Welcome to #HOMETOWNHUSTLE – a SweetwaterNOW exclusive series where we highlight hardworking individuals at local businesses in our community.
This week, I had a chance to catch up with Willie Pineda. Willie is a 10th-degree black belt and the founder of Pineda’s Kenpo Karate studio in Rock Springs. Kenpo Karate is an updated system of martial arts based on modern-day self-defense that applies logic and practicality.
Willie’s karate journey began when he was in Junior High and High School where he tried wrestling and boxing, but he discovered his passion for Martial Arts after observing a Martial Arts class at WWCC in 1970.
“I had to be a part of it,” Willie explained. “I began taking lessons right away and continued training in Denver, CO shortly thereafter. Before I was involved in Kenpo Karate, I tried Shotokan, Tae Kwon Do, and Kajukenbo.”
During Willie’s time in Denver, he became an instructor and when he moved back to Rock Springs in 1974, he decided to continue doing what he loves by opening up his own school.
In addition to teaching, Willie has many accomplishments of his own. He competed consistently from 1970-1998. He was part of an Olympic training program in Colorado, has helped hundreds of students, he’s been entered into the Kenpo Hall of Fame, the Martial Arts Hall of Fame, and was recently inducted into the Rock Springs High School Hall of Fame.
Willie has many things to be proud of, but for him, nothing compares to seeing his own family succeed.
Willie and his two sons.
“My best memories so far were when my sons received their black belt and now I get to teach my grandson.”
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As with any successful business journey, there have been difficult moments – especially this year. Trying to teach self-defense classes in the age of COVID-19 has been Willie’s biggest challenge over the past 46 years.
“Being closed from March through July has been the only extended period that I haven’t taught. After starting back up in July, I’ve had to rebuild my class and learn to teach while social distancing, which isn’t easy to do when physical instruction is necessary.”
When I asked Willie about his favorite part of being a business owner he explained to me that he doesn’t consider himself a “business owner” but rather a teacher.
PINEDA KENPO KARATE IN 3 WORDS…
Inclusive, Involved, and Relationships.
“Helping others and being part of my student’s lives is important to me and the most gratifying part of Pineda’s Kenpo Karate.”
Over the years, Willie has created a Martial Arts family and his relationships with his students has extended far beyond the studio itself.
I had a chance to chat with a couple of parents of some of Willie’s current students and they agree, Willie truly is more than just a karate instructor to his students.
“My students have always been open to everyone, I get to know them and support them in their other paths beyond karate, I have now taught three generations in some families. The people are the best part of this community.”
I asked Willie for some wise words of advice for aspiring business owners and what he said can be true for everyone, I believe.
“Treat people fairly and honestly and you will find success.”
Willie also has a message for all who have helped support Pineda’s Kenpo Karate throughout the years.
“I have appreciated all of the students and support I’ve received over the past 46 years and I hope to continue for as long as I can.”