Skidrow Dojo: Inside

    Skidrow Dojo: Inside

    ……………………………………

    Skidrow Dojo: Inside

    I usually visit the dojo for the lunchtime class, and so the inside is much darker than the great outdoors of Stillman Street. My first step inside is blind, an act of faith that the top stair hasn’t dissapeared since my last visit.

    On this platform, amid the potted plants, I turn a few degrees to the left and nod towards the framed picture of

    on the shomen, thanking him for his vision and work on behalf of the past and future aikidoka.

    As my eyes adjust to the relative darkness I hear the other students and the co-teachers warming up: quiet chatter, feet whooshing across the mat, hand slaps accompanying falls, and perhaps the dogs’ toenails across the floor.

    Usually the first thing I see is dojo-cho Jimmy Friedman, looking out from his office loft on the far side of the dojo. If it’s early he’ll be in denim, just before class it’ll be tattoos. Sometimes Lefty and Apollo will peek out; rarely are they far from Jimmy. (The dogs are well behaved. They stay off the mat, like to be around students, and rarely stray far from their master, on whom they dote.)

    The panorama above shows the layout of the dojo: the entire dojo except for the loft is a level below the entrance. A path of dark hardwood leads from the bottom of the stairs to the far end of the dojo, to the changing rooms where we exchange our street clothes for a gi. On the level above is the dojo-cho’s office and the lair of his dogs.

    Covering most of the main floor is the mat. In the middle of the north wall is the shomen; several plants sit on the mantle. On the opposite wall are the proficiency certificates of some teachers and students. A photo and black belt of the late Terry Dobson Sensei graces the wall, forever looking over the practice area at which he taught near the end of his days. (I was lucky enough to be present at his last appearance here.)

    These panoramae were taken during the

    given on Fri 29 May 1998. At the left you can see the four teachers presiding over the tests. Two students are on the mat, one being tested, the other the uke. Seated in seiza, all in a row, are the other students.

    The next panorama is looking west from the changing rooms. From this vantage point you can see the punching bag (at very left, tied off at an angle), racks holding jo and bokken, the certificates, and the stairs rising to the street-level entrance. Through the windows we often see passers-by peering in, wondering what all the falling and rolling around is about.

    I hope you’ve enjoyed this short tour around the dojo. There’s surely more to come.

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