A Life Renewed Through Martial Arts
Frederick’s ATA is home to a spectacular martial arts program in Helena, Montana. Owned by two-time ATA World Champion, Mrs. Elena Frederick, she and her team of instructors, provide a safe and fun learning environment for students and families.
One of the most beloved ATA instructors of Frederick’s ATA is Mr. Devo Lewis. Devo is a 1st Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo, and teaches the Tiny Tigers program alongside Mrs. Elena. Devo has also earned his Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and is currently serving in the National Guard, recently completing 15 years of military service.
Devo’s infectious personality and sense of humor give the students of the Tiny Tigers and Juniors’ Programs a sense of calm. Jillian Pritchard is the mother of two daughters, and aunt of a niece, and two nephews active in Frederick’s ATA programs. When reflecting on Devo’s teaching ability, Jillian stated, “Mr. Devo treats the children like family. If a student is having a rough day, he notices. He is amazing at giving pep talks or just going over some key components of the students’ studies to help ensure they can achieve their goals.”
With Devo’s enthusiasm and passion for teaching, many may be surprised to learn that Devo has battled depression for years. In 2010, at the age of 24, Devo deployed to Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division. Devo states: “I was practically by myself throughout most of my deployment. I had so much going on. Prior to leaving for Afghanistan, I was fighting with family members, dealing with difficult leadership, and had fallen into debt.” While deployed in Afghanistan, everything seemed to be getting worse for him. Devo recently commented on his personal demons, “I felt so depressed, and had reached the point of considering suicide as my only option. At the time, I felt that I had no purpose in life. I thought I was a joke and wasting my existence…”
After returning from Afghanistan, Devo was still struggling with life. “I faced a life-changing decision. I could either go back to Cleveland, still being in the wrong state of mind and knowing I could end up doing something that would get me into trouble, or I could find a change of scenery.” In 2012, Devo left active duty and joined the Montana National Guard. “When I finally got settled into my new home in Kalispell, Montana, I was looking for something new in my life. That’s when I found SBG gym. I met the owners of SBG, Travis and Kisa Davison, and my studies in martial arts began. I trained under Travis for 3 years in Jiu-Jitsu before moving to Helena and earning my Blue Belt.
It wasn’t until 2016 when Devo finally got his breakthrough. “I first met Mrs. Elena while I was doing Judo at her school. I knew immediately that there was something special about her school. Frederick’s ATA reminded me so much of SBG. The school’s environment gave me the same vibe I got while training under Travis.” Devo officially joined ATA on his 32nd birthday and has been training with Mrs. Elena ever since. During his time with Frederick’s ATA, Devo has earned a number of Taekwondo honors, including two State Championships, two District Championships and a National Championship. On his 34th birthday, Devo was awarded his 1st Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo.
“Being a champion from the state to the national level was huge for me, but earning my Black Belt means so much more than winning championships has brought me. I’ve worked day in and day out, and when I finally got my belt I was like, ‘Man, I can’t believe this is now mine to wear.’ With my passion and love of martial arts, I have finally been able to reclaim my life, and have the confidence to share my story with others in hopes I can help others facing similar demons.” From a guy who came so close to ending everything, to now being a living symbol of perseverance, Devo is not just a champion in the ring, but a champion in the hearts of his friends, family, students and most importantly, himself. His story shows that no matter where you’re at in life or what you’ve gone through, you can Make It Possible.