January 6, 2010 Edition

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ATF founder Fred Weeks (center) received special honors at the ATF Christmas party held on Dec. 20. Those presenting included (from left) Rowdy Fortson, Wes Craft, Fred Weeks, Tom Hunnicutt, and Dr. Keith Waggnor.
Submitted Photo ~ Robert Warden

Weeks receives honor
for years of dedication

Shantelle Prater
Staff Writer

ATF Martial Arts founder and chief instructor Fred Weeks, also known as "the Dragon," began instructing in 1972 after training for seven years in the Chuck Norris United Fighting Arts Federation. Since then, Weeks has met several influential leaders in the martial arts world and has impacted the lives of many.

A 1954 Hoxie High School graduate, he served nine years in the United States Air Force and resided in Rapid City, S.D., when he began practicing the arts.

Joe Tabor, a martial arts instructor at the YMCA, introduced the sport to Weeks in an attempt to loose weight after he stopped smoking.

"I had quit smoking and needed to loose some weight, so I decided to try it out," Weeks said.

"I had no intention of getting serious in martial arts, but once I got a taste I was hooked."

After he moved back to Arkansas, he met Tip Potter, a personal friend of Chuck Norris and an instructor for the Chuck Norris System United Fighting Arts Federation in Doniphan, Mo.

Under the direction of Potter, Weeks tested for his first black belt at the Airport Travel Lodge in Memphis and was judged by Norris and Bill "Superfoot" Wallace, the Professional Karate Association Middleweight Champion kickboxer for more than 15 years.

"Norris and Wallace saw me compete and gave their approval of my improvement to earn my first black belt degree," Weeks said. "It was a huge honor."

Weeks earned his first black belt from Norris in 1978.

In 1980, Weeks formed the ATF Martial Arts Studio, the former Allied Tang Soo Do Federation, located on Main Street in Walnut Ridge. The primary objective of the studio is for students to develop both physical and mental character.

"Kids, especially those from a broken home or a dysfunctional family, need this type of training," Weeks said.

Weeks and his wife, Susan, who also received a first degree black belt from Norris in 1979, involve their family in martial arts, as well.

Their son, Chance, 22, holds a second degree black belt and their son Range, 15, holds a second degree junior black belt.

Weeks also has three daughters and seven grandchildren, one of which, Grace, is also involved in martial arts.

"I see martial arts has a life preserver in a stormy sea. It helps create stability."

The school, whose system has evolved into a more complete fighting school over the years, now offers a variety of martial arts to students including Moo Duk Kwon, Kali, Kubudo, Jeet Kune Do, Silat, Krav Maga, Kali/Silat, Muay Thai, Grappling, Jujutsu, Brazilian JuJitsu, sword play and western boxing.

ATF also raised more than $16,000 between 1990 and 1998 to benefit the March of Dimes' Fight for Healthy Babies campaign and has raised more than $6,000 between 2006 and 2009 for the Lawrence County Food Bank.

On Dec. 20, current and former students met at the ATF to honor Weeks for his 40 years of dedication to Martial Arts.

"I thought it would be a small celebration but as it turns out, it was quite a celebration," said Weeks.

At the ceremony, Weeks was awarded an honorary 10th degree black belt and the title "Hanshi" by Grandmaster Tom Hunnicutt.

He was also presented a unique plaque and a book composed of congratulatory letters from former and current students and teachers, including Norris, Wallace and Dan Inosanto, a direct descendent of Bruce Lee.

"Fred Weeks has touched several students, many of whom have not been able to pay for martial arts lessons, and he has donated thousands of dollars for charity and has been a great community leader. He has taken low-economic and low-status men, such as myself, and raised them and given them character and self-value," said Dr. Keith Waggoner, a fourth degree black belt.

"When it comes to Martial Arts, he has a wonderful pedigree and is a wonderful instructor."

Weeks currently holds a sixth degree green belt in Goju Ryu, a second degree red belt in Taekwondo, an honorary 10th degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, a third degree black belt in Moo Duk Kwon and a 10th degree black belt in Shoin Ryu.

Anyone interested in joining ATF can contact Weeks at the ATF studio, located on Main Street in Walnut Ridge, or by visiting its website at www.atfmartialarts.com.

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