Martial-arts teacher promotes sport

Published 11:35 am Friday, August 20, 2010

Special to the Daily News

Two Washington natives are training with a martial-arts instructor who hopes their interest in martial arts will lead to an established mixed-martial arts program in Beaufort County.
Ricky and Derrick Clark, the two Washington natives, are training under the supervision of Ron Cooper. They train at Clark’s Kiddie Corral in Chocowinity.
Meanwhile, Cooper is promoting a sport that is drawing some local interest. Cooper trains fighters for the professional mixed-martial arts circuit at the Shikata Martial Arts Academy in Greenville. Currently, he is training 14 fighters. Students at Cooper’s school attend sessions three days a week for five hours of workouts.
Cooper believes that mixed-martial arts fighting can have some mainstream appeal.
“It is the fastest-growing individual sport in America. People may think it is like two gladiators in a ring trying to kill each other, but it’s nowhere near that. It is really just about two people competing, and they want to have their hands raised at the end. They don’t hate each other,” he said.
Cooper also believes the sport can help build community values in Beaufort County
“I envision a place where kids can go after school. They would have someone to look up to. They would have a chance to see the value of pursuing something and excelling at it,” Cooper said.
Cooper has been involved with martial arts for more than 30 years. He has black belts in five different styles of martial arts. He began his professional martial-arts career after serving several years in the military. He has trained more than 1,000 students at his facility.
Mixed-martial art fighting was banned in North Carolina in 1995 for being too violent. The sport was legalized in October 2008, largely because of the efforts of Doug Muhle, a 46-year-old Raleigh real-estate developer. Muhle owns Carolina Fight Promotions, an organization that broadcasts events on various media outlets.
Carolina Fight Promotions stipulates that matches be strictly regulated. Professional referees oversee the matches. Moves like elbowing, kicking or kneeing someone in the head are outlawed.
James Jones Jr., an East Carolina University graduate, has trained with Cooper for a year. This fall, he will have his first professional fight. Jones completed five amateur fights before he could move up to the professional level. Jones’ bout will be in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Oct. 23.
Jones said his training is difficult.
“It’s two hours of sweat,” he said. “A lot of it is very unorthodox. Plyometrics, calisthenics and body-resistance work are all involved. I load up on food afterward because beforehand I am on a strict diet.”
Jones is managed by Cooper, who helps him get a large-scale fight every two to three months.