An Oakland man is in danger of losing his martial arts academy due to financial troubles after being in business for 50 years.
Bill Owens, owner of the Cascos Martial Arts Academy, said he's proud that he's never turned away a student, even those who couldn't afford to pay. But now, he may not be able to keep his doors open. He said he's fallen behind on his mortgage payments.
Cascos Martial Arts Academy opened in 1972 and is an Oakland fixture located on MacArthur Boulevard deep in East Oakland.
Owens said COVID dealt his business a big blow and fewer and fewer students came.
"I kept thinking I can beat that. Before I knew it, I was getting further and further behind with those notes, with the dream that this is going to be over. My students are going to come back," Owens said.
The students never came back in the numbers he saw before COVID.
Owens said his monthly mortgage payments also jumped, from $2,700 to $4,300 due to an interest-rate increase last year.
He wishes he can stay in business to teach his students the benefits of martial arts.
"Martial arts is not about the kicks and the punches as most people think," said Owens.
He explained that it's about discipline and appreciation of self.
About three decades ago, KTVU profiled Owens and his work teaching self-defense and self-esteem to children in high crime neighborhoods.
Supporters say he teaches important life lessons along with self-defense.
"Cascos Martial Arts Academy is a beacon in the community, and we don't want to see them go. So many generations have come through here," said Nadine Scott, a student.
She's working to help Owens save his academy by raising money.
Owens said he wants to continue to teach the children and grandchildren of his students.
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Over the years, Owens and his wife have developed an art form fusing Chinese Kung Fu with movements reflective of African American culture.
They described it as a work in progress they're particularly proud of, but now interrupted.
"It saddens me. It hurts because we put so many hours into our training and developing these arts," said his wife Mary.
"I didn't get to finish my legacy. COVID slid in and just started everything downhill," said Owens.
The couple said they need $88,000 to stop the foreclosure scheduled for August 24. And it will cost $250,000 to pay off the loan.
Supporters are working to raise money through a gofundme.
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Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU.