Yaidel Gonzalez of Winter Garden Karate loves to teach students and watch them grow.
Yaidel Gonzalez has been in martial arts since she was a child and has worked as an instructor at her family-run Winter Garden Karate. Her favorite things about martial arts are performing katas and helping teach the children who attend classes at the dojo.
How long have you been practicing karate for? How did you get into it?
I’ve been practicing martial arts since I was 4 or 5 years old — practicing this style (Shito-ryu) since before we opened, so at least 2004 is when I started picking up this style in particular. Before then I was doing different types of karate, but this one I stuck to primarily teaching here at the school. It was kind of like a “born into it” situation — some people are born into money, and I was born into martial arts because my dad was already into it and did a lot of traveling around to world open tournaments. He kind of just put me in it very young, so I didn’t try many sports out, so it was always karate and that’s where I’ve been since then.
What has kept you in martial arts for so long?
As far as karate goes, it never goes away from you — there are a lot of things you learn in martial arts that apply to every day. It helps with a lot of things — balance, coordination, strength training and it kind of helps you zen out, too. It just helps relax me. If you’re angry, go punch a bag. If you’re ever angry for anything, go meditate on it. There are so many things you can do to help you out.
What is one thing you don’t like about martial arts? How about something you really like?
Not the tournaments — I don’t like the energy at tournaments, because it’s too angry, and that’s not what martial arts is about. My favorite thing has to be performing katas. The way I teach the kids — when they ask me what a kata is — I tell them, “Hey, every move you do, think of it like a word, the more words you know you can actually form a sentence; the more karate moves you know, the more moves you can make to form a kata.” Honestly, I get one of the best workouts I do (by) just doing katas.
Is there one success — or something you’re proud of — that stands out to you during your time in karate?
It’s just crazy how many students you end up teaching, and me doing it for this long. The best part is it’s just rewarding — it’s the feedback from the parents and them coming up to me saying, “Hey, I want to thank you guys, my kid changed so much,” because sometimes these kids don’t necessarily come out with their head on their shoulders and you can see the change in them in more ways than one when they get involved and invested in karate. They actually focus and really want to train, and have self-motivation. It’s probably one of the more rewarding things about being a teacher in general.
What are the best words of advice you have been given about karate?
That martial arts isn’t really a sport and it never has been a sport — it’s really more of a lifestyle.