What started as a hobby has garnered a national honor for Carl Collins, a computer operator for Information Technology Service.
On July 23, Collins became the first African American to be inducted into the United States Martial Artist Association 2011 Hall of Fame as Master of the Year in recognition of his skills in Sambo and Muay Thai.
Collins was hired by Information Technology Services in 1995. Looking for a fun way to stay in shape, he took a self-defense class through the physical education department at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and his life was forever changed.
“USC has been my avenue, I live and breathe Trojans,” said Collins, a sixth-degree black belt, master of ground combat science and registered lethal weapon in several states. “I was given the opportunity to fill in teaching one self-defense class, I proved myself, and they wound up putting me officially on payroll as an instructor at USC. Things just evolved from there.”
Collins searched for world-class fighters to train him, including George Toney, the 2005 North American Grappling Association expert advanced heavyweight champion and an instructor at USC Dornsife.
James Culpepper, a longtime coach and mentor, nominated Collins for the Hall of Fame. “His skill speaks for itself,” Culpepper said.
In 1999, Arvin Varma, associate director of USC Recreational Sports, wanted to add martial arts to the Division of Student Affairs youth sports programs and asked Collins to teach the classes. “Carl is a real mentor for the kids,” Varma said. “He teaches them to defend themselves in real-life situations. Carl is one of those staff members that you can always count on.”
Collins devotes countless hours to USC’s youth sports programs, including After School Sports Connection and USC National Trojan KidSCamp, where he teaches kids self-defense through martial arts. “Carl is fun, but he’s strict,” said 12-year-old student Maddesen Ivy. “We learned how to protect ourselves.”
Collins takes pride in sharing his skills with youth in the community. He has volunteered with elementary aged youngsters at 32nd Street/USC MaST High School for so long that he’s actually seen some of them graduate from USC.
“I love what I do,” Collins said. “If I have 20 kids and can touch two or three of them, I’m happy with that. It’s about making a difference in somebody’s life.”