At a stage in life when many of his contemporaries have begun to slow down, Karate Master Stephen Meining continues to prove that age is only a number.

Over four decades after he first got the martial arts bug, Meining, a 4th Dan Black Belt, of Lower Towamensing Township, continues to amass one impressive feat after another.

Further proof of that was evident when Meining, 66, won a Gold Medal in the Weapon's competition in the Senior Elite Advanced Division at the national State Games of America Karate Tournament held recently in Harrisburg.

What's more, Meining was able to further cement his standing as he notched a Silver Medal in Sparring, and a Bronze Medal in Kata (a series of pre-arranged fighting techniques against a group of imaginary opponents) at the very same event.

"That was probably the highlight of my martial arts career," Meining said. "It was the first time I had ever gotten to that level."

Meining's interest in the martial arts began in the late 1960s while serving in the U.S. Air Force at DaNang Air Base during the Vietnam War. While there, he got to see the Republic of Korea Marines in action using their martial arts skills.

After being discharged in 1970, Meining joined the Penn State Karate Club at Penn State University's main campus, while studying for his Bachelor's Degree.

While there, he went on to attain the rank of 2nd Dan Black Belt in Isshinryu Karate under the instruction of U. S. Marine Corp. Captain 6th Dan Stuart Dorow, who himself had been trained in Okinawa directly by the originator of Isshinryu karate, 10th Dan Grand Master Tatsuo Shimabuko.

Also while at Penn State, Meining co-instructed the Women's Self-defense phys-ed course for the University.

Meining later joined Dynasty Karate in Palmerton, where, under the instruction of 10th Dan Grand Master Robert Nenow, he eventually attained the rank of 4th Dan Black Belt in American Tae Kwon Do. During his training, Master Meining became proficient at using various Okinawan weapons, including the Sais and Nunchuko.

Throughout his 43-year involvement in the martial arts, Meining has won his division in many tournaments, including numerous gold medals in the Kata, Sparring, & Weapons Divisions over the years at the Pennsylvania Keystone State Games.

In 2000, he was inducted into the World Karate Union Hall of Fame as Executive Male Competitor of the Year.

Meining is currently on the staff of instructors at Mountain Karate Academy in Lehighton.

"We try to encourage students to become leaders," he said. "I get to work with people anywhere from the ages of 4 to 80; to me, it's something that's really, really neat."

Meining said the sport "Gives you an extremely good physical and mental workout. It also gives you self-confidence, which is something I see lacking in many of today's kids."

"Anything I can do to inspire young people, that's my goal," he said. "The neatest thing to see is a person come into the Dojo without any knowledge of how to defend themselves, and seeing them blossom."

Above all else, Meining said karate "gives you that self-confidence in your life to climb the ladder of success."

"In karate, we teach you to never quit until you accomplish your goal," he said. "Work hard at whatever you attempt to do in life, and if you do work real hard, eventually success comes."