Johanna Mendoza is the first in Baytown to receive a black belt as part of the city’s parks program. 

Johanna Mendoza had a karate goal and she found a way to not only get it done, but she was able to do even better than wax on and wax off.

The 14-year-old Baytonian received her black belt in five years through the American Society of Karate program through the Baytown Parks and Recreation Department.

“It’s exciting and I never thought that this would actually happen,” Mendoza said. “I reached a big goal I always wanted to accomplish.”

She had designs on this since she was about 6 years old and took classes with others, mostly adults.

She enjoyed it from the get-go.

“It did take me awhile, but once I got into it, I enjoyed it,” she said. “I started with the other class, but when they left, I joined A.S.K. Karate has a lot of history behind it and it’s very interesting to learn about how karate came to be.

“It has made my confidence higher. I feel like every time I go out, I don’t feel as intimidated and I feel good. I feel over time, what this accomplishment really is.”

David Lang has served as the lead instructor of the A.S.K. courses since its inception in Baytown. The program was installed after the previous and different one closed due to a lack of participation.

Lang says that his Baytown classes see about 40 young, regular participants in the sessions that are held once a week and 20 adults in another.

The courses focus on a mixture of different styles like Aikido and Judo.

“We think outside the box and whatever works we bring it in,” Lang said. “We mainly use American-style, Shotokan, and we mainly use the feet.”

As the program grew, Lang watched Mendoza blossom with it.

“When we first started, she was one of those in the adult program,” Lang said. “She had already had training in Taekwondo, so we decided to leave her in the adult class.

“She’s had lots of training. The last five years she’s put in about 450 hours of training. She was training three nights a week. We brought her out of her shell and she’s more upbeat and has a great personality. She’s also very competitive.”

The karate program is one of the badges of pride for the Parks department and Mendoza is a shining light.

“This is one of our longest running programs and this is my favorite,” Shontele T. Williams, Baytown Parks Recreation Coordinator said. “It teaches self-defense, discipline and motivates our students. Ms. Johanna is always willing to help her peers. Because of her determination and strong mindset she was able to move on to this next step of her life: To be a black belt at such young age. She has not only made her parents proud but her whole Baytown community.”

Mendoza hasn’t thought deeply about getting into competitions yet, but she would like to do what the famous Bruce Lee was able to accomplish.

“I am going to continue until the day I die,” Mendoza said. “School does come first, but right now, I am wanting to continue to do this. I would love to go for the seventh degree. That’s my other goal.”

A.S.K. course is offered 6:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays for kids ages 5-12 and 7:30-9 p.m. for ages 13-and-up. For more information, call 281- 420-6597 or pard@baytown.org.

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