Father and son earn black belts together after taking up the sport of karate

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

More than 4,000 years ago there were no weapons, with which people could defend themselves, so they had to learn to develop hand-to-hand combat techniques.

Today, those techniques are as relevant as they were back then, said Larry Meeks, karate instructor and second-degree black belt.

"Karate is a form of self-defense for what happens in every day life," he said. "Karate teaches you to defend yourself if you are attacked by someone who is on drugs while leaving a mall or shopping center, during an attempted robbery or a break-in at your home. Karate is not what you see on television and in the movies. That gives people the wrong concept of what karate is. Karate is not violent. Its purpose is not to get into fights or brawls. Its purpose is self-defense."

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Meeks became interested in martial arts while serving in the military and began to study it seriously. In 1980, he opened his own studio, Meeks School of Karate, in Troy.

"What I teach is Hap Ki Do, which is Korean martial arts," Meeks said. "There are many styles of karate. I prefer Hap Ki Do. I also teach Gracie's Jujitsu, which is a style of karate that teaches you what to do when you have been attacked and are on the ground. If you are attacked and put on the ground, it is difficult - almost impossible - to get up if you are not trained. Gracie's Jujitsu was developed for that specific purpose."

Meek said karate is as much mental as it is physical.

"You can't separate the mental aspect from the physical," he said. "The aspects go together like glue and together they are martial arts. Without the mental aspect, you cannot be successful with the physical."

Meeks’ students are as young as 6 years old and there is no age limit beyond there.

"We have several families who study together," he said. "Sergey Belyi and his son, Eugene, just

eared their black belts . Sergey's wife, Luda, will test for her black belt in a few months. We also have a lady and her two daughters who are second degree red belts and will soon test for their black belts."

The levels of karate proficiency begin with a white belt and progress to yellow, blue, first-degree red, second-degree red, black, first-degree black

and up.

"Eighth is the highest degree of black belt that I know of," Meeks said. "It takes about seven months before a student is ready to test for a higher level. Once your reach black belt, you are required to have a one year time and grade before you can be tested for the next degree."

Meeks said to advance in karate a student must be totally dedicate and very durable.

"I've had students come in and think that it's going to be easy and they don't last long," he said. "Karate requires dedication, strength and endurance. If you are going to advance, you have to really put out. It's not easy, but it's the best exercise you can get and the best preparation you can have in order to defend yourself."

Meeks is a strong and firm believer in karate as a means to an end for those who want to get in shape, keep in shape and acquire

confidence in their ability to protect themselves against aggression. However, he also keeps doing what he does for himself and his family. "Teaching keeps me in condition and I have a grandson in there who is working on techniques.