MIDDLETOWN—Former NYPD officer Kevin Mendez has established a dojo in Middletown as part of America’s Finest Karate & Kickboxing Academy. Officially opened on Jan. 16, the martial arts studio trains students in correct techniques to defend oneself and walk away unharmed.
More importantly, Mendez says he wants to build self-confidence, respect, and discipline in his pupils. “They can come and train and earn something, earn it and feel rewarded at the same time,” he says.
Self-Defense and More
In today’s world, Mendez said people are often bullied or even challenged when walking down the street. He teaches people to get out of a dangerous place safely. “We want the student to be able to get out of a situation and walk back home to the wife, to the father, to their husband, to their children.”
A resident of Middletown, Mendez said it has always been his dream to run his own martial arts school—”my own dojo.” He began with the Korean martial art of Taekwondo when he was 14, then was introduced to the techniques of Kyoshi Jonas Nunez Jr. “I soon learned that it’s good to learn how to fight with your hands and also with your feet.” He has stayed with Nunez ever since.
The academy teaches a type of Okinawan karate known as Shindo Ryu karatedo that goes back to 1883. His method blends karate with American-style kickboxing. His classes teaches leg and elbow techniques. “You come in here and you learn how to throw a proper jab, a proper punch, a proper kick.”
He keeps it real. Mendez says he’s not there to train the next Bruce Lee. He teaches kicking that, when directed at the right part of an attacker’s body, can stop them “and you can go home or run away.”
His classes have produced amazing results. Mendez says children with autism become more focused after learning martial arts. “Once they are focused, they are able to function normally.” Students with speaking difficulties or who had difficulty in walking, “all of a sudden now they are able to walk normally. They are able to speak normally.”
A karate master or kickboxer needs more than good moves, according to Mendez. “One has to be humble. You have to be respectful.” In class, young students learn these inner qualities as well as correct punching or kicking techniques.
The location at the corner of Main and North streets can be seen from both sides. “I drove around the city and said ‘This is the perfect area.’ I said ‘God will bless us here. The children will come.'”
Business is building slowly but Mendez expects it pick up when the weather improves. He says more and more people are coming in and inquiring. He encourages people to stop by for a free trial class.
The windows of his studio are lined with trophies all earned by Mendez in full contact kickboxing competitions around the country and abroad. The only difference among various martial arts style is its katas, a set of maneuvers. The katas are like fighting an invisible foe with a punch or a kick.
Martial arts moves may look easy in kung fu movies, but Mendez says they take a lot of practice. Taimak Garriello, martial arts actor and star of “The Last Dragon,” came to the dojo in the Bronx where Mendez trained to practice a difficult scene in the movie. “It may take a 1000 takes before they get that right one to be filmed.”
Kyoshi Jonas Nunez Jr. operates several dojos in New Jersey, the Bronx, and Yonkers. America’s Finest is a family-owned and operated business.
Mendez would like to see more kickboxing events in the community. He says that kids today need discipline and focus to help them in school. Like other sports activities, students learn coordination.
Mendez accepts children age five and older and adults at any age. He says he tries to make it fun for children. There might be some good-natured roughhousing. “They can throw me around. They love it. They love throwing sensei, (the Japanese term for ‘instructor’) around.”
“Most karate schools babysit your kids. We train hard and have lots of fun while getting fit and providing the needed discipline for kids ages 3 to 12. Our adult classes will have you sweating bullets in an exciting class setting,” according to the dojo’s facebook page.
To contact this reporter, email [email protected].