Go barefoot, learn Nia at new business, The Dojo

Gaye Bunderson//July 20, 2011

Go barefoot, learn Nia at new business, The Dojo

Gaye Bunderson//July 20, 2011

Britta von Tagen, left, and Randy Stillman, right, own a business called The Dojo in a building in Boise's North End with an intriguing history. (Photo by Gaye Bunderson)

The building where Randy Stillman and Britta von Tagen have located their new business possesses an intriguing history. The structure at 1512 N. 10th St. in Boise’s North End started out as a grocery store in 1903; over the years housed such everyday businesses as an upholstery shop and electronic contractor; was the site of Boise Bible Mission in the late ‘60s; and, beginning in the late ‘70s, became the site of various martial arts studios.

According to the website of a former martial arts studio there, 3 Shapes Aikido, in the early ‘70s the federal government even used the building to stake out neo-Nazis that law enforcement officials believed were planning to blow up the Federal Building.

Now that address is home to the The Dojo, and living space was added on in recent years. Randy and Britta reside in quarters to the back of The Dojo, which is Japanese for “the place of the Way.”

A dojo is, according to Stillman, a sacred place where martial arts are practiced.

Stillman and van Tagen have a lease-to-own arrangement on the property, and when they acquired the space, they put in a beautiful floor made of bamboo in the area where von Tagen teaches Nia classes and Stillman hopes to someday practice Amma therapy.

Von Tagen defines Nia as a “fusion fitness” program with elements of martial arts and said it utilizes nine different movements to promote good physical conditioning.

“It fits our times,” she said, explaining it’s a hybrid of Eastern and Western philosophy and movement, and is designed to help people escape the modern tendency toward sedentary work and lifestyles.

Amma is a “bodywork” and massage therapy that helps in alleviating or eliminating stress, tension, anxiety, and aches and pains through acupressure, said Stillman, who previously worked in the lumber industry.

He was laid off from Franklin Building Supply in 2009 and since then has kept busy working part-time with remodeling contractors and as a custodian at Boise’s Wellspring School, where he is learning the traditional Chinese medical practices that will allow him to be an Amma practitioner by 2012.

He admits it’s all a different life experience for him, owning a Nia studio and learning Amma. “I punched the clock for 25 years,” he said.

Von Tagen holds a black belt in Nia and formerly owned Nia of Sun Valley. Along with her local classes, she travels throughout the U.S. giving Nia lessons. Also, on July 18, she flew to Scotland to teach white belt classes in Nia, and in March she visited South Africa for the same purpose.

Stillman, who also plays congas and other drums set up in the mirrored Nia studio, said business at The Dojo has been slow since its April 11 opening. “But that’s the nature of business; it takes time to grow,” von Tagen said.

Asked if he is working at The Dojo full-time, Stillman answered, “I’m giving it my full-time attention.”

“More than full-time attention,” von Tagen added.

The couple is hoping to rent out the roomy 1,000-square-foot space for such events as meetings of a local Buddhist group or lessons in yoga by an area yogi – “different modalities,” Stillman said. “Low-impact barefoot types of things.”