Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, the acknowledged “father of taekwondo in America”, passed away on April 30, 2018. He was 86.
Mr. Rhee was, of course, the instructor of Allen Steen (at right in the photo above, along with Keith D. Yates, AKBBA High-Dan Chairman). He introduced taekwondo to the US when he arrived in Texas in 1956. His first black belt on American soil was grandmaster Steen who signed up for lessons after an impressive demonstration by Rhee at the University of Texas.
An Rhee was impressive indeed. He could jump in the air and throw three powerful side kicks before hitting the ground. Even in his later years he continued to demonstrate his famous 100 pushups in one minute. Perhaps even more impressive were his contributions to the martial arts community in America and around the world.
He invented the foam sparring gear used in all competitions today. He originated what he called “classical ballet,” performing martial arts forms to music. His many seminars and books on his philosophy affected tens of thousands of students and instructors. When he left Texas for Washington DC, he set up a chain of schools and began to teach celebrities and politicians including Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Muhammad Ali, Tony Robbins, Newt Gingrich, and Joe Biden. His hundreds of black belts included champions like Mr. Steen, Pat Burleson, and Jeff Smith.
Of course, without Jhoon Rhee, the American Karate Black Belt Association would not exist. The legacy of this great man and martial artist will be carried on by not just taekwondo stylists but by all martial artists worldwide.
Above: Keith D. Yates, High Dan Board Chairman, Rudy Smedley (promoted to 10th dan), Dan Anderson (to 10th dan), board member Roy D. Kurban, Steve Selby (to 9th dan), and Raymond McCallum (to 10th dan) at the AKBBA High Dan promotions held on May 13, 2017. AKBBA founder Allen Steen presided over the ceremony held at Lone Star Taekwondo Academy in Pantego, Texas. Congratulations to these well-deserving martial arts icons and pioneers.
May 13, 2017: Raymond McCallum, Dan Anderson and Rudy Smedley are to be promoted to 10th dan, along with Steve Selby to 9th degree black belt at this rare ceremony. Allen Steen will head up the promotions board. Open to the public but space is limited. Come join in this celebration of four of the most accomplished martial artists in the nation.
Tim Vought, High-Dan Board member emeritus, passed away on March 18, 2017. Mr. Vought was a Dallas Police Officer for 20 years as well as a respected martial arts practitioner and instructor. He was an original black belt of Ed Daniel and fought successfully on the Texas Blood and Guts tournament circuit for years. He was also an accomplished Aikido instructor and self-defense tactics teacher in recent years a special interest in instructing senior citizens. His service to the AKBBACSHK and to the entire martial arts world will be missed.
Rudy Smedley promoted a get together of several martial arts pioneers in Ft. Worth, Texas in December. “Texas black belt” awards were presented to several folks who weren’t born here but can be considered honorary Lone Star Karateka. They included Bruce Brutschy, Michael Goldman, Sonny Onoo, and Keith Vitali. Thanks to master Smedley for putting this great event. Below: Richard Jenkins, Rudy Smedley, Bill Watson, J. Pat Burleson, and Richard Morris. Left: Keith Vitali receives his “native Texan” black belt award.
Left: Michael Matsuda and Keith Yates.
AKBBA Chairman of the High Dan Board, Keith D. Yates, was recently inducted into the Martial Arts History Museum’s Hall of Fame. Unlike so many other “Halls” that induct 200 people at once, the Museum only honors ten individuals each year. The Museum has a physical location in Burbank, CA, that houses many displays and historical artifacts that showcase the rich diversity of the martial arts from around the world. As you can see from this year’s inductees listed below, this is a prestigious honor reserved for those who have truly impacted the martial arts worldwide. Past honorees include other AKBBA and Texas Karate icons Allen Steen, Jhoon Rhee, Linda Denley, and J. Pat Burleson (inducted this year with GM Yates). For more information on the Museum itself go to http://martialartsmuseum.com/
We are pleased to announce that Master William Shelton has been elected by the High-Dan Board to serve as Vice-Chairman of the AKBBA-Chin Sook Hage Kwan. Mr. Shelton is well known to the martial arts community as an international kata champion and a master instructor. His forms performances have earned him a reputation as an outstanding traditional karate and kobudo (weapons) practitioner. Those who have had the fortune to have trained with him can attest to his motivational style and attention to detail. His experience and wisdom will be an asset as he serves in this expanded role.
James B. Toney, 1933–2015
We are saddened to report the passing of Mr. James Toney who served with distinction as our Chairman from 1997 to 2011. He was an original board members of the old Southwest Karate Black Belt Association (the precursor to the AKBBA). He began his karate training in the early 1960s at the Texas Instruments Karate Club (TEXINS), which was one of the flagships for the development of the Allen Steen Texas Karate Institute Empire. He earned his 1st Degree Black Belt in 1968.
He was one of the most respected and admired teachers in Texas karate. Many champion fighters of the “blood and guts” era called Mr. Toney their sensei. Many of his students went on to become instructors or school owners, carrying with them Grandmaster Toney’s lessons and insights passing them down to new generations.
Mr. Toney was forever willing to learn from anyone, at any time. He achieved black belt rankings in Tae Kwon Do Moo Duk Kwan, Tae Kwon Do Chung Do Kwan, Okinawan Dai Ni Gojuryu, and Jujitsu. He was named Shihan for North America by the Kokusai Dai Ni Gojuryu Karate Kyokai. Additionally was inducted into the Texas Martial Arts Hall of Fame and was in the Karate Masters Hall of Fame.
His skills, wisdom, and friendship will be missed by not only AKBBA members but by all who knew and loved him.
220 martial artists and supporters turned out at the AKBBA 50th-year celebration banquet at the Hotel Intercontinental in Dallas on September 19. They witnessed karate demonstrations, high-dan rank promotions (Angela Bastiste to 5th, Rodney Greene and Rick Faulkner to 7th), and the Texas Blood and Guts Hall of Fame awards. Our founder, Allen Steen, seemed moved by the heart-felt accolades from some of his original black belts. Earlier in the day, almost a hundred students benefited from seminars by world-renown masters and grandmasters including Dan Anderson, Rick Moneymaker, Roy Kurban, Keith Yates, Roger Greene, John Liles, Steve Doss, Steve Selby and George Clarke. Go to www.roark-photography.com to see and order photos from this special event.
There are a very limited number of “Photo History Books” covering the first fifty years of not just the AKBBA but of Texas Karate. You may find yourself in these pages. Just ten dollars plus shipping and handling. Go to the catalog page to order yours before we run out.
Chairman Keith D. Yates and several other board members promoted five high black belt ranks to candidates testing on December 13, 2014. Aaron Barnett, Ceaser Johnson and Tim Looney received their fifth dan rankings. Caroline Goodspeed was promoted to seventh dan and Kelly Cox received his eighth dan black belt. A very special promotion was made as Mr. Duane Ethington received his tenth degree black belt certificate. Grandmaster Ethington has been in the martial arts for almost five decades and he still teaches weekly at the age of 77. He has demonstrated true warrior spirit over his career and his many students will carry on his legacy. Congratulations to all these outstanding martial artists.