For more than four decades, Greg Tearney has broken all kinds of barriers as a marital arts pioneer and entrepreneur in Central New York.
Now, Tearney's long and storied career has gained the ultimate local recognition, as he is one of six members of the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame's Class of 2013, which was announced on Wednesday afternoon.
He joins a class that includes lacrosse greats Gary Gait and Barry Powless, long-time golf professional Joe Tesori and two posthumous inductees - city athletic greats Don Markowski and Don Savage. The induction dinner takes place Oct. 21 at Drumlins Country Club.
Located in Fairmount, Tearney's Karate and Kickboxing, run by Greg and his wife of 31 years, Judy, has been a Central New York institution since 1969, starting in Syracuse and moving around several locations before settling in the western suburbs, where Tearney said his greatest growth has taken place.
In his 7,200-square-foot facility, Tearney's currently teaches more than 400 students, as young as age 4, in the martial arts. Thousands have been taught at Tearney's over the years, including the likes of Tim Green and Syracuse assistant basketball coach Mike Hopkins.
Tearney said he never could have imagined such success back in his younger days. After graduating from Nottingham High School in 1959, he went to Syracuse University and worked at New Process Gear, but said his life was headed for trouble when, as a garbageman, he noticed a karate magazine that included an advertisement for a dojo in Syracuse.
Receiving instruction from the likes of Peter Musacchio and Frank Van Lenten (now deceased), Tearney eventually became a Black Belt in five martial arts disciplines, including three 10th degee Black Belts and a Grand Master status in Okinawa-style karate.
As he fought in tournament from 1965 to '77, Tearney established his own karate school, which grew into Tearney's, a family business in the truest sense since Judy Tearney is an eighth-degree Black Belt. They are both regarded as pioneers in the martial-arts business, which has exploded in growth. Ten of their students have won various world championships.
Greg has served as president of Karate's International Alliance and joined that discipline's Hall of Fame in 1983. For countless instances of community service through the years, including raising money for the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund, Tearney was honored by the NAACP in 2011 as its Small Businessman of the Year.
Now, he is part of the Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame.