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Dojo gets a big, green home

January 21, 2010 12:35 am


Aviv Goldsmith supervises aikido training at his new dojo in Spotsylvania. There will be an open house at Aikido in Fredericksburg on Saturday. bz0121aikido2.jpg

Aviv Goldsmith (left) has been teaching aikido since 1989 and moved to the Fredericksburg area in 2002.


In 1975, Aviv Goldsmith was a "bored teenager" who stumbled upon a Japanese martial art called aikido, whose nonviolent methods focus on self-defense and well-being.

Thirty-five years later, Goldsmith has opened a built-from-scratch aikido dojo in Spotsylvania that has won rave reviews for its beauty and environmentally friendly design. An open house is set for Saturday.

Most aikido dojos in the U.S. are in strip malls or warehouses, which was the case for the dojo Goldsmith had been running on Spotsylvania's Leonard Drive after moving from Reno, Nev., in 2002. The new home for Aikido in Fredericksburg, located a couple of miles from Massaponax High School, is not like most dojos.

The 7,200-square-foot dojo sits on 20 acres at 6155 Hickory Ridge Road and is walking distance from where Goldsmith and his wife, Donna, live. The dojo was designed to be in harmony with nature and provide students with a "place to unwind and recharge."

Outside the dojo is a covered training pavilion and an organic vegetable garden where aikido students will cultivate produce to be donated to the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank. Inside, visitors encounter signs telling them to remove their shoes before entering the 3,500-square-foot training area.

The first thing a visitor may notice in the training area is a fan 12 feet in diameter that hangs from the peak of the 22-foot ceiling. There are 100 training mats spread around the floor. At the front are photos of aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba and one of his senior students (with whom Goldsmith has trained in Japan). Calligraphy adorns the walls, including one that shows Goldsmith's lofty rank: He's a fifth-degree black belt, three from the highest.

In Japan, aikido students travel to dojos for training that stretches for as long as a month. To allow that locally, Aikido in Fredericksburg has a small dorm facility, locker rooms for men and women, and a kitchen. There's also a library stocked with books and videos on aikido.

The building will be LEED-certified and has won recognition from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others for its innovative site design, which features low-impact stormwater management, a wildlife habitat area and a small greenhouse.

The building features low-emission paint, ample natural light and ventilation, overhangs that limit summer sun coupled with a south-facing orientation that captures warmth in the winter, recycled materials, a high-efficiency heat system, lights with occupancy sensors, low-flow faucets and waterless urinals, among other "green" features. The red oak wood used in the dojo came from trees on the property that needed to come down.

"There's really something unique about this place," Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith has been teaching aikido since 1989. His professional background is in renewable energy. He still works part time for Fishermen's Energy, a New Jersey-based company developing offshore wind projects.

Goldsmith hopes to eventually do the aikido work full time. He was the general contractor on the dojo project, whose architect was Jeff Owens of Kentucky-based Owens Architects.

Goldsmith and his wife moved to Virginia in 2002 to escape the arid climate of Nevada, where they'd lived for 17 years. They saw an ad that the local aikido facility needed an instructor and decided to buy the Hickory Ridge Road lot. They started planning the new dojo soon after arriving. Construction started in 2008, and the facility got its occupancy permit this past December.

When Goldsmith started at Aikido in Fredericksburg, which is a 501(c)3 nonprofit educational corporation, there were just four students. Now there are 100, ranging in age from 6 to 85; many of the students helped build the dojo. There will soon be 20 classes a week, mostly in the mornings and evenings, and mostly taught by Goldsmith.

Goldsmith wants to attract international students to train in the state-of-the-art dojo, as well as welcome in community groups.

"We have a lot to offer," Goldsmith said. "There's something for everybody."

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405

Aikido in Fredericksburg is having an open house between noon and 4 p.m. Saturday at its dojo at 6155 Hickory Ridge Road in Spotsylvania County. Anyone is welcome. The event will include tours, welcome remarks, aikido demonstrations and mini-classes. For more information, go to or call 540/582-9600.

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.