LOGAN SQUARE — Over seven years, the leaders of Logan Square Aikido have worked hard to grow the martial arts nonprofit, teaching students aikido out of their storefront studio on Kedzie Avenue.
But now, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the dojo is in danger of closing. Faced with mounting bills, its leaders launched an online fundraiser Monday with a goal of collecting $10,000.
The money raised will help the dojo leaders cover rent and utilities over the next few months, effectively keeping Logan Square Aikido afloat until they can resume classes in the spring, when they hope the pandemic will have subsided, co-founder and teacher Enmei Hunter said.
Hunter said they received a $20,000 emergency relief grant from the federal government over the summer, but that money is quickly drying up. Their rent is $4,700 a month, she said, and utilities are also costly.
“Right now, we are still able to make the rent, but we know if we continue like this, that loan is going to be gone,” Hunter said.
For seven years, Logan Square Aikido, 2845 N. Kedzie Ave., has been a hub for Chicagoans who practice the Japanese martial art of aikido and meditate. Before the pandemic, the dojo was hosting classes six days a week and had a membership base of about 45 adults and 20 kids.
Hunter said they were beginning to hit their stride in the weeks before the pandemic: They had just started offering scholarships to students and were about to roll out a more intensive training program catered to loyal members.
But the pandemic forced every business to shut down, dealing a major blow to businesses like Logan Square Aikido, which rely on in-person instruction.
Hunter said they starting out hosting online classes like other studios, but they weren’t enough to sustain the nonprofit, which has been closed on and off since March. Throughout the course of the pandemic, the studio has lost about half of its members, she said.
But there’s reason to be hopeful. With the vaccine campaign underway, Hunter said she’s “optimistic” businesses will be able to safely reopen in the spring or summer and then they can start rebuilding their membership base. All they need to do is get through these next few months, she said.
Hunter has practiced aikido for 27 years, about as long as she’s lived in Chicago. She and her partner, Chris Wagner, launched Logan Square Aikido once they realized their neighborhood didn’t have a studio dedicated to the Japanese martial art.
Aikido is non-competitive, which is part of what initially drew Hunter to the practice.
“People of all backgrounds and a variety of motivations … train and build up their physical and spiritual capabilities,” she said.
Now more than ever, Chicagoans need the physical and mental health benefits aikido can provide, she said.
“In what’s becoming more and more a virtual world, I think keeping the person-to-person physical connection and deepening the community you’re in is really important, and I think this art really allows you to push yourself spiritually, push yourself mentally,” she said. “It requires discipline in a really different way in a community of people who support you as you’re doing it.”
The online fundraiser to save Logan Square Aikido will run through March 1. Hunter said if they don’t meet their goal, they may be forced to leave their Logan Square storefront. But she said she’s also on the hunt for more grants. No matter what happens, she doesn’t plan on hanging up her gi and hakama, the traditional aikido uniform, anytime soon.
“My commitment to teaching this art — I’m never going to stop doing that,” she said. “In my absolute worst heartbreaking scenario, if I were to lose this space, I’d have to find a different space.”
To donate to Logan Square Aikido, visit the studio’s website.
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