Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Beginning of the Dojo

I am a student of the Federation Honbu and an instructor at my husband’s dojo.

Some have argued that my husband’s dojo is mine too because it is attached to our home (what is yours is mine philosophy). There have been times due to his injury/surgery/work schedule that I have managed the dojo. I have taught my fair share of classes, helped run three tournaments and guided students towards black belt.

However, I maintain that the dojo truly is his. It was his dream.

I was a green belt when my husband decided he wanted his own dojo. It was early in my training so I had absolutely no idea what this would entail. After securing the proper permissions from our instructor, he set out to start a dojo. He searched for a location and found what he considered the perfect site. The property was an old inn, restaurant and saloon. In its earliest days, it served as a stagecoach stop. We traced its origin back to 1790. It is a two-story log home with an attachment built in the 1950’s. The attachment originally served as a restaurant dining room and local bands played on the small stage.

We purchased the property in 1994. It was a mess…more accurately…a disaster. It was abandoned several years after the restaurant closed. The bathroom's plumbing was ripped out and all that remained were holes in the floor. My husband saw the potential. I saw a lot of work and expense. There was only one room in the house that was decent…the bar room. There is a commercial size bar room as part of the house. It is complete with the back bar, beer taps and soda guns, cold storage room and upright piano. Note: We never got the bar taps and soda guns working.

Every aspect of this building needed work...plumbing, electric, heat, siding and roof. Since it was an old inn, the rooms upstairs were small. Walls had to be taken down, rooms restructured and a few closets were added. The horsehair plaster was falling down and drywall needed to replace it. There was a tin roof on top of old wooden shakes. The roof had to be removed and then replaced. Floors and carpeting need to be installed. A complete kitchen needed to be designed. The trouble with old homes…nothing is level. We also discovered that furniture would not fit in the small stairwell to the second floor. A window that led onto the extension (dojo) was made bigger and was the only way we could bring furniture to the second floor.

He spent nine months (full time) fixing up the house/dojo while we tried to sell our original home. I was working full time and I spent my nights and weekends at the new property. It was exhausting yet rewarding. The renovation of this house/dojo consumed every moment of our lives. I would never undertake a project of this magnitude again. We had help and could not have done it without the support of our family and friends.

The dojo opened in June 1995. I hate to admit it but it was ugly. It is a good thing that people make a dojo not the building. The vinyl siding on the addition still needed to be replaced. (When the dojo was a bar, the previous owner sprayed the entire outside of the addition with sound-proofing material due to neighborhood complaints. We found out that they used to bring sand in the dining room to have beach parties. From the stories we heard, it was a wild place.) The ceiling was unfinished and the carpet was bar room red. Despite the condition of the dojo, the students came. The first two students were from the neighborhood. They would walk up the street in their karate uniforms. My husband taught all the classes because I was busy preparing for Shodan (1996).

Check back soon: I will continue this post by discussing the advantages and disadvantages of a home dojo.


Riz said...

Hi Michelle,
Thanks for passing by my blog. This is my first visit to yours and I look forward to following it.

Kudos to your husband for following through with the attached dojo. I'd love to have something similar but the closest I've gotten is tearing apart my living room haha!

Noah said...

You definitely have me intrigued! Someday I would like to start my own dojo someday, but that's a long way off, and I can't say whether it would be built onto a house or its own building or what, but the story is interesting so far :)

Rick said...

I know a couple in Northern Michigan who are a husband/wife aikido dojo team. They own a general store in a small town, and their dojo is built onto the back of their store. They run classes and run the store, taking turns ducking back to the training floor to train with their students. It sounds like a dream come true.

Sue C Wharton said...

I take my hat off to you for getting this project off the ground let alone completing it! We put a small extension on our house and converted an integral garage into a gym last year and that was chaos enough.

I look forward to hearing the story continue...

Michele said...

Thank you for your comments. Renovating the house/dojo was a huge project. I do not think it will every really be complete. We have been here almost fourteen years and there is still a lot of work to do.

I just posted some before pictures that I found.