Perry’s Taekwondo Academy is a family business, owned and operated by Mr. Todd Perry and Mrs. Tracy Perry.
Our taekwondo story begins back in September of 2005 when I began searching for an activity for my 5-year-old son Jestin and six-year-old daughter Sabrina because their elementary school didn’t have recess and only offered P.E. classes 2 days a week. I wanted to find an after-school activity that would be fun and structured. After much searching, I found a martial arts school in Kissimmee, run by Mr. John Emmons, that fit our needs. I liked the fact that it was a family owned business and all of the family members were actively involved.
I was a little nervous when the kids took their first class, however, they weren’t anxious at all. In fact, they loved kicking and punching their way through Mrs. Gloria Emmons’ Lil’ Dragons class. After the class, Mrs. Emmons told me that both kids were fast learners and would get bored if they remained in Lil’ Dragons, so they needed to move up into the junior level classes.
So, how did I get involved in taekwondo? Believe it or not, it actually came down to scheduling. The Lil’ Dragons classes worked perfectly with my work schedule, but the junior classes did not. Although Sabrina decided to try something else, Jestin loved the taekwondo classes. But because of our scheduling conflict, I was afraid I would have to pull him out before his journey really began. I shared my dilemma with Mr. Emmons and he suggested switching over to their Wednesday night family class, which meant I would have to take the classes with Jestin. At 28 years old, I didn’t really think taekwondo was for me, but I knew how much Jestin wanted to continue. Mr. Emmons told me, “Listen. Come and take a free class and if you like it I will give you 6 months of classes for free.” What did I have to lose?
Soon, I took my first class, taught by a very talented young lady, Ms. Padilla. Although she was a great instructor, I felt like a fool after that first class. I couldn’t do the stances correctly or even complete the first two movements of the form. Plus, I was the only adult in the class. “This is why 28-year-olds don’t take taekwondo,” I thought to myself. Believe it or not, Ms. Padilla spoke with me after class and told me that I did a great job for my first class and I looked really good. I remember laughing under my breath and saying, “Yeah RIGHT. Okay.”
After some time and practice, I began to enjoy taekwondo. It was challenging and soon I was hooked. When Jestin and I tested for our yellow belts, Jestin was pumped and ready to go, but I was a nervous wreck. I remember standing in front of 20+ judges, about to do something that I have never done before, extremely nervous that I would mess up. But after Mr. Emmons said, “Jumbi for your form,” my body took over and it was like I had been doing taekwondo for years. Soon after, we signed up for our first national tournament, which is where I got my first glimpse into just how many kids and adults were taking taekwondo classes around the country.
Mrs. Tracy Perry was always at our events, taking pictures and helping out, so I told her she should join too. Her answer was always the same, “No, it’s not for me.”
About four years later, Jestin and I tested for our Probationary Black Belts. I was still nervous getting in front of the judges. The truth is that the nerves never really go away, regardless of what rank you are. The only difference is the preparation you put in to test. But that is part of what makes taekwondo exciting and fulfilling. When you put in the hard work, afterwards you get the rewards.
In 2010, I decided it was time to give back, so I joined the instructor program. I couldn’t believe that five years had gone by and now Jestin and I were both 1st Degree Decided Black Belts and I was an instructor at a place that I told myself that I had no place being.
In 2011, Mrs. Perry and Sabrina joined taekwondo. After years of me asking, it was finally Sabrina who convinced Mrs. Perry to give it a try. When they tested for their yellow belts, Sabrina was a little nervous, but Mrs. Perry was a wreck. She was shaking and felt like she was going to be sick. I remember thinking, “How could something so easy for Jestin and I be so stressful and hard for her?” Then I remembered that it wasn’t so easy. I felt the same way when I was testing early on! In 2014, Mrs. Perry and Sabrina became the third and fourth black belts in our family. I can tell you how great and rare it is to be a black belt family!
In September of 2012, Mrs. Lenora Karnath-Emmons, the chief instructor at the Clermont School, offered me the opportunity to teach taekwondo at a community center in Winter Garden. I was amazed that after seven years of taking and teaching taekwondo, my instructor felt I was ready to run a school. The same person who told himself that he had no business joining taekwondo at the age of 28. Wow!
After three years in Winter Garden, we had our very first student reach the rank of black belt. How exciting it was for us to take a student all the way from white belt to the rank of black belt. We were blessed that this student’s parents trusted and believed in us and our school. Since January 2016, we have had our own store front location and we feel fortunate that so many students and their families have joined us on our journey.
We look forward to seeing you in class and hearing your taekwondo story in the years to come.
Mr. Todd Perry