Devin Mendieta has dedicated most of his life to martial arts. As a member at Winter Garden Karate for 12 years, Mendieta has rose through the ranks and is now a second-degree black belt, also helping teach younger students who visit the dojo.
How did you get into karate?
Before karate, I was in after-school care at my school, and then my dad found the karate school after driving by and then he signed me up in first grade and that’s pretty much it. I’ve been doing after school and summer camp ever since first grade.
What’s been your favorite thing about being a part of Winter Garden Karate?
It’s different experiences that you get from day to day — it’s always something new here. There’s always new things to do, new things to learn — it never stops. You’re improving on stuff and getting better at what you do.
What’s your favorite aspect of karate?
I love all of it. I didn’t like it at first, but then I grew into it and I love it all right now — I don’t know what I’d be doing without karate.
You said you didn’t like it at first; why is that and what made you change your mind?
I don’t know why I didn’t like it. I think it was because it was new, and — I’m not going to lie — I was lazy when I was little. I didn’t want to start anything new, I was like, “No mom and dad, don’t put me in here … I want to go back to where I was before with my other friends.” But then I just grew into it.
What would you say has been some of the best words of advice?
Karate has taught me a lot of patience, because there are certain times where you don’t get something right and then you get frustrated with it, and then sensei comes and tells me, “Be patient, you’ll get it over time. Keep practicing, keep practicing and then you’ll eventually get it.”
Do you have a role model in martial arts?
A lot — Bruce Lee, he is obviously No. 1. Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa, Jackie Chan, Jet Li — I love all of them.
Is there a highlight moment for you since you started doing karate?
Probably my first tournament, when I was a blue belt. I was matched with my friends and I beat one of my friends, (then) my friend beat me and then another friend got first place. There were only four of us in the division. It wasn’t the friendly competitive stuff where you’re like, “Oh I’m going to beat you,” we were just having fun with it and it was just a good time.
What are your plans for the future? Do they involve karate?
I’ve already signed up for the Air Force — I’m going in January and I plan on being a pararescueman. Funny story — I have a fear of heights, but I’m still doing this.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Well, I like doing karate in my spare time. Since I’m a black belt, I have to keep up with my stuff — I can’t let these guys pass me, because then that’ll be bad raps on me. Whenever I have time, I stretch, practice my kicks and I even practice with weapons sometimes.