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Carolina H.E.A.T. Martial Arts Academy fights to make a difference

Having opened in 2008, Carolina H.E.A.T Martial Arts Academy has proven taekwondo is more than a fighting style. Taekwondo is a discipline used to shape spirit and lives through the use of body and mind. It is a way of bringing people together, enhancing confidence, and creating community. 

“Taekwondo is not just fighting. It’s not just exercise. It is who you are and who you will become,“ said Caroline H.E.A.T. owner Allison Croom.  

“I see and enjoy seeing the confidence taekwondo builds in my students. At their starting point they may have low grades or may not have that many friends. They may lack the confidence to jump up in front of everyone and make their presence known. Taekwondo builds students up and teaches them these life lessons.”

Croom is a fourth-degree taekwondo black belt and knows first hand the impact and importance taekwondo can play in a child’s life. Croom began taekwondo when she was four years old. Through her studies, she built confidence in herself and developed life skills at an early age. 

“When I was a kid, I was very much bullied. I know how that feels and I also want my kids to know there is a way out of that. There is a right way to correct a bully,” Croom said. 

“Fighting is not the answer, but through taekwondo they will learn how to have confidence, stand up for themselves and use their words to tell that person no. You learn that you are special and important. Plus you have the skills and the know-how to protect yourself if you need to.”

Having watched Croom and her younger brother grow and develop through taekwondo, Croom’s parents opened a taekwondo studio under the name Carolina H.E.A.T. Martial Arts Academy in Kinston. 

“As I got older, I started to develop the business side of the dojang. I began to flourish as a business owner,” Croom said. 

This led to Croom opening up her first dojang or taekwondo training academy in Grifton when she was only a senior in high school.

She began with only eight students and would pick the students up after her classes each day, take them to the dojang and instruct them on the practices of taekwondo. 

Croom then had the opportunity to expand from her small dojang into a larger facility in Ayden. The building now houses The Doghouse Tavern, but for several years it served as a safe place for children to learn and develop. 

The business and students thrived, leading way to an even bigger facility. WIthin seven years of relocating to Ayden, Carolina H.E.A.T. moved from Second St. to its location at 249 West 3rd St.

As in the beginning, Carolina H.E.A.T. continues to offer an affordable after school program, weekly classes and a summer camp program for students eager to learn the practice of taekwondo. 

Pick-up from Ayden Elementary, Ayden Middle and Grifton Elementary schools is available and offered by Carolina H.E.A.T. 

Once students arrive at the dojang, they receive homework assistance and tutoring which also help enhance the student’s grades. At four o’clock, and after a snack break, students then begin to train in taekwondo until dismissal at 6 p.m. 

Students also have a chance to participate in a variety of taekwondo tournaments, held from Virginia to South Carolina. This includes the state’s Body Armor State Games in Raleigh, where Carolina H.E.A.T. 's demo team has earned the rank of state champions for the past three years, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic which canceled the tournament for two years.

“We just started our demo team back up. It’s a smaller group of kids that participate in it. They travel doing different performances like breaking boards and a choreographed weapons routine,” Croom said. 

The dojang’s motto “Fighting to Make  A Difference,” is more than nice words for the students. They are words students strive to live for. Before each tournament, students work hard to raise money for fees and costs. All extra funds are then donated to a cause or non-profit chosen by the students. 

“The kids research where they want to donate to. The kids really love picking the organization and want to make a difference.  This passion helps them fight harder to try and raise that money,” Croom said. 

In the past, the students have garnered $600 for the ENC Pet Food Pantry. 

Carolina H.E.A.T. 's summer program also helps expand both mind and body with students partaking in crafts, a multitude of activities and taekwondo training. Students also have the opportunity to participate in weekly field trip activities. In the past, Carolina H.E.A.T.  has taken students to the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher, Asheboro Zoo, WonderWorks in Myrtle Beach and has even participated in a week-long trip to Grandfather Mountains for the older students.

Through their offered programs, Croom has watched students grow, prosper in school and in life, and has watched friendships develop. For her and her students, Carolina H.E.A.T. is more than a training facility or after school option. It’s a second home filled with caring family members. 

“You know that everyone here is your best friend and you have people to talk to and have role models that can help build you up. “I hope that every kid knows that this is their family and that no matter what they are going through they have someone they can talk to and we can work through it together. I hope I can teach them the skills to grow in life and as they go through life and struggles happen they can reflect back on the things I taught them,” Croom said. 

“I hope they can hear me telling them that they can do it and to keep going. I hope they know how proud I am of them that they never quit. I push them very hard here to be a good athlete, good person and good kid. I want them to know that if they did that here, they can do it even when they get older and become an adult.” 

Its training model helps facilitate this familial feeling with students of all levels and ages training together as one. 

“ We put them together on purpose so they can be with each other so they can be with each other and see each other. When you break them up, sometimes they never even know who is in their dojang with them,” Croom said. 

“Here we are very much a tight, close-knit family.”

“The older kids are able to learn how to be leaders and mentors to the younger and beginner kids. Those younger and beginner kids may be nervous coming in. They have the older kids right there and they can watch and learn from them.”

Carolina H.E.A.T. is open Monday through Friday with after school available. Registration for its summer program, weekly taekwondo classes and after school program is available. For more information find Carolina H.E.A.T. on Facebook or call 252-746-0775. 

Carolina H.E.A.T. Martial Arts Academy    

Article and Photo Credit: Donna Williams

Ayden Chamber of CommerceALUMNI ASSOCIATION

Address: 531 W. Third Street, Ayden NC 28513

252-746-2266 , aydenchamber@gmail.com

Ayden Chamber of Commerce, Inc.

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