Re: Dojo Memories
My first dojo, in Australia, was constructed of two squash courts with the dividing wall removed. It was half covered with some ancient rubber-covered tatami and half covered with I think it was very warn jigsaw mats which in turn were covered with a large canvas cloth that hadn't been washed for years and was covered in blood stains. Some brave person took the canvas cover to I don't know where to get it washed and claimed the smell carrying it in their car was horrid.
Eventually the university rebuilt the sports centre and put in a dedicated dojo above a fitness room full of running machines. Unfortunately they didn't anticipate the effect of people doing breakfalls when designing the room, so when we started using it, lights would fall down on the people on the machines below.
One of the dojos I train at now in Japan is in a 100 year-old building, sitting in the kind of odd, seemingly un-planned arrangement that old buildings and roads seem to occupy here. From the road the building, as with the equally ancient surrounding ones sits at an odd angle, leaving people to park in odd directions, often behind each other.
Arrival timing, both in the morning when people will rush off to work, sometimes before training has finished, or in the evening when people return home at different times, requires judicious timing and spot selection. Initially one ends up screwing it up and arriving too early, whereafter you have to ask people behind you to move their cars, or too late, requiring you to move yours.
Wide, sliding doors mark the entrance, always open, except in winter. Entering one bows in seiza to the front and to the right at the far end is the window to the office. I often arrive when Sensei is in there, so in my memory is forever etched him sitting at the desk behind the window, greeting people as they arrive while he still hand-writes receipts for peoples' training fees.
While the use of it as a dojo is not so ancient, it is heading on towards 50 years of use. The rubber-covered straw tatami are so warn that they are supple. A couple of them have unusually, been replaced recently, leaving a section to be carefully avoided for falls due to the almost wood-like hardness of them.
The walls are covered in calligraphy, much of the paper of which has yellowed with age and the writing faded. Large, wooden devil masks adorn one wall. The wood of the exposed beams and walls is very dark with age, as are the name plaques. The wood windows creak and slide as the panes of glass rattle inside them.
Like the dojo, the members have aged. Turning up to one of the two Thursday classes when Sensei teaches, one is certain to encounter any number of cheerful grey- or white-haired ancients, some with belts so warn that they are almost in two pieces, who will happily do everything from gently place you on the mats to bounce you off the walls with cries of "yoishooooooooo!" At least one equally ancient visitor from overseas declared it his favourite dojo in all of Japan.