One To Watch


By Lori Hutzler Eckert

Mindy Kelly has kicked her way to the top – literally. Kelly, who grew up on the Emerald Coast, recently landed the U.S. Open International Sports Karate Association World Martial Arts Championship title, which was featured on television’s ESPN.

The multi-talented and energetic 21-year-old has won 15 world titles during her career as a martial artist, dancer, competitive cheerleader, contortionist, gymnast and acrobat. Kelly’s interest in martial arts began at age 4, when her father, who is in the Martial Arts Hall of Fame, began to coach her. She said the sport was “something we could do together,” but by the time she was 7, she was competing internationally – and winning.

Kelly relocated to Los Angeles in 2005, where she now is represented by two talent agencies and works full time pursuing her passion. But coming home to Destin on a regular basis keeps her grounded.

“Being in Los Angeles, it is really crazy, but I can go back and really collect myself in Destin,” she said. “Destin will always be home.”

To see Kelly in action, search for “Mindy Kelly” at