Darren Yancey was about a half an hour removed from having wrapped up a two-hour training session Monday night at Scorpion Martial Arts in Hope Presbyterian Church in Cordova.
He didn’t seem to be in a rush to leave the building.
Instead, Yancey, who runs Scorpion Martial Arts, deemed it necessary to speak one-on-one with 12-year-old Cameron Davis, one of his academy’s newest members.
“When one fall, we all fall,” Yancey told Davis. “When one do pushups, we all do pushups? We’re a team. We can’t go out and represent Scorpion Martial Arts without having good representation.”
Fortunately for Yancey, a veteran Shelby County Sherriff Deputy, the close-knit relationship he has established with his colleagues and is among the reasons his martial arts business is among the most popular throughout the Mid-South.
Scorpion Martial Arts specializes in the PaSaRyu system, created by Ninth Degree Master Ox, Kang Rhee. The PaSaRyu, or the “Way of Honor” style, is a blend of elements of Karate, Kung Fu, and Taekwondo. By and large, the style is more open and free than the traditional forms. Also, the PaSaRyu requirements, self-defense, sparring, board breaking and grappling techniques are taught and required to promote.
Yancey, a native Memphian and eight-degree black belt champion, has been training martial arts classes for a little more than 26 years. According to Yancey, martial arts isn’t merely a craft by which participants can learn to fight, but rather it teaches an array of concepts, most notably self-discipline and good character, especially for youngsters such as Davis.
“Martial arts is not just about kicking and punching,” Yancey told MemphiSport. “It’s a respect and discipline. You don’t fight until you get your black belt.”
Having grew up in the heart of North Memphis, Yancey first acquired in interest in martial arts years ago when he attended Snowden Junior High. Accompanied by his mother to Overton Park, which is in close proximity of Snowden, Yancey noticed a man punching what appeared to be a sign that featured bricks.
From that point, he was sold on a sport that, nearly three decades later, has become a way of life for him.
“I told my mom I wanted to try martial arts,” Yancey said. “And she said, ‘Are you sure?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’”
Consequently, Yancey began taking martial arts lessons from Master Kang Rhee, an internationally-acclaimed instructor who is widely known for having taught Rock ‘N Roll icon Elvis Presley.
Yancey first met Kang Rhee in 1985. The two have since established a solid rapport, one in which Yancey said has aided him considerably with regards to what his career has become today.
“I’ve never thought I’d be this far,” Yancey said.
However, a strange thing happened on his way to his reaching the pinnacle of his career.
A year after capturing a green belt, Yancey took a 10-year hiatus from martial arts and began taking up other sports. He played football. He played baseball. Neither, it seemed, grasped his interest the way martial arts did.
“I missed martial arts a lot because that’s what I always wanted to do,” Yancey said. “I always wanted to get my black belt. As a kid, you always get side-tracked. Once you get off into something, you keep going until you establish your goals.”
Once he resurfaced on the martial arts circuit in the late 1990s, Yancey ultimately fulfilled his dream of capturing a black belt. Today, he’s destined to share his success with those who, like him, aspire to become knowledgeable about martial arts.
Over the past 26 years, he has trained more than 300 individuals, many of whom have started their own academy. Scorpion Martial Arts have students ranging from ages 4 to 50.
“Not only does he specializes in martial arts, but he enjoys working with children,” said Scorpion Martial Arts secretary Avis Adams. “He can actually get on their level so they can get involved. He brings out a lot of personalities that we haven’t seen.”
Which, according to Yancey, is relative to his academy’s longstanding mission of promoting self-discipline.
“When parents say, ‘I see a difference in my child’s,’ you’re doing something right,” Yancey said. “If your attitude don’t change, if your thought process don’t change, I’m not teaching you. I care about the child. I care about the student. When I see a child’s confidence go up, I’m doing my job.”
Even if means staying a while after class ends.