Master’s degree holder Wayne Burley has one of the more unique jobs among the United States Sports Academy’s more than 5,000 graduates around the world.

Burley is one of roughly 150 people in the world who are trained to teach the C.O.B.R.A. (Combat Objective Battle Ready Application) personal defense system. He earned his Master of Sports Science degree in sports health and fitness management from the Academy in 1987.

A sixth-degree black belt, Burley is the owner of Tri-County Martial Arts in Waynesburg, Ohio. The gym teaches personal self-defense courses, Karate, cardio kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and the C.O.B.R.A. system, among others. The C.O.B.R.A. system was created by a law enforcement officer in 2002 and follows a similar pattern used in police academies, but focuses on civilian safety. The system offers highly structured training that helps students prepare for specific threats; from an active shooter, to school bullying, campus safety, workplace violence, child-abduction prevention and protection for real estate agents.

Burley worked in the medical field for 19 years, concentrating on physical medicine and rehabilitation, and has spent the past few years working as a corporate safety professional and an OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) consultant.

“I have used what I learned from the Academy my entire career,” Burley said. “My Academy degree boosted my credentials in fitness management and really helped me in my career right out of the gate.”

Burley has studied martial arts since 1982 and has been primarily trained in Shotokan Karate, Tae Kwon Do and the Ne-Du-U-Kon Karate Kung Fu system. He is a master level instructor.

“I was a black belt for several years before I came to the Academy,” Burley said. “I had worked some in the healthcare and rehabilitation field, but after graduation from the Academy I was able to go into private practice.”

Burley has offered C.O.B.R.A. classes at his gym since 2017. He said only 2 to 3 percent of adults study martial arts, but the C.O.B.R.A. system can benefit any adult who wants to be able to take care of themselves.

“People don’t believe something bad will happen to them,” Burley said. “But this program studies the psychology of self-defense and teaches people about awareness and avoidance tactics that are very important for personal safety. Training saves lives.”