View Full Version : My Top 5 Aikido Training Floors and the Dojos Who Made Them

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12-07-2015, 06:05 PM
I recently wrote an article titled "My Top 5 Aikido Training Floors and the Dojos Who Made Them"

and I figured I should ask you guys who else's dojo might be worthy of mention, especially since my list is mostly east coast kind of deal. So suggest away.

As to flooring, I think this can make or break a dojo. I believe a better floor creates a better training experience, and more students.

Link to Article follows:

12-15-2015, 02:19 AM
I can't say my own experience is terribly wide, but I'll give it a go.

I will list mine by flooring construction, since there were more similarities than differences for most of these dojos.

1. Concrete slab base, overlaid with wood studs, typically 16" (~40.6 cm) on-center, studs covered with 5/8" (~1.6cm) plywood, Zebra Mats on plywood. Wood stud perimeter to hold the mats in place.
Kitsap Aikido of Poulsbo, WA
Island Art Center of Bainbridge Island, WA
San Diego Aikikai II of San Diego, CA

I can't say for certain that the construction for all three dojos was exactly the same as far as stud placement, size, and plywood thickness, but I've seen Kitsap Aikido and Island Art Center with the mats pulled off, and San Diego Aikikai II felt & looked generally identical. I may be a bit biased as this is my "home" dojo's construction, but I've say it has a very good compromise for softness, spring, traction, with just enough hardness to remind you when you've done your ukemi wrong.

Zebra Mats generally keep pretty good barefoot traction when dry, but sometimes give mat burn if you are not doing suwari waza & shikko correctly. They do get a bit slick if there is a lot of sweat on the mat, but are easy to clean whether puddled with sweat or the occasional bleeding incident. Hardness/softness varies a little bit with temperature (softer when warm) and usage (softer where we line up in seiza. The final drawback is that on very rare occasions you might get a toe caught between the seems between the mats.

2. Similar to #1, except with an added covering of stretched canvas.
Dojo: Aikido Missoula, of Missoula, MT

Subfloor was also somewhat different, as this dojo is located on the upper floor of an early 1900's building constructed with heavy-timber floor beams and real-wood sub-floor, but this didn't seem to affect the feel much compared to #1.

While I'm not entirely certain the mats were Zebra brand, they felt the same as #1. The canvas covering has less friction than bare, dry Zebra Mats, so you tend to skid and slide a little bit, especially after energetic ukemi. I suspect dampness from sweat affects the friction of the canvas to a lesser degree than bare mats, but I wonder about what amount effort is needed to keep it clean and sanitary.

3. Concrete slab base, shredded rubber padding, stretched canvas top layer
Dojo: Eastside Aikido, of Bellevue, WA

(George Ledyard Shihan can correct me if I'm incorrect about the construction of the padding. It was relayed to me second-hand, after I asked around a bit.)

This flooring is hard and lumpy. Maybe not as hard as hardwood or concrete, but you certainly know when you do your ukemi wrong, every single time! While this can be a good thing, I was still pretty new to Aikido at the time of my visit (fortunately for me, the seminar was too crowded to allow for many throws). Same pros and cons to the canvas as #2, except the skidding was abated a bit by the lumpiness.

4. Zebra Mats layed directly on gymansium-style hardwood flooring.
Dojo: a rented facility for a seminar, with mats borrowed from two local dojos

Slighty less spring and softness than #1, similar feel otherwise. Mats had a tendency to spread and separate over the course of the seminars as we forgot to bring duct/gaffer tape.

Rupert Atkinson
12-15-2015, 03:51 AM
The best cheap to create permanent floor I have seen (on concrete) is:
Lay down lots of old tyres of the same width. Then cover with wooden boards. Then use real green/red Judo mats.

I detest all jigsaw mats but appreciate their convenience.

12-15-2015, 04:40 AM
The best cheap to create permanent floor I have seen (on concrete) is:
Lay down lots of old tyres of the same width. Then cover with wooden boards. Then use real green/red Judo mats.

I detest all jigsaw mats but appreciate their convenience.

My first dojo I ran in Quebec had that - almost as good as a proper sprung floor. The college tore it down because it was a fire hazard. Pity.

Walter Martindale
12-15-2015, 11:29 AM
Kawahara (late shihan in Canada) used to complain that floors with mats were too soft and we should be able to do our ukemi on the sidewalk...
That said, I'm sure glad we had mats of some kind to land on...

12-16-2015, 07:56 AM
We based our system at Aikido of Norfolk from this article:
“The Quest for the Perfect Judo Floor” by Paul Nogaki


Paul Sanderson-Cimino
12-18-2015, 02:17 AM
Is canvas really considered a strange thing? I think it's great. The dojo I'm at now has canvas. So does the Genyokan in Ann Arbor. I started off in a dojo with fairly hard, worn-out wrestling mats with packing tape to cover the seams where the mats separated. The Genyokan felt pretty damn magical after that.

I recall hearing that the canvas mat was a bit rough (?) to start with, so they did a class with a ton of "running steps" ikkajo to smooth it out through uke being dragged across the surface.

12-18-2015, 08:02 PM
I hope canvas isn't "strange." I much prefer it to bare Zebra mats: the rubberized surface really grabs at my feet.

FYI, Aikido Eastside recently replaced the shredded tires with Zebra mats, still under a canvas cover. No more lumps! About the same firmness, but the "bounce" is a little different.

Once upon a time, Shobu Aikido of Boston had natural tatami with a canvas cover. Which I really like, except that it tends to get lumpy as the rice straw breaks down over time. I don't know what their current location uses, though.


12-18-2015, 11:23 PM
Ours is a vinyl-type covering, laid over a 1.25" polyurethane foam thin mat, which is all laid on top of a floating 0.5" particle board surface to which is adhered to at the bottom (to the underside of the plywood, not to the concrete floor) "almost-cubes" of a specific type of rebounding foam with a slower than quick rebound rate, the cubes are 4" tall x 3" x3" and there are 27 of them per 4' x 8' plywood sheet.

It makes for a very forgiving mat surface. The vinyl is preferred by the BJJ folks with whom we share the dojo, but we'd prefer (if we could make such directives) to have the top surface be canvas covered, vs the vinyl.

Stil, we've probably got one of the Top 5 floor surfaces in Texas, Top 2 in Houston.