Sensei Sally Cochran
Greensboro Martial Arts Academy takes quality and safety seriously. We want you to get to know our instructors even before you walk into our school.  Our instructors aren't just good martial artists, they are good people too.

How many years have you been involved as a martial artist?
I've been training and teaching martial arts for 18 years now.

What is the most difficult obstacle you had continuing your training?
Growing up! I took a hiatus from martial arts for a few years when I turned 18 and moved out. Turns out, it was really nice having Mom and Dad take care of all the responsible adult stuff! I took some time off to grow up, get married, and start a few businesses and help them become successful. Once things settled down, I couldn't stay away from martial arts any longer, so I returned to further my training.

Why did you pursue martial arts?
I originally started martial arts becuase my brother did - generally when one of us got to do something, the other one did too until one or both of us lost interest. We stuck with it for many years together and earned our black belts in several systems together before parting ways as young adults.

Were you bullied in your youth?
I wasn't, but my brother was - that's actually why he started martial arts. My parents wanted us to be able to defend ourselves if the need arose.

How long have you been teaching martial arts?
I started helping one of my Senseis, Richard Gilliland, teach classes when I was 14 years old - and I'l be 30 this year, so almost 16 years now.

What kind of teacher are you?
The FUNNEST kind! I like to keep classes fun and entertaining. They're rarely serious, gritty workouts - we have fun and learn a lot together, and I'm creative - I enjoy martial arts as an outlet for my creativity. Although repetition is important, I don't like it to be boring or monotonous - so I find many different ways to teach the same concept. We do something different in every class to keep students from getting bored. My goal is to keep things creative enough that even the youngest kids want to keep coming back every day!

What do you teach best and what don't you do well?
I teach children the best - I like to have fun and learn though games and play. I enjoy helping people learn new things and I love to teach Kata and the bunkai (application) of kata. I love to teach empty hand and weapons katas equally, and I love to challenge students to do more than they thought they could. I do not teach fighting well - I can fight fairly well on my own, but I have no desire to learn or teach combat fighting. We have lots of other instructors that do that very well - I am not one of them! I am a detail person, I like to refine things, and I like to make lessons enjoyable and entertaining.

Do you consider yourself a good martial artist?
On occasion I do - I consider my students a reflection of myself. If they are performing well and enjoying their classes and learning to accurately defend themselves, then I consider myself to be a good teacher. If students begin to leave, complain, get bored in class or lose their desire to learn, then I immediately look to myself to repair the problem. In fighting, I do not consider myself anywhere near the greatest fighter. Kata....I'm decent, but again, not nearly the best. When I'm spending a lot of time practicing, I can hold my own, but overall I do not consider myself to be the best.

What do you recommend for students who have anger issues?
Try out our classes that help you learn to channel your anger! We have lots of wonderful instructors that can help you learn to not do damage with your emotions. And, maybe hug a unicorn or an octopus. That always helps me.

What experience do you have teaching outside of the martial arts?
I have taught in many venues for many years - I firmly believe that teaching is my calling, my God-given purpose in life. I taught martial arts starting at age 14, mainly with the young children in the Little Dragons or Little Ninjas programs. In high school and college, I taught Sunday school to preschoolers for years. I started teaching horseback riding lessons at age 17 in order to be able to keep my horse, and I've been teaching ever since then - that's my other business that keeps me very busy. I've taught camps, classes, lessons, clinics, and much more. I absolutely love to teach, especially children.

What is your career?
I own and operate a riding school, Equine Kingdom Riding Academy, and own and care for 12 horses. I teach riding lessons, camps, offer trail rides, boarding, and more. I own a sewing business, an ebay store, I am a published author with 3 published books and I own my own publishing company. I also own and operate Greensboro Martial Arts Academy, along with Michael Johnson, my best friend and partner for many years.

How did you choose your career?
I started teaching riding lessons because if I didn't, I was going to have to sell my horse (horses are expensive!!). It became something I was extremely passionate about, so I turned it into my career. The dream to open a martial arts academy started the day I tested for my third degree black belt - a group of friends and I (we all trained together) went to lunch and dreamed about opening a school of our own. We spent the next few months frantically working to turn that into a reality, and opened GMAA at its first location only 4 months later.

Do you enjoy teaching children?
I LOVE teaching children - in case you couldn't tell from my previous mentions. I do very well with those 12 and under - I'm stern and forgiving, I know how to energize to action and I know how to calm down a hysterical or hyperactive child. I'm a certified therapeutic riding instructor, and have trained a lot with children with special needs - autism, ADD, ADHD, etc - and the vast majority of that training carries over into other sports as well, including martial arts. I love the children that take classes with my quite dearly, and absolutely love to teach the Little Dragons classes!!

What groups of people/students are you best at teaching?
I love to work with children, and i work well with families - I am creative enough that I can find an activity that works well for all ages and ranks, regardless of the difference.

What promise do you want to make to your students?
That I will always present my best to them - even if I'm having a tough day (week, month, year) I'm always going to put them first. I'm always going to have a lesson plan in mind, I'm always going to be forgiving and patient and I'll take as many approaches as necessary and as much time as you need to learn a technique, idea, kata, or stance.

How are you going to help your students be successful?
I greatly encourage our students to continue with their training. It's hard to be successful if you quit! My goal is to make classes useful and enjoyable so that there is no reason to want to quit!

Do you have a formal education?
I do - I have two college degrees - one in Business Administration and one in Global Logistics. I'm also a certified instructor through the American Riding Instructor's Association, and the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship.

What life lessons can you teach well to students?
Goodness.....I don't know....patience, kindness, caring about others. When I think of the things I want the kids I teach to grow up...I think of respect for those around you, being polite and always treating other the way you want to be treated. I teach them that you always defend yourself, whether it's verbally or physically, but to not ever go around and intentionally hurt other with your hands or your words, that it can hurt just as much to say something unkind as it is if you hit them with a stick. We learn patience through many avenues. I try to teach them to be good adults - they already know how to be children, it's up to us to model good behavior as adults - respect, kindness, sincerity, and sometimes making sacrifices because it's what's best for someone else.

Why do you teach martial arts?
Because martial arts saved my life when I was younger - I became very depressed when I was a teenager, and several very important martial artists, men I greatly respect, encouraged me through the tough times and I have gone on to become very ambitious and care very much for those around me. I want to be able to do for others what they did for me all those years ago. I want to help others on their path to become that best "them" that they can be.

Have you ever been in a physical fight outside of the dojo and what we're the circumstances surrounding it?
No, I have not. I walk with confidence that I'll be okay, and I carry a gun and a knife. :)

How do you feel about recreational drugs in your personal life?
Absolutely not. I have never done any kind of drugs, I do not drink, nor do I smoke. I was raised to believe that all of those things can negatively affect your life, and i had too many goals to risk interfering with that.

What advice could you give a young student who is being bullied at school?
To hold their head high and be proud of who you are and what you believe. To stand up for yourself if the situation calls for it. To surround yourself with MORE people that believe in you and care deeply for you than the poeple that have negative things to say. To continue to come to class to learn how to defend yourself, in case a situation ever arises that you need to take care of a bad problem.

How old are you?
I will be 30 in September 2016.

What styles have you Learned?
I have earned a black belt in TaeKwonDo, 3rd degree black belt in SanShinKai, I have trained in Goju Ryu, Arnis, Shotokan, Isshinryu, Kung Fu, and KinKoRyu. I'm sure I've missed a few - my family moved a lot when I was growing up, so I trained in a LOT of different sytems throughout the years.

What is your favorite style of martial art?
I enjoy traditional styles of SanShinKai and Goju Ryu.

What's more important, showing that you're a competent martial artist or demonstrating that you're a competent teacher?
I think they're equally important, and interchangeable.