Here is an interview that I recently gave on children and combat sports. Basically, though I have nothing against the more common safe, regulated sport martial arts that strike or grapple (I don’t delve into sport martial arts, preferring to teach self defense applications), I am vehemently opposed to the idea of putting children into full contact fights. In this article when discussing combat sports I am referring to full contact fighting with children.
Dear Mr. Croley,
I’d like to thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to speak with me regarding your training methods and beliefs at White Oaks Martial Arts Center. Our talk together proved invaluable in helping me conduct research on the participation of children in combat sports. I find you to be quite knowledgeable and certainly to be a very eloquent speaker, and I only hope that my interview report does justice to your philosophies and that you are satisfied with your portrayal therein. I myself am not completely happy with its brevity, but as the father of two young children and a full-time student time management is of the essence and thus I hope you will understand. I am including a copy in this email and will mail you one also. I thoroughly believe in what you do and wish you the best in the future.
Research Project Interview Report
Children and Combat Sports
October 24, 2011
Only The Positive: A Conversation With Master Shifu Derek Croley
While we don’t know specifically how long Asian martial arts has been around, we do know that the Chinese have been combining warfare tactics and strategies with spiritualism for many centuries. Their customs dictated for children to be taught these techniques as a way of grooming warriors for the next generation. Today children are still instructed in the same manner, albeit with the focus being on self- discipline and confidence rather than the actual fighting itself. Recently, with the rise in popularity of combat sports like Mixed Martial Arts, some parents have organized grassroots tournaments in which children strike and choke each other in competition, in stark contrast to the teachings of Asheville martial arts instructor Derek Croley.
While conducting research for my project focusing on children’s participation in combat sports, I have read medical journal articles on the harmful effects of Mixed Martial Arts injuries and news reports of the fast-growing nature of the sport. I wanted to gain the perspective of someone who is “in the trenches,” if you will, involved in the day-to-day teaching of children and knows just what works regarding the instruction of martial arts. Master Shifu Derek Croley is the founder and president of the White Oaks Martial Arts Center in Asheville, North Carolina, having dedicated his life to the instruction of ethical martial arts practices with over twenty-five years of teaching experience.
One positive aspect of martial arts training for children is the physical fitness factor, a way to get sedentary children off the couch and moving. While he has personally seen overweight kids make some significant strides regarding their physical fitness through the self-discipline he teaches, Master Croley believes only the parents can shoulder most of that burden and that his primary responsibility is to foster their self-confidence and instill a positive moral attitude.
Master Croley advocates using a structured environment to teach these skills, in this case the martial arts belt system. Students start at the bottom rung and work their way up through the different color-coded levels, or belts. “They use their self-discipline and gain confidence by accomplishing each goal in increments and then building upon that” he says.
He allows no contact striking between students to take place in his school, though they do work with bags to learn the proper technique should they have to use violence in a self-defense situation. One of the most common questions parents ask him, he says, is “If you give my child a hammer, will they see every problem as a nail?” This is why he emphasizes escapes and blocks as his “cardinal rule.” Master Croley stresses that violence should only be used at the appropriate time, with that only being in an instance of self-defense and as the last resort.
When asked about children participating in combat sports where striking is allowed, he comments that he does not advocate “Karate Kid style tournaments” and that in these “only the kids with a natural aptitude for fighting will excel, while those without will fail” and have their confidence crushed. “The biggest thing children will learn is that hitting hurts, and they probably already knew that” he says. He emphasizes that bullying and victimization will occur as a result, with injuries and fear being the main commodities traded through combat sports for children.
Master Croley is a man dedicated to helping his students become “positive influences to the people around them”, and to “overcome personal fears and self-doubt.” To accomplish this, he stresses “perseverance with a positive attitude.” When asked point-blank how kids striking each other through sport might fit into his plans, “combat sports for children,” he responds, “is a horrible idea.”
For more information about out school click here.
Here are a couple of other articles on the subject.