Meet Our Instructors
Shifu Derek Croley
With over 28 years of teaching experience, Derek Croley has dedicated his life to helping people get into the best shape of their lives, learn real self defense, and to have the Black Belt Excellence mindset. Having taught thousands of students over the years, he has worked tirelessly to have a positive impact on all of them with progressive programs and teaching methods designed to maximize their abilities on and off of the mat. To this end he is constantly working to improve himself as a martial artist and educator in an effort to provide the highest quality of education available in the world, right here in Asheville.
Derek Croley began studying martial arts at the age of 8 and began teaching at the age of 13 as an assistant instructor. He received his first Black Belt at age 15 under Shihan Dave Kovar in Sacramento, California. Kovar now operates some of the largest and most successful schools in the country and is internationally known for his teaching methods.
While still 15, Derek moved to Aiken, South Carolina where he became an Instructor under Grand Master Andy Watford. Grand Master Watford is a 10th Degree Black Belt under Grand Master David German and Grand Master Virgil Kimmey.
After completing a degree in Business Management from Clemson University Derek and his wife Brook moved to Jilin City, in the Jilin Provence of Manchurian China. There, he further perfected his skills under Grand Master Lui Chan Shan. Under Grand Master Lui, he was the first Westerner ever to learn the art of Taiji Yuan Gong Chan Chuan, and is one of a few people in the world who knows this secret art. With the blessing of Po Rin Fu he is allowed to teach this art openly in America. While in Northeastern China he also earned the title of Shifu (teacher) in Liu Style Tai Chi Chuan as well as Yuan Gong Chan Chuan.
In 2005 he was awarded the title of Master Instructor in David German’s US TAI Martial Arts Association.
He has written four books on the Martial Arts (including The Physical Structure of Martial Arts and How to Approach Tai Chi Like a Master), published several articles, and produced several educational videos on a wide variety of topics. His newest book is “The Six Steps to Self Mastery,” and is available on Amazon.
In 2007 he was featured in a series of TAI Kenpo Instructional videos from Lotus Video Productions. He was highlighted in the silver screen documentary The Why? of Tai Chi by filmmaker Bruce Kennedy and choreographed the fights between Peter Pan and Captain Hook in the 2009 Asheville Community Theater production of Peter Pan.
In 2008 Master Croley was awarded an honorary PhD in Asian Martial Arts Philosophy from the University of Asian Martial Arts Study via the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame. This is an honorary martial arts industry award for contribution to the arts and years of service.
He has also been greatly honored to have been appointed as a Vice President of WACIMA (Worldwide Association of Chinese Internal Martial Arts) by the International President of the organization, Grand Master Xu.
In December of 2010, Croley took several students to China once again, studying under noted Grand Masters Wu Ji in the art of Lan Shou and Shi Sen Lin in the art of Baqua.
2013 was his 30th year of practicing martial arts.
In 2014 Derek became a certified Krav Maga Instructor under Ernie Kirk of Krav Maga Universal.
In 2015 he was honored at the Virgil D. Kimmey Martial Arts College with a 6th Degree Black Belt in the International TAI Martial Arts Association.
In May of 2016, Derek went to the Wingate Institute in Netanya, Israel to train in Krav Maga. The Wingate Institute is the birthplace of the art and this training camp was put on by the actual Wingate Staff.
Master Croley now resides in Asheville, North Carolina with his wife and children. He has numerous Black Belts and Instructor Certifications, he is the owner of Croley’s Premier Martial Arts, President of The White Oak Martial Arts Association, Vice President of WACIMA (the Worldwide Association for Chinese Internal Martial Arts), the 2008-2009 President of the Asheville West Rotary Club, and a member of the US Martial Arts Hall of Fame.
Martial Arts Education
- 8th Degree Black Belt and Certified Master Instructor in Xu Shen Chuan under Grand Master George Xu.
- 6th Degree Black Belt in the International Association of TAI Martial Arts under President Steve Fishman and authenticated by Vice President Frank Beall, and Master Terry Shea.
- 6th Degree Black Belt and Certified Master Instructor in TAI Karate/Kenpo/Jujitsu under Grand Master Andy Watford and authenticated by Grand Master “Kenpo” Joe Rebelo and Grand Master Brian Adams.
- 5th Degree Black Belt in TAI Karate/Jujitu under Grand Master Andy Watford and Founding Grand Master David German and authenticated by Grand Master Brian Adams.
- 4th Degree Black Belt under Master Kevin Hudson.
- 1st Degree Black Belt under Shihan Dave Kovar.
- Ist Degree Black Belt under Grand Master Brian Adams in his Integrated Martial Arts System. This is a combination of Kenpo, Escrima, Jujitsu, and White Tiger Kung Fu that relies heavily upon the principles of stick and knife fighting application and dynamics.
- 1st Degree Black Belt in Ed Parker’s American Kenpo.
- Certified Shifu of Liu Style Tai Chi and Yuan Gong Chan Chuan under Grand Master Liu Chan Shan. He is the only westerner to ever learn both of these secret arts.
- Certified in Yang Style Tai Chi under Master Dennis Brown.
- Certified 10 Animal Hsin Yi, Dragon Palm Baqua, and Chen Style Tai Chi Instructor under Grand Master Xu.
- Certified Krav Maga Instructor under Ernie Kirk of Krav Maga Universal.
- Trained at the Wingate Institute in Netanya, Israel.
- Certified Premier Martial Arts Instructor (Krav Maga, Muay Thai, Kali, and Submission Grappling) under Ernie Kirk and Barry Van Over of Premier Martial Arts International.
I have known Derek Croley since the mid 80’s when he began training with me as a child in California. Over the years, I have kept track of his progress and I am really proud of the man that he has become. He is an excellent martial artist and an amazing teacher. For authentic martial arts training, I would highly recommend his school to anyone in the area.
Author of “A Dad’s Toolbox For Better Parenting,” creator of “The Satori Fitness Challenge,” and the recipient of the Martial Arts Industry Association’s 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award.