Faculty Spotlight: Jody Perry

Not too many professors require students to beat them up for their final exam; however, there is one exception. Professor Jody Perry teaches self-defense for the Kinesiology Department using a self-invented brand of mixed martial arts called Perry’s Full Circle Iron Wing. 

Perry began studying mixed martial arts to help him achieve an advantage while he was competing in Greco-Roman wrestling for the 1980, ‘84, and ‘88 Olympics. Since then he has earned black belts in Judo, Panjitsu, and Sambo, as well as a Ph.D. in martial arts from the World Martial Arts Association. He currently holds 12 Hall of Fame awards from 10 separate martial arts associations, in addition to obtaining the 1995 Sambo World Champion record and being awarded the prestigious title of Grandmaster from the Hawaii Martial Arts International Society. 

Although he holds many more impressive records, Perry considers applying his brand of martial arts to the Model Mugging program to be one of his greatest achievements. Model Mugging is a program designed to help women who have been victims of sexual assault by teaching them how to defend themselves. A key part of the program involves reenacting the circumstances of the assault so that the victim can utilize what they’ve learned in the program and apply it to their past situation. After teaching these participants, Perry puts on a suit of armor and takes on the role of the attacker and lets these women “kick the crap” out of him. Perry believes this program helps empower women to move past these horrible situations so that they can continue on with their lives.

“There’ve been days when I’ve decided that I couldn’t do this program anymore because I couldn’t stand to hear another story,” said Perry. “When I heard what men do to women, I was ashamed to be a man. And when I heard what men do to other men, I was ashamed to be a human being. But that’s why I have to do this program; I feel like it’s my life purpose to teach self-defense.”

Perry encourages his female students to watch out for each other and to be aware of their surroundings. He believes that because women are the majority at Sonoma State, with roughly a 6-1 ratio, that collectively they should be able to overpower anyone looking to do them harm if they stick together. However, he also believes that the men on this campus have a responsibility to act if they suspect a woman may be in trouble.

“Guys, you need to treat these girls as if they were your sisters,” said Perry. “You need to watch the actions of other guys with bad intentions and protect these girls from them.”

Although the majority of his participants are women, Perry recognizes that assault is not a crime that is exclusive to women and welcomes having men enroll in his class. He knows it’s equally important for men to learn to defend themselves because he had a male friend who was drugged and beaten at a party. 

“Grandmaster Perry’s class is a great example of education and empowerment for both women and men,” said former teaching assistant Mack Blacksmith. “It gives students the opportunity to protect themselves and others, as well as learn more about the martial arts behind the techniques.”

Perry’s goal is to push SSU towards a no-tolerance policy for sexual assault and to develop a strong self-defense program; which he hopes will set a standard for other colleges across the nation to follow. At some point a member of the Kinesiology Department encouraged him to create a proposal to instate a new Martial Arts Bachelor of Arts program, but due to budget cuts the project has been put on hold. Even though a degree program does not yet exist, students can still take Perry’s class through the Kinesiology Department. 

“I feel like I benefited from Professor Perry’s self-defense class in the sense that I feel more confident and safe walking anywhere by myself now,” said junior Cindy Fursh. “I’m no ninja, but the attitude that there is something I can do to help protect myself and not just be a victim makes all the difference.”

He is not currently teaching any classes this academic year because he found it difficult to make the commute from Sacramento to Rohnert Park; especially since he also worked for AT&T, which required him to do even more commuting around the state. However, he now has a stable job working at the Sacramento headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency, and is ready to start teaching classes at SSU again. He’s confident that he will be back teaching sections next academic year, and is looking forward to making a positive difference in the lives of students.