let alone regain capitol costs. I'm guessing most of your students will be beginners and won't know the difference. If you have experienced students they this is a chance to "toughen up":-) I tend to agree with Marc about complacent ukemi when the mats are too cushiony.....

I invite you to join us for keiko should you find yourself in Gibsons anytime. I will surely look you up when I'm in Victoria. I don't get down there much. My mum is in Parksville so I may go train with the guys in Nanaimo over the New Year break. Thanks for the kudos on the seminars but I have to give all the credit to my teacher (and the students in her dojo) Tama Nakashimada sensei and the efforts of Vancouver Shomonkai (another Shohei Juku affiliated dojo).

Cheers,

Russ

Nick P.
12-10-2009, 05:13 PM
Those Hatashita mats look very much like we use, directly on concrete.
When we purchased them from GeneSport here in Montreal, there were 3 densities, and we got the hardest/densest.

We are finding, some time later, that a little softer would have been better. We do however love how not only the surface but the density underneath allows for very quick footwork. I do not know the density of another dojo I visit occasionally, but can tell you there are the same type but for sure softer, and can't really see much difference in terms of squishy affecting speed of footwork, but they are nicer to fall on. I know that when I get my own for my basement dojo (soon) I will not be getting the hardest, but the softer ones.

I would contact Hatashita if I were you and ask them what they recommend for your direct-in-concrete application, and see what they say....

Carrie Campbell
12-11-2009, 01:33 PM
I personally don't care for the canvas covers much. They are too hard to keep clean and sanitary in my opinion and show stains too easily. Again, my personal preference is for the heavy weight vinyl material for ease of cleaning and maintenance. That said, I don't like catsup or red cars either.

Carrie, can you describe the spacing of the blocks under the plywood? Sounds interesting and I'd like to know more about your experience/situation. Thanks.

Hello, Michael. I'm just a student and am not very familiar with the measurements etc. Robin McConnell sensei designed the mat very well for us. We appreciate its forgiving nature as we practice on it, and like it as well as any others we've practice on in the midwest area, from here to Illinois.

I've attached a few miniature pictures from before, during, and after assembly of the mat. More were selected to illustrate spacing of blocks on the plywood sheet since that was a specific question. I'm not sure I have the original pics anymore, but had thrown them into a word document, which I just now converted to a pdf to attach here. Hope that helps.

Our travel mat for demonstrations is from the leftover foam 1 3/8 " thick. It works fine on a regular floor or stage. It gets little tears though on impact. So for regular use, it would be prudent to protect it somehow.

I happen to like the canvas cover. Our canvas seems soft enough; it's a little slick when the air is dry. The fabric is nice because it's warmer than tatame in winter and cooler than tatame in summer. As for caring for it, we vaccuum it every day after practice. Hydrogen peroxide works to get up most stains, but leaves a bleach mark that blends in later. A mixture of peroxide and water does the job too, but doesn't leave the initial white mark. We ordered our canvas through a company called Strinz Tipi (https://www.strinztipi.com/estore/) that also makes tents for renaissance fairs.

Michael Hackett
12-11-2009, 02:55 PM
Thanks Carrie. The pictures make the description much clearer. Looks pretty cool.

tarik
12-13-2009, 11:13 AM
I use Zebra directly on concrete. No issues with it being too firm. FWIW, I find springy surfaces are much worse on my back, hips, and knees than the firm surfaces.

RED
12-14-2009, 10:12 PM
Ask your school... they are most likely pros at making a practice space.. or I would hope they are. lol

Rob Watson
12-15-2009, 03:15 PM
... been in service as an Aikido mat for well over 20 years, with little more then a patch here and there.

We just replaced the original mat ~2 years ago. That's 23 years and a few patches. Actually didn't replace it but just laid the new canvas right on top of the old one. Two tears from squirrely shinken take aways and one hole due to a faulty pumpkin light from halloween already.