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Insurance pros learn new meaning of 'crash course'
By Matt Stone

January 7, 2006

Melinda and Perry Imes have been living double lives. By day they’re mild-mannered insurance agents; at night they don traditional karate attire and remake themselves as martial-arts gurus.

The Imeses co-own and manage Anari, a fitness center that offers Okinawan karate, Kobudo, yoga, Tai Chi, dance and massage therapy.

While operating their own Kyrene Corridor-based insurance firm for more than 11 years, their entrepreneurial spirits led them in September to the creation of this new enterprise and, along with it, to a crash course in the intricacies of running a fitness business.

The Imeses co-own and manage Anari, a fitness center that offers Okinawan karate, Kobudo, yoga, Tai Chi, dance and massage therapy. While in the insurance business for more than 11 years, their entrepreneurial spirits led them to the creation of this new project in September.

Partnered with two other couples, Jeff and Valinda Miller and Mark and Venita Knighton, the Imeses have helped to create a place they strongly believe in.

Anari, which means wellness, specializes in Shuri-Ryu karate, an old and traditional discipline that aims to bring inner peace and freedom through practice. The Imeses have been learning this form of karate for three years, which makes the center convenient, offering a place for them to not only teach but learn.

Melinda is a Blue Belt, Perry a Green Belt. Their 15-year old son Danny also has earned a Green Belt. While Perry teaches up to his belt level, as is customary in karate, he learns from his partners, the Knightons, both of whom are dojo senseis or, literally translated, school teachers. They also are fourth-degree Black Belts with 35 years of experience.

“They are the umbrella that anybody that comes into this dojo learns under,” said Perry.

The Knightons, along with the Millers and the Imeses, came together for this venture after bouncing around different locations in practicing their karate. With no place of their own, Anari was born out of necessity.

“We found ourselves at a school or at a church or back at the school, and so we were kind of having a hard time finding a home,” said Perry.

When the decision was made to open Anari, the group realized the center could be more advantageous than they initially thought.

“It allowed us a nice environment to continue pursuing our martial arts—from a perspective where we were in control, putting the family first and guaranteeing that we had karate classes available every night of the week,” said Perry.

Striving to make Anari as family-centered as possible, the school offers activities for any age group, as well as alternatives to classes. One particular group, the Little Dragons, specializes in the younger cliental, with an age range of 3-7 years, where kids learn martial arts and life skills.

“This incorporates the martial art movement, but also incorporates listening skills, tumbling and balance work,” said Melinda.

“They have a lot of fun in that program. I want to do that program—they tell me I’m too old.”

“It’s a very traditional dojo, it’s a very family-oriented, we teach to the entire family, that encompasses young children to parents,” added Perry.

In case a child wants to participate in the activities, but the parent is more of a spectator, mom and dad can watch in the bleachers or relax in the lounge that Anari offers.

“We have one mom right now; she’s getting ready to take a test and so she brings her laptop and sits in a study area we have set up and she studies while her daughter does karate,” said Melinda.

Anyone who does decide to partake in the offerings at the center will find costs decrease with longer commitments and multiple activity signups. For those unsure of whether the Shuri-Ryu karate is for them, the Imeses and Anari offer an introductory special including two private lessons with a Gi, or uniform, for $29.

With preliminary programs like this, the Imeses hope to catch the interest of those unsure whether they would enjoy the activities as well as disprove rumors about karate.

“Everybody thinks karate has to be really hard, but it doesn’t,” said Perry.

For those not interested in Shuri-Ryu, there is plenty more available at Anari. The center has opened its doors to dance instructors, who teach different genres, including hip-hop, jazz and ballet.

Additionally, the Imeses plan to make space available for birthday parties, parents nights out and other activities. Coupled with their weekly afternoon and evening classes, as well as their weekend classes, Anari offers something to everyone, allowing those bored with their normal day to find an escape in big white pajamas.

For information, visit Anari at 60 W. Baseline Road, Suite 6, Mesa, or call at (480) 222-8515.


Photo by David Stone






































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