Those of you who know me know what a special place Four Elements Fitness is to me. I’ve been teaching kickboxing there for sixteen months, and I can’t imagine a more openhearted, generous, thoughtful and politically responsible martial arts school. It is a school that prioritizes serving those most in need of instruction, that meets students where they are, and that works every day to make itself a valuable asset to its neighborhood, city and community. Now Four Elements Fitness has the chance to move to a larger space, and we need your help to make it happen. Below, I explain the mission of Four Elements Fitness, and why we need your help to keep this valuable community space alive and thriving.
Four Elements Fitness welcomes all students, but it has a special mission to serve students who might not feel comfortable in a typical martial arts school, particularly LGBTQ people, women, sex workers and survivors of trauma and assault. Of the students who attend my classes regularly, about 80-90% are LGBTQ, about 50% are trans or nonbinary, and about 80% are women. A high number of students at the gym are survivors of various types of violence. We not only actively invite an inclusive group of students, but prioritize meeting students where they are. Classes are accommodating of student needs (for example, students are allowed to step off the mats any time they feel uncomfortable or need a break) and supportive of student success and growth. Many students who cannot afford classes attend the gym for free or discounted rates.
As a martial arts gym with an orientation towards social justice, Four Elements Fitness regularly holds fundraisers and participates in community events. Some groups for whom we have held fundraisers or provided free services include the ACLU, Alameda Animal Shelter, Oakland Queer Run and Trans Lifeline. Four Elements Fitness also regularly provides free self-defense seminars for LGBTQ people and other at-risk groups.
Our current gym, near Lake Merritt in Oakland, CA, is only 400 square feet (which includes a bathroom, closet and tiny entrance area). The floor space for training is the size of a small living room. When I first saw it, I couldn’t believe people were actually doing martial arts in there. We make it work, but the tiny space limits the number of students we can serve. For kickboxing, the space is really maxed out at eight students, yet we have had up to fourteen students who want to participate on a given night. Our gym needs more students to generate the money to move to a larger space, but I cannot recruit more students since I don’t have space for them to train!
We Need You!
This spring, we will be moving into a new space, in a great location that is over three times as large. This will allow us to accommodate all the students who want to join our community. We are very excited, but also scared. The up-front costs for this move, including deposit, moving costs and expansion of equipment, are around ten thousand dollars. We don’t have anywhere close to this kind of money. We have confidence that increased student numbers will eventually pay for the increase in rent for the larger space, but not at first.
The move to a larger space is a giant gamble. If we can't make up the moving expenses in a timely manner, it is possible that our gym will have to close.
Please, to those of you who care about me personally, who care about martial arts, who care about students who might feel terrified or in danger at a conventional martial arts school despite being the people most in need of self-defense training--please help us reach our goal!
(If you would like your donation to be tax-deductible, please email me and I can set that up as well!).
For more about Four Elements Fitness, check out this video:
- Anne Ryan
- Michele Korb
- Peter Zimmer
- Judith Soirn
- Andrea Spirn
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