Home Dojo on a Dime

I’ve been thinking about this project for awhile.  I’m starting to offer private karate and fitness classes at home, and some of my buddies like to come and roll.  So I guess now there’s good reason to finally finish my garage makeover.  I had to make it multi-use, as neither my wife nor I are crazy about parking outside–especially after last winter in New England.  So here’s how I set it up and how I got around some of the challenges of designing a true garage dojo.

First, I expanded the original mat space by about 150%.  Here are the 3/8″ thick, 48″ square EVA foam tiles I got at Home Depot.  They were on sale for about $16 per four pack.

I got about 144 square feet to expand the flooring.

It was very humid when I put these down, and they didn’t fit together as easily as I’d hoped.  I used a rubber mallet to force the puzzle pieces when needed.

The thin flooring is easy on the wallet.  Training on it is better than concrete, but not as nice as tatami or hardwood.  On the upside, it’s close to $1 per square foot, and it can handle pretty much everything but takedowns and throws.

Next, every good dojo needs a mirror, right?  A quick Googling showed that a large mirror would cost hundreds of dollars–not good for my tight budget.  I got around the problem thanks to the back-to-school display at Home Depot.

Just remember to buy extra . . .

These babies were $5 each!  I originally thought of running them along the whole wall but then realized I couldn’t see above my chest.  So, I decided to make 4′ x 5′ mirror roughly in the center of the garage.  How did I make my $25 dojo mirror?

Voilà!?!

I popped each pane out of each chintzy frame and attached them to the wall.  The cashier actually warned me not to take a few of the mirrors home because the backing was coming off.  It took me a minute to explain to her why I wanted to buy broken dorm mirrors.

To remove the glass, I carefully pushed a screwdriver into each corner of the frame.  Then I carefully snapped off each section.  Some mirrors had stronger adhesive than others, so I carefully scrapped that off as well with my razor blade.  Did I mention how CAREFUL I was?  Yeah, I racked up about 35 years of bad luck figuring out the best way to do this! Good thing the mirrors are so cheap and that I have a ShopVac.

If you plan to make a mirror like this, be sure to buy the panes at Home Depot.  This isn’t an endorsement (hate the place!); rather, their mirrors are easier to snap apart.  I got some at Lowes that were much higher quality in that the frame wouldn’t come off unless I broke the friggin’ glass.  (Did I mention there was some frustrated experimentation going on?)

I attached glass to the wall using Industrial Strength Velcro.  That way if I break a pane, I can easily reattach a new one.  I’d like to think this a smart idea on my part, but time will tell.

Velcro for mirrors, heavy tiles to park the cars

Lastly, I found that the mats needed some protection from the weight of our cars.  I tried parking on a foam tile overnight, and it looked like a Necco Wafer by morning.  Another stop at Home Depot yielded the Traffic Master floor tile, designed for professional gyms and auto shops.  These are expensive ($38 per pack of four 18″ tiles) but totally worth it.  I got two boxes and hammered together four parking mats.  I duct taped the backs so they wouldn’t separate when driven and parked on, and I positioned them accordingly.  I only needed to worry about one side of each car, as the opposite side doesn’t park on the flooring.  What’s nice about making the parking mats is that you can slide them off the training area and use them as a warning track to protect the mirror.

The finished project!

And that’s how I put together my garage dojo.  The entire project, if I count the original section of flooring from a few years ago, still cost well under $500.  How would you go about a similar project, if you haven’t already?  I would love some tips on how to make it easier, cheaper, or better!

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About moaimartialarts

Lucky enough to grow up with the martial arts, I have felt their positive influence throughout my life and am especially interested in sharing these experiences with others. I enjoy working with youth and adults to give back some of what I've received. If you would like to learn more about Uechi-Ryu/Shohei-Ryu Karate, or if you want to find people to train with, please contact me. I am the head karate instructor for the Meriden Martial Arts Club.
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3 Responses to Home Dojo on a Dime

  1. Curtis says:

    This is cool. The tire pads are a good idea. To help reduce the amount of water on the mats in more wet seasons, you can use water guards. They are made of flexible rubber that have sides to them so you can track the water out of the garage. This helps alot particularly if your garage has a slight recess in the middle (as mine does). I’ll apologize in advance for the budget hit.

    Flooring is the most important part IMO. I put down a decent laminate for the space in my basement. Its easy to clean and resists basement moisture so it was a decent choice. During zealous kata or bunkai, a good slap of the feet on essentially plastic stings the toes more than expected. But overall, I’m glad I didn’t spend the $$$ on hardwood.

    Mirrors – I’d recommend some j-channel. Itll help prevent future breaks if the Velcro loses grip. Although training on broken glass is very Okinawan (I kid I kid!) it may not agree with feet or your back.

    Next up – mats!

  2. Pingback: Zengu.com Martial Arts Wholesale Website |

  3. Pingback: Home Dojo on a Dime Part Two | Moai Martial Arts

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