Sword Play Replaces Nightlife in Former Mo Pitkin’s Space

dojoEvan Bleier Assistant instructor Eton Kwok.

Above a long-vacant storefront on Avenue A, a space that once served as the upstairs of Mo Pitkin’s and then as the office of an Internet start-up has found new life as a martial arts studio.

“You can do a lot of damage with a hammer-fist, and it’s quick to learn,” assistant instructor Eton Kwok told a group of young women practicing moves in front of a wall-length mirror during a recent “Smash Class” – a free self-defense class at the Chinese Hawaiian Kempo Academy.

Last month, C.H.K.A. left the Village Martial Arts Institute on Third Street and moved to roomier digs at 34 Avenue A. The dojo is owned by Sharon Shamburger, whose husband Jack, a ninth-degree black belt, is head instructor.

studioEvan Bleier The studio.

The storefront space, along with the second floor, was once occupied by Mo Pitkin’s House of Satisfaction, a bar, restaurant and performance venue that counted Jimmy Fallon as an investor. In 2009, Yorkville bar Aces & Eights took over the space, but had to close 18 months later for operating without a health department permit. In March of 2010, Phil Hartman of Two Boots, along with concert promoter Todd Patrick, made a play to open a Mexican restaurant and music venue, but backed off after failing to get Community Board 3’s backing. The space has been conspicuously vacant ever since.

Meanwhile, the second floor went dry. Before C.H.K.A. took it over, it briefly served as the offices of Churnless, a “digital strategy and product development consultancy” that launched a Website, GetRaised.com, dedicated to helping users demand salary bumps. That company announced that it was “spinning down” late last year.

Ms. Shamburger said she wasn’t concerned about the possibility that a bar might return to the first floor. “It’s not like they can smoke,” she said, “and noise is not an issue. We kick our bags too.”

In addition to women’s self-defense, the academy offers classes for children from four to 15, and adult classes in Kempo karate, kickboxing and traditional martial arts weapons. The style taught at the academy is unique to Mr. Shamburger’s background and combines fighting techniques from five different cultures: Chinese, Japanese, American, Okinawan and Hawaiian.

Mr. Shamburger’s parents and grandparents were well versed in martial arts such as Jiu-Jitsu, Taekwondo and Judo. He practiced them from a young age, and in the 1970s while serving as a United States Marine. In 1990, his distinctive style – which encourages hard work and emphasizes room for improvement and innovation – was internationally recognized as Shamburger’s Chinese Hawaiian Kembo by the Tracy Organization.

“A lot of of martial arts systems concentrate on one aspect or another,” said Mr. Kwok. “[Mr. Shamburger] wants to make sure everything is covered.”