Greetings to the Mat Concerned

Below is a rough digest of the e-mail I received in response to my request for advice on replacing the mats in our dojo.

Just for the fun of it and where it was easy to do, I've made URL's sent in people's sigs etc. linkable.

Many thanks to everyone who took the time to offer the benefit of their experience.

The basic conclusion I've come to is that the commercial "Swain" judo style mats are indeed the way to go. Now it's just a question of figuring out how to raise the thousands of dollars required.

My original post

From: Michael Connor
To: Multiple recipients of list Aikido-L
Subject: Mat info please


Our dojo, Halifax Aikikai (that's in Nova Scotia, Canada) is faced with finding a way to replace our mats and I volunteered ( you'd think I'd learn) to find out what our options might be.

We'd really appreciate advice or suggestions from people who have recently invested in new mats. (Especially as it applies to great innovative ideas that seemed to make sense but well err didn't.)

In order not to clutter up the list it probably makes sense for people to e-mail me privately. If there's interest out there I can edit what comes in and repost it all in one go.

In hopes that you can help us, here then is our basic situation:

We practice four times a week in a hospital gym that is used for other purposes. Therefore mats have to be put down and taken up for each practice. We don't have the option of building a frame around our mat area and streaching canvas over the top. The gym floor is hardwood parquet laid on concrete.

At present we are using sheets of approx. 3' X 10' X 1'' white insulting foam permanently (sic) duct taped together so that they can be folded up and put away. 4 of these taped together folding units with a canvas sheet taped on top give us a practice area of approx. 40' X 40'. I'm told that they will cost between 3 and 4 grand (Canadian) to replace.

The option that looks best to me is to go with judo mats of the 1 X 2 meter variety. The ones I've seen and liked are high density foam, with an imitation tatami mat grass surface and a no slip mesh underside.

We need advice about relative quality of brands, cost, sources of supply, and all that dumb obvious sort of stuff vis a vis the various options.

TIA for whatever help and wisdom you can offer us.

The replies

From: Fred Little

If you use poly-lam (I just used it for a seminar last August, then installed it in the dojo) you should pay from $33 to $40 (US) per 4' x 8' x 1.5" sheet. That should cost you betwee $1650 and $2000 (US). (Figuring 50 sheets) I got mine from (no joke) Acme Foam Company in Brooklyn NY.

>The ones I've seen and liked are high density foam, with
>an imitation tatami mat grass surface and a no slip mesh underside.

These are great for practice if you can afford them. Though I must confess to unkind thoughts when made to sit seiza for long periods on them. They conform to the foot very well, and it gets a bit less than comfy.

From: "John R. Murray"

Actually, somewhere (I think here on Aikido-L) I saw someone mention that they recently built a mat using a generic Ethafoam knockoff, for something like $30-35 for 4' by 8' by (maybe) 1" sections. That's roughly $1 a square foot, so your 40x40 (1600 sq. ft.) would cost around $1600. If the person that mentioned this price isn't listening right now (if you are, could you mention your supplier?), I'll go see if I can find the message in the archives.

(oh, and you'd better check your measurements! 3'x10' times 4 doesn't equal 40'x40' - unless you're counting an awful lot of very hard uncovered floor! :-)

From: Ed Thibedeau

I am in a similar situation. Looking to leave our present dojo, which is a gymnastics floor. I would appreciate all info on cost, etc.

I have worked out several times on the Swain tatami and the Norris tatami sold by Leninger. They are both very similar. I do judo and take some hard falls. Both of these brands are very hard. You can fall OK but you need to be prepared to do hard breakfalls. I have heard that both brands now have some sort of spring board or layer to put under the mats. I requested info from Norris in France but haven't gotten an answer yet.

From: michael s schmidt

Our dojo recently purchased the "Swain" flooring systems, advertised on back of many ATM magazines. Everyone in the dojo seems real pleased, as we have Shotokan, Aikido, Ken-jutsu classes using the mat. They are 1 x 2 meter portable.

(not at the same time, could be quite a shish-ka-bob).

The folks at Swain were all very helpful, sent grid patterns and advice for off-site transport, such as demonstrations, etc...

I've heard some were not pleased with the fooring, though they were laying over carpet, which conflicts with the mat's "anti-slip" bottom.

From: Fred Little

The product was Poly-Lam.

The supplier was Acme Foam, 900 Dean Street, Brooklyn, NY, 718/622-5600.

The cost varies from $33-40/sheet for a 4'x8' sheet.

We've been using it for four months now. No subfloor, right over concrete. I'm happy thus far.

From: John Glinatsis

>The option that looks best to me is to go with judo mats of the 1 X 2
>meter variety. The ones I've seen and liked are high density foam, with
>an imitation tatami mat grass surface and a no slip mesh underside.
>Haven't priced them, but I hear that these are *very* expensive.

YES, They run $160 dollars for one mat, but they are well worth the bread and the grade to get is the hard, not medium its the best. We got ours from Swain company and they are the same ones that Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei has at the Colorado dojo and Saotome sensei uses them in D.C., at our dojo, and at the still under construction dojo at his ranch which houses the Shrine to O Sensei.

From: jeffh

You can find out how we made our mats (I have given this out several times) at:

From: "Harry E. Bates (TED|ETB)"

In reference to the Swain mats, what are the various surfaces that they can be placed upon (hardwood, concrete, carpet grade, etc.)?

From: Patrick Lynch

>In reference to the Swain mats, what are the various surfaces that they >can be placed upon (hardwood, concrete, carpet grade, etc.)?

Concrete is fine, but the company recommends that you buy (reasonably cheap) their additional polypropylene padding to put under the mats. This may only by necessary for the Judoka out there. The Ukemi they have to take is a "little" harder that what's common in Aikido.

I have mine on Hardwood floors, and that works just fine. Of course they're in the basement, so I don't have to worry about crashing through the floor.

One note of caution: although the mats come with "Gripping" rubber soles, I would recommend putting a border around to hold them together. Especially on carpet (tried this), the gripping soles don't work well, and the mats start to slide apart during vigorous practice.

From: Aviv Goldsmith

We just enhanced our mat with 1" of Oletex 3lb. density foam. We shopped around alot for competing materials and prices including the much-mentioned Ethafoam ($1.49 - $2.19 per sq. ft.) and the never-did-find-elusive Polylam.

This Oletex stuff seemed to work out the best for us -- it was $1.05 per sq. foot and comes in rolls 5' wide by 100' long. The supplier was McCullough Co. Talk to Stan Meretsky at (810) 646-6195, tell him that we sent you. He also has other materials.

For additional info about our procurement, feel free to call Lara at (702) 323-2866.