Professor and inspiration: Jason Winkle’s journey to becoming a man
Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 30, 2012 10:11
As associate dean of the College of Nursing, Health, and Student Services, Jason Winkle isn’t the type of guy who goes out looking for a fight.
But anyone who has attended a traditional or mixed martial arts (MMA) course at Indiana State knows it wouldn’t be a good idea to mess with him.
While studying and teaching at ISU, Winkle has helped expand the martial arts program and introduced a brand new MMA class, which began this fall semester. He’s a proud supporter of Sycamore athletics and a life-long sports junkie, but Winkle isn’t just a “meathead,” obsessed with physical fitness; he believes there’s much more to being healthy than simply being strong.
“People think of [martial arts] as punch, kick and fight, and all this,” he said. “There’s so much more to it once you’re exposed to it and understand it.”
It’s not Winkle’s physical ability that’s truly intimidating, but it’s his expertise in self-defense and several styles of martial arts that would make him a threat to any unfortunate purse-snatcher who happens to be doing business in his general vicinity. With a black belt in Hap Ki Do a sister form of the popular Tae Kwon Do, and instructor status in many other styles of martial arts, Winkle has a deep understanding of handling conflicts.
“I’ve seen that martial arts gives you different lenses with which to look at solving conflicts,” he said. Styles like Aikido and Judo utilize the momentum of an aggressive individual and reverse it, while styles like Kali and Hap Ki Do are designed to quickly end any confrontation, he said, while other forms use direct force. With knowledge in all different facets of martial arts, one can “get a better appreciation for conflict and [understand] that there’s more than one way of solving it.”
Along with his knowledge of martial arts, Winkle possesses a broad background in teaching hand-to-hand combat. In addition to his work with law enforcement and military personnel, Winkle has trained a number of MMA fighters. After earning a master’s degree in sports management from Indiana University and instructing martial arts courses, he came to ISU to revamp the martial arts program, serving as director from 1994 to 2002 while earning a Ph.D. in leadership. Since, the program has been offered as a minor area of study to all students.
“The idea is to expose individuals to a wide variety of martial arts,” he said. “What we’re hoping to do is to create an interest in a lifelong activity for people.”
After studying at IU, Winkle’s career took an interesting turn. Upon interviewing at West Point Military Academy, he landed a job as Director of Combatives at one of the most prestigious military academies in the United States. Winkle remained at West Point for five years, where he developed a curriculum to push cadets towards battle-readiness in the area of hand-to-hand combat, including physical as well as psychological preparation.
“[Mike Tyson] always said, ‘Everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the face,’” he said. “You can talk all you want, but when you get punched in the face, how you respond to that type of adversity and that physical aggression, it’s hard to tell how to do it unless it happens to you. So we tried to prepare [cadets] psychologically for what might happen with that much aggression.”
But when it comes to training future soldiers, anything could happen when one enters the field of battle. That’s why tactical training was a crucial part of Winkle’s curriculum. Hand to hand combat occurs on a “continuum,” he said, from “trying to get an angry mother, in an area that’s being occupied, settled down … to what if this person has a weapon and they have to be neutralized. So it could be anything from control tactics to the other end of the spectrum.”
As an instructor, Winkle learned some valuable life lessons and gained insight into what it really takes to be a man.
“I could view things from an outsider’s perspective that made me respect West Point and the military and those young people that made the selfless decision to go there,” he said. “West point is holding [cadets] to a character standard ... what they’re saying is ‘If we can’t trust you with little things in the scope of life, how could we ever trust you when another person’s life is in your hands?’ … those are the kind of lessons and things I learned about what it means to be a person of character. That’s something that all young men want and crave.”
In 2007, Winkle left his job in West Point, New York to become an associate professor for the College of Nursing, Health, and Student Services at ISU. Named associate dean in 2009, Winkle has moved up in the ranks, but is still involved in instructing martial arts courses and training MMA fighters. He prepared ISU faculty David McMannus for a title fight and victory in the Indiana-Cage-Fighting (ICF) league last spring. Winkle and McMannus co-teach the brand new MMA class offered this semester and plan to implement both martial arts and MMA clubs for student participation this spring.