Community members open their hearts (and wallets) to keep a karate institution alive

Community members open their hearts (and wallets) to keep a karate institution alive

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city’s Tier 2 reopening plan allows some in-person instruction for fitness businesses.

And that’s meant the International Karate Federation Hawaii’s Kaimuki dojo is back in action.

“Within that rule it says that in-person groups are only allowed five people at a time,” sensei George Kotaka said.

The school that was founded by his father, Chuzo, in 1966 came close to closing in 2020. Like other businesses hit hard by the pandemic, IKF lost a large chunk of income when COVID forced it to close.

Even with online instruction, revenue was cut in half.

“If this would have continued another three to six more months at the rate, it would have been very very difficult to survive,” Kotaka said.

Parents of students heard about the desperate situation that threatened to bring an end to the decades-old family business. And they came to the rescue.

“It honestly broke my heart to think this small family business that’s been around for more than 50 years could potentially be brought down by a pandemic that was completely out of its control,” Julie Yuen said.

Yuen and another parent, Holly Iwasaki, started a GoFundMe drive with IKF to raise $44,000. Contributions poured into the school.

“It’s so remarkable what people are willing to do just out of their own sheer goodness,” Kotaka said.

The money enables IKF to clear debts from last year and should keep the school going through the middle of this year.

“I really appreciate it all,” karate student Kama Henry said. “I want to continue my sport and I’m so thankful to all the people for donating.”

Three generations of the Kotaka family have taught the martial art to thousands of students. George Kotaka is optimistic 2021 will be better.

“All I can control is my instructions, how much passion, how much energy I put into my students. Hopefully that reciprocates to everybody, and everybody feels that we have a great, great dojo here.” he said.

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