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12-26-2004, 06:37 AM
I have two questions.....both concern the dojo floor. I am in the planning stages of constructing a small dojo.

Does anybody have good plans for the dojo flooring that the mats sit on?

I am looking for a resource for tatami mats. I know about Swain and Zebra mats. But would also like to investigate real
tatami. Where they can be bought....How well do they hold up...and general care to aid in preservation.


12-26-2004, 11:51 AM
My dojo constructed its new floor as follows:

Wooden framework around the sides. Inside this, a layer of used tires. Attached to the framework and resting on the tires, a lattice of 2x4's at about 14" intervals. Over all that, a plywood floor; then a protective tarp and a layer of tatami.

Ki Society style picks up the feet a lot and is very bouncy; tatami on a sprung floor like this suit it well. The downsides are that it's a fairly hard surface (making learning ukemi more difficult) and it was a ton of work to build. (Hint: measure your room at all ends. Our walls turned out not to meet at right angles so one end of the room was narrower than the other. This played havoc with the framework.)

Tatami have to be treated carefully. Store them either lying flat or standing neatly on a long edge, or they will warp. Keep dampness away; getting wet will ruin a tatami faster than anything. Ours are vinyl-coated and we hand-mop them nightly, but with attention to using minimal water, cleaning up drips promptly, and not letting water run down between. If there is any chance your site may leak, I would avoid tatami. Once they get soaked they are difficult to salvage. Also, even though they look portable they are very heavy; if you plan to move mats often I would get something else.

I believe my dojo has worn out 2-3 sets of tatami in 18 years. If you move them, they will wear out faster.

Most of the Aikikai dojo I've visted use a canvas tarp over some kind of stuffing (shredded tires in one case, I don't know about the other two). This can be vacuumed and seems easy to take care of. The weak spot is the grommets and ties that attach the canvas to the outer framework; these have to be replaced periodically. It's much softer, which is good for ukemi but has some drawbacks for footwork--you can snag your toes on it, and it doesn't bounce as much.

You may want to choose your floor treatment according to the needs of your style: how much do you emphasize light footwork? How much do you emphasize hard falls? Also, are you going to have to move it, or is this a permanent installation?

Mary Kaye

12-26-2004, 12:43 PM
I have worked out in a friend's dojo that has Swain type mats on a spring floor.... very nice. The mat is firm enough so you don't have to worry about twisting ankles or hurting toes while the spring floor absorbs nearly all of the impact of the throw. They train in Aikido, Jujitsu, and Judo on this floor and it works great... I'll investigate what they use and try to post it here.

12-26-2004, 02:13 PM
Does anybody have good plans for the dojo flooring that the mats sit on?


Peter Bernath has a lovely mat in Ft. Lauderdale. It's "sprung" without the tires you'll read about in the above URL. It's basically a 2 X 4 grid with plywood on top and Swains (or Zebras, I don't know which) on. I've never been on the tire things I offered, but I'd go the extra expense myself for some kind of sprung mat because these mats alone on concrete are still real hard.

Let us know what you decide on and how you like it.

12-26-2004, 04:00 PM
Not sure if you guys can source them in the States, but we usually use either poly-vinyl covered foam mats (with a density of about 45 kg/m3) or tatami style mats (straw-filled, vinyl covered). These mats are positioned within a very simple pine wooden frame, simply to stop the mats moving. We've installed them on everything from sprung wooden floors through to hardened cement floors.

The mats are relatively hard (they certainly ensure that you are a little more careful with your ukemi) but are very easy to place, extremely durable, and are very transportable.

http://www.acromat.com.au/pdfs/A8.pdf (page 3 - mat #14)

The link probably won't help much as its an Australian site, but it might at least help point you in the right direction.

12-27-2004, 12:42 AM
If you decide to go with the tires, and you are a non-profit organization, you may be able to get used ones for free from a tire store or auto repair shop. Offer them a receipt on your dojo letterhead. We needed 27 more tires in a hurry and got them this way (thank you, Firestone!)

Watch out that recent tires are generally wider than older ones, and you don't want too huge a diversity of sizes! (We had an interesting time with this, too. It had been ten years since the mat was last redone, and when we added new tires to the old ones, they didn't match.)

In general, if you're a non-profit don't overlook asking for material donations--it's surprising how often you'll get them. I belonged to a church group which needed 20 large sheets to make stage props for an event--someone said, "No problem, I'll ask a hotel to donate them" and to my shock he showed up the next day with 20 large sheets.

Mary Kaye

12-27-2004, 12:56 AM
Tires are great but one of the reasons my old dojo in Quebec was torn down was because the tires contravened the fire code. Please check.

Rocky Izumi
12-27-2004, 01:46 AM
Kawahara Shihan has continuously berated me for using the Swain mats on a floating wooden floor. He keeps telling me that they are too soft and results in poor Aikido. He commented that if we are using the high density foam type tatami that we should have them on a concrete floor or if we have a floating wooden floor, that the mats should be only half the thickness. He preferred my dojos with the jigsaw mats on a floating wooden floor, or better yet, when we worked on just two layers of foam-backed rugs covered with a canvas. I think he would rather have us working on a plain wooden floor with no mats. I think I may be getting too old for koshinage on those wooden floors.

I don't like the jigsaw mats because they tend to rip the skin off the knees of the beginners when they are just starting to do shikko.

I don't like the canvas covered rugs because they are too slippery in the winter in the northern climes and get too smelly in the tropics.

I guess my favorite option is Swain mats on concrete or a non-floating wooden floor.


Larry Feldman
12-27-2004, 02:05 PM
For a 'sprung' floor gymnastics schools use either foam blocks made for this purpose or springs instead of tires. The blocks cushion your fall a little better....

12-27-2004, 04:16 PM
Thank you all for your responses. I would have given my thanks earlier in the day.....but....I had a snow shovel in my hands all day as we got 18 inches of snow today!!!!

OK...so now that I have floor plans.....who knows what to do about an aching back?!?!?!?!?

Again...thank you to all for your responses. The dojo I am planning is going to be small. And the inside is going to be...if all goes according to plan.....a place that when you step in the doors....you get a feeling of peace....and a peaceful mind is a mind that can learn.....

Thanks and Happy New Year to all.....

Charles Hill
12-27-2004, 04:38 PM
I have real tatami in the zashiki and hiroma rooms of my house. I think they would make poor mats for MA practice.

Charles Hill

12-27-2004, 05:14 PM
Somebody here (can't remember who) once described their dojo sub-floor. Frame of 2x4's, edge up, with sturdy hose attached along the top of the frame. Plywood on top of the hose, then Swain type mats. I guess the hose gave a little bit of spring under the mats but you didn't have all those tires. This is completely from memory so take it for what it's worth :rolleyes:


12-27-2004, 05:18 PM
Charles, what is the size of the mats? The dojo I am guilding is going to be small. It will not be heavily used. Meaning not a lot of people on the floor each day. Usually 10 or less. Are you saying the tatami mats will not hold up under some MA practice? Or that they will not allow for safe practice? Just curious why they are not suitable for MA.

To answer Mary's question, this will be permanent. I am hoping that when one steps into the dojo, it will have the look and feel of Japan. But the mats will stay....not moved except for cleaning....


12-27-2004, 05:31 PM
The dojo I am guilding is going to be small.

I hope it's small as that could get expensive :D :D :D


12-27-2004, 05:49 PM
You are correct Bronson. It could get very expensive. But I will be doing all the interior finish work. One of my long time hobbies is Bonsai. I have many that are quite old, and some that I have had from twig. They will make up some of the interior decor. I am also making some Japanese style floor and ceiling lamps. Shomen is going to be a lot of fun to build. I have a beautiful Japanese juniper that will be placed in Shomen with a nice circular window behind it to allow it sunlight. So....a little elbow grease on my part will help with the cost. The big expense will be the grounds around the building as I will be create a Japanese garden.

12-27-2004, 06:59 PM
Sounds like it will be very nice.

Ummm, my earlier post was a joke/play on words in reference to a mispelling of building as "guilding". I meant that it could get expensive to coat the dojo with gold ;)


12-28-2004, 12:08 AM
If there are any local dojo with the various kinds of floors you're considering, perhaps you could check them out. The feel of different mats is quite different, and you'll probably have a preference....

Visitors to our dojo often complain, sometimes loudly, about the tatami-on-sprung-floor mat. It certainly draws attention to any flaws in your ukemi, and some beginners (me, for one) find it very hard to learn to roll on it. We have a few portable gym mats for demos, and sometimes put them over the tatami when teaching beginners to roll.

Tatami without a sprung floor are, in my opinion, too bloody hard.

If I had to build my own dojo I'd be hard put to decide between sprung-tatami and stuffed-canvas; the tatami give me bruises on my shoulders and hips, and the canvas gives me wrenches in my toes and ankles. If there's a happy medium I have yet to experience it.

Mary Kaye

12-28-2004, 02:52 AM
Well, I would also pay attention to the height of your dojo's ceiling... I would imagine that small rooms tend to have lower ceilings, and 2x4s on tires plus tatami only allows for weapons work while on knees - although doing Kumi-jo in suwari could give an interesting twist to your training ;-)
Also, when any under-construction is not an option, I would pay attention to not use mats that are too soft. In my dojo we have a concrete floor, with tatami directly on top (ceiling!), so I bought the heaviest tatami I could get. Reason: when you fall on soft tatami, you basically fall "through" them and hit whatever is beneath them, so in our case concrete. The harder tatami maybe harder on you to begin with, but you get no surprise of falling "through" them. Also, harder tatami are better for feet, toes, ankles, knees (while turning). And heighten your attention to getting round ukemi fast.
Good luck with your project
Olaf Schubert

12-28-2004, 08:22 AM
My sensei's dojo uses cheerleading floor like the ones that can be found at US Gymmats (http://www.usgymmats.com/cheerleading/). They are two inches thick with a thin carpet bonded to the top. They also come with velcro that you put down to cover the seams (the velcro sticks directly to the carpet). They really are quite nice. There isn't a sprung floor under it, just a 2x4 and plywood sub-floor to bring the floor up to the correct height.

The dojo I teach in has the tire type of sprung floor with Swain mats. All in all I prefer the cheerleading mats on the sub-floor. Firm without being hard and cushions without being bouncy. I also like the fact that the seams are covered...I've twisted a couple toes between the Swain mats). The tire sprung floor is also uneven. There are peaks and valleys in the floor and some definite "soft spots" here and there. The cheer flooring is very consistent.


12-28-2004, 08:39 AM
Thanks for the tip on the ceiling/roof line. I had planned to have a cathedral type ceiling so weapons practice would not have to be done on the knees!!!

But now I have some good information to get the plans to a supplier for prices. I plan on creating a pictural history of this project from start to finish.

Thanks for all the ideas....


Charles Hill
12-28-2004, 09:40 AM
Hi Larry,

I should have been less glib in my post. I live in a Japanese farm house. The tatami is the woven straw kind made for living spaces. There is no covering, so any abrasion is going to tear up the mat. I am going through the same thing as you and looked into the tatami made for Judo sold here. The cheapest ones start at 30,000 yen, almost 300 bucks a piece. We finally decided to rent space/time at a local junior high school which has a Judo dojo. However, I have a good bit of farm land and am thinking of building a stand-alone dojo in the future. Right now I am thinking of doing the canvas covered floor. I am glad you are going through it first so I can steal your experience/ideas.:)


12-28-2004, 01:01 PM
Charles.....I will send pictures as the work goes on. What I may do, if finding real tatami turns out not to be an option is to use a Swain/Zebra type mat, but when not in use for Aikido practice, cover the floor with tatami goza mats. That will keep the atmosphere of the room.
I would also like to find a resource for some japanese woodblock prints. They would go great in the room.

12-28-2004, 01:19 PM
What I may do, if finding real tatami turns out not to be an option is to use a Swain/Zebra type mat, but when not in use for Aikido practice, cover the floor with tatami goza mats.

Go for the green mats. They are a nice subdued green meant to imitate the color of tatami. It's not perfect but a lot closer than the blue or red mats. I believe both Swain and Zebra offer them.

I would also like to find a resource for some japanese woodblock prints. They would go great in the room.

You can start HERE (http://www.bahnhof.se/~secutor/ukiyo-e/guide.html), lots of links to Ukiyo-e websites.

You might also want to check out some Sumi-e (http://www.angelfire.com/il/SumieSociety/gallry.html) paintings.


Mary Eastland
12-28-2004, 05:11 PM
We just built a new dojo. Our mats are a cheer floor on concrete. I am really pleased with it. It is very smooth and fast. The blue carpet is comfy on the feet and helps you forget hold cold it is in the beginning of class. ;o).

12-29-2004, 01:16 PM
Thanks to all for giving me some good ideas..

Happy New Year to all!!!

01-04-2005, 07:17 AM
Hi Larry,

My opinion is that you want your mats to be a bit hard, and you want the floor under the mats to have a little move give than concrete. The physics really make a difference to people who don't have great ukemi skills and are taking a lot of koshinage - trying to get great at it. Kyu type people generally take the typical Judo breakfalls where they land on the mat and slap as their entire body lands all together. If you do this a lot on a mat that is soft the energy of that goes into the mat (a good thing). However, if the mat is on a very hard floor like concrete, the energy tends to bounce back into your body causing more discomfort than when things are the other way. So, I like to see dense jukado mats on an old hard wood floor. The energy of the breakfalls goes into the floor and not back into your body. Of course, the real answer is teach great ukemi so that you could land koshinage all day long on tile floors - but that's not beginner-friendly. My 2 cents. - Rob

01-04-2005, 06:53 PM
Does anyone (in Australia) know where I can source suitable training mats - preferably Queensland?

01-07-2005, 04:23 PM
Does anyone (in Australia) know where I can source suitable training mats - preferably Queensland?

Hi Ignatius,
Give Acromat a try (www.acromat.com.au).

Their mats are very good (a little on the expensive side but well worth it) and are easy to maintain, setup and move as needs be.

A large number of dojo in Victoria use these mats (as well as a number in NSW) and they seem to be very durable and good to practice on.

Their mats are like a light weight tatami (seating the mats correctly and putting them in some kind of block frame is sufficient to stop them moving). You will find the mats are similar in look and feel to tatami, but at a fraction of the weight.


01-07-2005, 08:07 PM
Thanks Sean,

I have this thing about acromat....and having trained on it, suffice to say, I don't think it is suitable at all for what I am looking for.

I would prefer tatami or imitation tatami, but am open to options (other than acromat - which is ok for gym, but not what I want - both practically and aesthetically).

I was looking at Zebra mats, and similar stuff like the safety mats used in kids playgrounds. But there doesn't seem to be many options available in QLD.

Thanks anyway. If you do know of anything else, please let me know.

01-08-2005, 07:40 AM
I was wondering, that Acromats you describe, are they the soft rubber landing mats, or the hard tatami-style mats? They manufacture many types, and the landing type you often see in gyms are of totally different construction and resilience (they are also markedly cheaper).

Aikikai Australia recently had a training camp in Sydney and had both tatami and Acromat mats for the duration (the tatamic mats came from different dojo); I found that while the tatami mats were slighly harder (and heavier - they were very difficult to move and put in place), the Acromat mats held up very well side-by-side the tatami.

I was looking at Zebra mats, and similar stuff like the safety mats used in kids playgrounds. But there doesn't seem to be many options available in QLD.

Thanks anyway. If you do know of anything else, please let me know.

This is going to sound really silly, but Clark Rubber have a range of mats similar to the Zebra mats (having said that I've not actually seen Zebra mats). I know these mats are of very similar construction to the safety mats you described, and are also similar to the jig-saw type mats you seen in many places.

Shogun martial arts out of Sydney have a good range as well, and they delivery Australia-wide (http://www.shogunmartialarts.com.au). They are a reputable company and very good at sourcing equipment like this.

I'm from a regional area so I understand the pain of not having local sources for everything ;)

11-17-2005, 12:10 PM

How is the Dojo project coming along? Do you have pictures of the process? What kind of floor etc did you finally decide on using?

Dan Botari