By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Liam Meyer of rural Lester Prairie is only 9 years old, but he’s already earned a first-degree black belt.
“He’s taken more than 400 karate classes,” said Liam’s mother, Amy, who is the clerk of Bergen Township.
In his 2.5 years of karate training, Liam has mastered self-defense steps, conditioning techniques, sequences set to music, and more.
“The best part is learning new moves,” he said.
Liam first considered studying martial arts after his mother saw a demonstration by Dojo Karate students in Waconia.
“I thought it looked cool, and there were boys about Liam’s age doing it,” Amy said.
After he tried an intro class, Liam was hooked.
“I just liked it,” he said.
Liam’s black belt graduation ceremony took place Sept. 24 at the Minneapolis Convention Center, and included advanced graduates from Dojo Karate’s six locations (Waconia, Medina, Rogers, Elk River, Monticello, and Buffalo).
Advanced graduates include those earning brown belts and beyond.
“There are 10 levels before the black belt,” Liam explained.
As part of the graduation, Liam was tested on his ability to perform various stances, kicks, and punches. A Dojo Karate co-founder called out short sequences called “one-steps,” and Liam was expected to carry out each one as they were announced.
“It was really fast,” Liam said.
Demonstration of leadership is also required for advanced graduations, and Liam has been helping instruct classes and tutor other students.
One of the more challenging aspects of karate is a “form,” according to Liam.
A form is a sequence of movements that simulate a multiple attacker situation. According to the Dojo Karate website, forms teach balance, concentration, memorization, and conditioning.
Liam has learned how to do forms traditionally, set to music, and with a karate weapon called a Bo Staff.
He’s part of Waconia’s advanced mega team, which did a form to music at a tournament in March.
“They are the reigning champions,” Amy said.
The team has been practicing for the next tournament, which will be at the end of October.
In addition to classes and tournaments, Dojo Karate has friendship-building activities, such as lock-ins, Halloween parties, and graduation celebrations.
Karate fits well with the Meyers’ schedules, and they’re able to work around Liam’s football practices and 5-year-old Amelia’s gymnastics lessons.
“The classes are nice and flexible,” Amy said, explaining that there are a variety of days and times available.
Most classes are 30 to 40 minutes long, but if it’s close to graduation, upper level training can last up to two hours.
“Those classes are a little more intense,” Amy said.
Now that Liam has his first-degree black belt, it will be at least another two years before he is eligible for a second-degree black belt. After that, a third-degree black belt takes an additional three years of training, and fourth-degree black belts take at least four more years.
“A fifth-degree black belt is considered a master,” Amy said.
At Dojo Karate, Liam has studied under the direction of third-degree black belt Janelle Cote, and second-degree black belt Travis Gelhaye,
Liam said he plans to continue his karate training, and hopes to become an instructor someday.
To learn more about Dojo Karate, click here, or call (952) 361-5437.