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Judy Modafferi-Tearney

Martial Arts
Enshrined 2023

Judy Modafferi-Tearney graduated from Solvay High School in 1971 where she was a very good athlete. Unfortunately, the options of playing female sports in high school at that time, were limited mostly to intramural programs. This would change in the year following her graduation as Title IX came into place. Recreational softball was her sport of choice where she played with many of the area’s best female athletes including 1999 inductee, Carol Moss. 

Judy’s martial arts career began in 1974 with Greg Tearney, Class of 2013, as her instructor.  In 1976, she started teaching classes in Greg’s dojo. In 1977 she became the first woman in CNY to earn the title of Black Belt. Judy and Greg started dating in 1979 and were married in 1982. Thousands of kids and adults of all ages and professions have been taught at their dojo in CNY for close to 50 years.   

Law enforcement personnel from NYS Troopers to Onondaga County Sheriffs and City of Syracuse Police including former Police Chief Dennis DuVal, Class of 1994 have trained at their dojo. 

Coach Dick MacPherson, Class of 1996,  took notice that linemen could strengthen their moves utilizing martial arts and reached out for Judy and Greg to start a program with Syracuse University through football strength coach Mike Wojcik to make this happen. Judy was an instrumental part of this training program and worked with NFL Players Daryl Johnston, John Flannery, Don McPherson, Donovan McNabb and Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison. Former SU Basketball Player and current U of Washington Basketball Coach Mike Hopkins also trained under Judy at the dojo earning the rank of purple belt. 

The list of accomplishments in Judy’s martial arts career are extensive. From 1978-84, Judy was nationally ranked by Karate Illustrated magazine. In 1987 She created and choreographed the first nationally marketed martial arts video called Karate Aerobics shown extensively on cable tv. Judy was recognized as International Martial Arts Woman of the Year in 1990, EFC Black Belt Schools Martial Artist of the year in 1994 and Martial Artist of the Year by the US Martial Arts Association in 1996. She was named to Who’s Who in American Martial Arts and was once named US Hall of Fame instructor of the year and the list goes on… 

Judy was also very active in the community,  donating her time teaching women’s self-defense seminars to help raise money for the Joseph House (single mothers) in Syracuse. She also directed a “Syracuse, NY karate tournament” in 2012 raising over $5,000 for the Carol Baldwin Foundation. She took part in enrichment Days for West Genesee Elementary Schools where she would give demonstrations and explain martial arts and more importantly, share many life lessons that students of all ages would hold onto along with her messages focusing on hard work, schoolwork, teamwork, respect, bullying and discipline and has created kickboxing programs that are being used throughout the US and Canada. 

In 2019, Judy became the first, and is still the only woman in CNY to earn the title of Hanshi, the equivalent of 10th degree Black Belt and is only one of a handful of women in the entire state to have earned this title.  

The dojo shut down in 2020 but the family legacy continues on with her daughter Kyoshi Alexis Tearney-Kuhl (6th. Degree BB) opening her own dojo, where Judy remains active stopping in to teach classes as well. 

To say that Judy Modafferi-Tearney is a Martial Arts trailblazer is a massive understatement. The recognition she has received at the local, state and national levels as one of the top in her sport makes her spot in the Class of 2022 not only earned but necessary.  With her selection, she joins her husband Greg in the GSSHOF making them the third husband/wife combo to be so honored along with Virginia and Phil Allen and Freida and Don Gates. 

It is our honor and privilege to welcome Judy Modafferi-Tearney as a member of the GSSHOF Class of 2022.  

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