By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
JunHong’s Kung Fu Club, a martial arts club founded by master Jeffrey Chon, has been saved from the chopping block.
When the pandemic hit, Chon fell behind on rent. Typically, the club’s summer camps generate a decent amount of revenue, which has sustained the business during the first two years of the pandemic.
But this past July, Chon realized there wouldn’t be enough profit to offset the outstanding rent he owed this coming November.
The club’s staff leapt into action. Khyree Smith, a student-turned-facilitator, tried to introduce several new people to JunHong’s.
“I wanted to do anything to help keep the business afloat,” said Smith. “It became a question of, ‘How many people can I get through the door as soon as possible?’”
Chon, a South Seattle native, got into a lot of trouble growing up. But he credits martial arts with saving and shaping who he was as a young man.
“Fighting taught me to stand on my own,” said Chon. “I learned that I could do hard things and be trusted to do hard things.”
Named after his Chinese name, JunHong, Chon opened his namesake business in 2009. Originally situated in Beacon Hill, JunHong’s currently calls Seward Park its home. The club offers many martial arts disciplines including Chinese kickboxing, tai chi, and wushu, and currently serves around 40 kids and 20 teens and adults across their programs.
The club’s affordability is a huge appeal to new students. Keeping classes accessible, said Chon, is central to his club’s mission. JunHong’s school programs are about a third of the cost—$100 a month—of other similar programming in the area. Just as important is creating a haven where students from all backgrounds and sexualities can be themselves and feel empowered to learn and grow in his space.
“I get a lot of negative feedback from other teachers and masters for how I run my business,” said Chon.
“But I don’t focus on finances. Community comes first—kids growing first, and safety first. This is a safe space to occupy, and I always put that first before making money.”
Smith has also seen how this mindset has positively impacted students.
“What really made students soar and excel was when we invested in the community,” said Smith.
“That’s when we really saw people not only flourish with their personal development, but also their skills, abilities, and even winning tournaments.”
However, despite their best efforts, it became clear that the club wouldn’t make it by November. Chon knew he might be close to throwing in the towel.
Asking for community help
But he wouldn’t go down without a fight.
Chon’s partner, Nicole DeFuria, launched a GoFundMe campaign on Aug. 24 to spread the word and ask for donations. A donation goal of $8,000 was set to address the back rent that Chon owed.
Although DeFuria and Chon both shared the campaign online, Chon didn’t expect much response. But his community came through quickly. Within days, they met their first campaign goal.
Moved and encouraged by the response, DeFuria set a second goal of an additional $3,000 to go towards their September rent and to support the club’s staff. Again, donations flowed in, and they quickly met their extra goal. As of this writing, their campaign currently has $14,340—more than $3,000 over their original total goal.
The campaign brought an outpouring of love and support from his community both near and far.
Some of the donors were previous students who trained under Chon, but who have since moved away yet continue to promote his school. Other donors included people on the USA team—of which Chon serves as coach—who donated and also shared the campaign online. Rounding out the donations were Chon’s local community, comprised of club families and neighborhood allies.
“The community really came in clutch, and I’m so thankful and appreciative of that,” said Chon.
A second chance
With the financial burden lifted, Chon’s excited for what’s to come.
The club sent seven students to try out for the USA National team. Each student made the team, and they’ll head to the Worlds competition next year. He’s also looking forward to updating the school’s facilities including new mats and a punching bag.
“I feel a lot of confidence,” said Chon about the positive response from his donation campaign.
“This whole experience has been really validating to me — that everyone believes in and supports this place and what we do.”
For more information, visit junhongkungfu.com.
Vivian Nguyen can be reached at email@example.com.