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So what do you do, when you are a 'rec center dojo' and the rec center has become unbearable?
First, we grinned and beared it...in true aiki manner. We ignored the soccor teams, allowed the hockey girls to tromp through and warm up in our space (well, they were BIG...even without skates)....but it was the karate people that went a nikkyo too far!
The karate tournament was huge, and on this particular day, we only had two adults and three kids. To keep the kids (who were usually enthusiastic aikido trainees) focused with the distraction of tournament fights going on all around was hard enough....but it was the parents and spectators that were the worst. When we politely asked that they not step, walk on or stand on our mats with their shoes on, we were insulted and cursed at. When I politely explained how they could walk around to the other side, I was confronted and challenged. Not even the rabid soccer moms where THIS bad.
We ended class early, but when I went back the next day...our mats had been pulled out of their storage space, someone had eaten french fries with ketchup on them...and smeared the ketchup everywhere....this was the one and only time that our mats were abused at the rec center. I have to say if these people were the best representative that the AAU Karate organization has...then I feel sad and sorry for them! What could they possibly be teaching kids???
So, the next day, we started looking in earnest for a space. You know the quest: not too expensive, not too big - or too small (like in goldilocks...it has to be JUST right)....no poles, bathroom....we looked at a couple of spots: a warehouse, an industrial storage space, a strip center. But, nothing felt right. We do teach kids, and we needed a place where parents felt safe to bring the kids, a place with air conditioning (as the summer is approaching).
On a whim, after dinner one night, we drove through an area that had a few storefront places open. I gave them a call....they were waayyy too expensive, but just before I hung up the phone, the agent stopped me. "Hey, I have this place...it is upstairs, and I keep forgetting about it because it is unfinished (I later learned that this meant dirty, not painted and a storeroom for all things unwanted)...I could make you a deal!"
So, then next day, my husband and I found ourselves waiting outside for the agent. "I have a good feeling about this place", he said.
"Oh yeah...are you sure it is not because our favorite sushi place is next door...and they just got their liquor license?"
"No, NO....I know it is going to be good."
Surprisingly, he was right. 1500 sq feet of open room. A bathroom and a small closet. Serendipity was on our side....the room would exactly fit the number and configuration of mats that we already owned (we only ever used 1/2 of them at any one time at the rec center). Sushi place, perfect mat space, the upstairs-ness of it reminded us of our 'home' dojo, Capital Aikikai (although another one of our students insists that it looks like New York Aikikai).....THIS was the place.
We plunked down the money (yikes!).....signed the lease.....and then the work began. If I just say that we cleaned, and painted (concrete block and blank drywall), put in flooring and put up dressing rooms.....in a week in a half....it sounds simple. But for the next week and a half, I went to bed exhausted, sore, only to wake up and do it all again (all while trying to pretend to do our 'real' jobs).
But we had great help! To me, that's what a dojo is all about! And on May 2nd, we had our first class!
Good bye to the soccer moms, good bye to the hockey teams, good riddance to the karate tournaments (there is another one this month, I understand).....now we can do all the things we wanted to do....classes at any time, meditation on Saturday morning....I can even do the Samurai Sword Workout....of which I have read a lengthy forum thread on.....all I can say, put on a little music and CUT....you will sweat (so what is wrong with that?)(throw in a few lunges and a little ab work, and I think that Forza lady is really on to something.....)
It is nice to have a place that we call our dojo home!