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Dash3's picture
Garage martial arts

What is your opinion of "garage" martial arts?

One of my Facebook friends recently shared this article:


Personally, as long as the location is clean, whether it's a garage or the prefectural budokan doesn't register. Right now, I study aikido in the front of a plastics fabrication shop because the owner/instructor is worth learning from. I drive past three other shiny store-front martial arts schools to get there, too. I also appreciate that the dues are low because we're not paying for dedicated space or to impress anyone.

Given that this is a pragmatic based forum, I don't expect strong disagreement, but I thought I'd throw this out there to see if it sparked a convo.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Dash3 wrote:
What is your opinion of "garage" martial arts?

I think good martial arts is good martial arts, irrespective for where it is taught. A good training space, with good kit, showers, etc is great to have, but you can get by in less formal locations.

We had a garage we trained out of for years. It had no electric and hence in the winter time we had to train by candle light (quite atmospheric in its own way) and it was, quite literally, freezing. Here are a couple of photos from our time there.

Notice the pallet in the background. That’s because I had to store books in there too. The mats are ones we got second-hand from a nearby military base. They were very old and stunk of diesel.

If you look just above Fred’s head (on the floor fighting one) you can see the old carpet under the mat. We got that second-hand from an auction (cost us 50 pence!) and we put that down because it was easier on the bare feet than the rough concrete floor underneath. Doing kata on the carpet kept pulling up “fluff” – which could be slippy underfoot – so we had to brush it up all the time. In the end, parts of the carpet were threadbare.

There was a big metal door which got the sun all day long. The door was very hot and hence in the summer it was like a sauna. In the winter it truly was sub-zero. We had to train in multiple layers and woolly hats! As we got warm through training we would take off layers, but the cold air combined with the sweat meant picking up colds was a fairly frequent result.

If you look carefully in the background of this picture of Murray and Fred sparring, you can see mirrors propped up against the wall. These were the doors of old wardrobes that we were able to salvage from various places. Far from ideal, but still usable for self-checking when performing kata and kihon.

It worked, and we had many good training sessions there, but I’d much rather be in a dedicated training space with lights and warmth.

One of the dangers is when people equate lower quality training facilities with “keeping it real” and good quality ones as “selling out”. Good martial arts can be found in garages and in state of the art facilities. Bad martial arts can be found in garages and in state of the art facilities. This podcast touches on those issues:


The ideal would be good martial arts in great facilities, but good martial arts in garages is great too.

All the best,


Dash3's picture

Not sure what happened to prior comments - just said that I wished the Facebook crowd had commented here; there seemed to be a sense of pride in training in rough facilities.


PS. Hard to focus on the pallet when one's eyes are naturally drawn to the brightly colored dumbbells.