INSPIRE: Carlos Tearney, Champion Martial Arts

By Becca Taurisano

Photo by Maureen Tricase/Capture Your Moments


Nine years ago Carlos Tearney opened Champion Martial Arts with the idea that he wanted to share his passion for martial arts with the Syracuse community.


The physically imposing, 6’ 2”, 250 lb. Tearney started studying karate in 1983 as a 7-year-old growing up in the city of Syracuse.


“Martial arts gave me the opportunity to see the world,” said Tearney.


His uncle, Greg Tearney, owns a martial arts studio, and he and his mother influenced Carlos to take up the practice. In 1992, Tearney earned his black belt and he went on to earn 14 World Titles and was featured on the television show World Combat League with Chuck Norris. Tearney credits his success today to his wife Veronica, whom he calls the First Lady of Champion Martial Arts. Veronica is a former track athlete and currently the Director of Strength and Conditioning at Syracuse University. Their blended family has four children, two sons and two daughters ranging in age from 14 to 3 years old.


Tearney’s love for martial arts is superseded only by his love for teaching which he calls the “development of people.” He works with all age levels, genders, and abilities to show progress and build self-confidence. Tearney says martial arts is the vehicle to help others see “what we can become when we put our mind to it.” At his studio, a nearly 7,000-square-foot space on the west side of Syracuse, Tearney holds self-defense workshops, 12-week martial arts training blocks, and fitness classes geared toward adults and children.


Women make up 75 percent of his adult client base and he helps his students to create more space between themselves and an attacker, which in turn creates more time to escape and get to a safer place. Tearney’s passion is connected to the fact that when he was 21 years old, his sister was attacked while out late at night


“Obviously I was really upset,” he said. “I felt like for me, I kind of failed her. So then it became my own personal crusade, like I was personally invested in it.”


Tearney’s mission became clear: he wanted to train women to protect themselves if they were in a dangerous situation. According to Tearney, much of self-defense is about the importance of communication and what you are saying to other people through your eye contact, your body language, and the use of verbal communication which can either escalate or diffuse a situation. Tearney tells his students, “You are now at the mercy of the world and you have to be prepared for anything that can throw a rock in your calm lake.”


He advises his students to rely on intuition.


“If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right,” said Tearney.


Tearney conducts anti-abduction and awareness workshops for law firms, real estate agencies, county agencies, nurses, and other groups. When David Renz attacked Lori Ann Bresnehan and her daughter in the parking lot at Great Northern Mall in 2013, Tearney saw a need to hold a community workshop geared toward mothers and children. In these workshops he trains his students to use the “Three P’s”: Prepare, Prevent, and Protect. During the first two phases — Prepare and Prevent — you use verbal communication, carry yourself confidently, and manage space and distance between yourself and others. According to Tearney, if you find yourself in the Protect phase, something was missing in the first two phases.


Tearney also hopes his students learn to maximize their power and efficiency in the frame of what they have to work with physically.


“Attackers are not expecting you to defend yourself,” he said, “so you hit them with a surprise and get yourself to a safer space.”


While karate is the basis of Tearney’s training, he uses a combination of Goju-ryu, an Okinawan style of karate, and krav maga, a military self-defense system developed by the Israeli army. This blend of techniques gives his students the tools to use in real-world scenarios in an efficient and practical way. Karate takes a long time to master, according to Tearney, and he wants his students to have a faster reaction time. Tearney considers self-defense training as essential as health insurance or car insurance and he hopes his students are geared up to confidently handle any situation.


Champion Martial Arts offers classes for adults and children, as well as summer camps. On June 6, a Kids Anti-Abduction and Awareness workshop will teach children ages 4 to 12 and their parents about self-defense. The studio will also offer a two-part Women’s Anti-Abduction and Awareness workshop at 6:30 p.m. June 17 and 19. For more information on Champion Martial Arts Syracuse visit their Facebook page @championsmasyr, on the web at or call them at (315) 491-8822 for more information.