Long-time Oakland martial arts master trying to build dojo back after pandemic shuts studio

One of few Black martial arts masters in the Bay Area, Pitts says he's committed to doing what he loves and sharing his knowledge.

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Saturday, November 19, 2022
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Pitts Martial Arts Academy, one of few Black martial arts dojos in the Bay Area, has closed its long-running studio due to COVID and rising inflation.

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- On most nights during the week, you can find Kenneth Pitts hard at work teaching martial arts.

"I forget about other things that I would normally worry about consistently, or be on my mind. I leave that at the door," Pitts said.

For years, Pitts - who is one of the few Black martial arts masters in the Bay Area - has taught almost every age group.

From people in their 70s, all the way down to young kids.

"We learn stuff, like how to defend ourselves when we're in danger," said student Hassaun Valentine.

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But the past few years have been more difficult than most.

The one-two punch of COVID and rising inflation forced Pitts to close his long-running dojo in Oakland.

Now, he's teaching students in the driveway of his Berkeley home, while he builds a new martial arts studio in the backyard.

"The concrete two years ago was $8,000, it went up to $26,000. So that kind of blew a hole in my budget," Pitts said.

The total cost is estimated to be over $80,000, and Pitts is attempting to pay for it all on his own.

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A steep price tag, but one Pitts says is worth the money.

"You can't put a price on what I see and what the students are achieving," he said.

While the project starts to get off the ground, a GoFundMe has been set up to help raise funds.

But, help or no help, Pitts says he's committed to doing the thing he loves and helping pass along his knowledge generation-to-generation.

"My thing is to inspire before I expire. And I feel I can keep doing this for a long time," said Pitts.

In you would like to contribute to the GoFundMe, you can do so here.

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