Re: Tatami mats
Interesting questions. From my limited experience, I've found the modern style tatami mats to be somewhat troublesome.
- They need to be "fenced" with some sort of framing or there will be spaces between them as you train, leaving openings that are just right for catching and injuring toes and fingers. The framing can eliminate the problem, but you need to ensure that the framing is much lower than the depth of the mats or you will end up with a hard surface at the edges that can cause injuries.
- Depending on the brand, they can be really hard surfaces to land on. Again, that problem can be eliminated by doing something like placing used bicycle tires flat on the floor, then covering them with plywood, and then placing the mats on top of that. That gives a certain spring-like quality to the mats.
- The rough surface can create mat burns, but not a big thing in my mind. The smooth surfaces can be pretty slippery when students get really sweaty, but again no big thing.
- Cleaning them well to prevent passing on various problems such as MRSA can be an issue and the mats, particularly the rough pattern mats, need frequent cleaning with bleach or other appropriate chemicals. Still not a big thing and fairly easy to do. Actually it is much easier than really cleaning a canvas covered mat.
If you want some first-hand information concerning the modern tatami mats, you should contact Brandon Ishisaka Sensei of Orange County Aikikai. He is the dojo cho there and they have a really good system for using the tatami. You can find his contact info here in the Dojo Search area. Brandon Sensei will undoubtedly try to help you out.
My personal preference is for a sprung floor as I described, good padding, and a vinyl cover. That is easier to clean, relatively soft to land on, and easier to maintain. But, as I said, that is my personal preference.