THE ORIGINS OF THE AMERICAN KARATE BLACK BELT ASSOCIATION CHIN SOOK HAGE KWAN
In 1964 Allen R. Steen formed the Southwest Karate Black Belt Association. Mr. Steen was an international champion and widely known as the father of “Texas Blood and Guts Karate.” He opened the first commercial dojo in Texas (one of the first in the nation) and was the founder of the United States Karate Championships in Dallas (one of the three major national tournaments in those days).
The Association became a “Who’s Who” of the top competitors in America. Dominating the ranks of national fighters were Association black belts such as J. Pat Burleson, often called the first national champion; Skipper Mullins, 5-time world champ; and Demetrius Havanas (for whom the “Golden Greek Award” is named).
Karate in America, and especially in Texas, was hard and tough (hence the “Blood and Guts” nickname). One national competitor stated that he didn’t compete in the Lone Star State because, “I don’t want to travel a thousand miles to have my teeth knocked in by some Texan.” The Association soon grew so large that in 1972, the name was changed to the American Karate Black Belt Association.
The original AKBBA consisted of several “branches,” each with its own administrators. Mr. Steen often authorized schools to form their own AKBBA branch so that individual needs could be meet. Many of the schools or organizations maintained concurrent membership in other associations (JKA, USKA, ITF, etc.).
THE AKBBA UNDERGOES TRANSFORMATION
In the early 1980s, after years of successful school ownership and tournament promotion, Allen Steen migrated to other successful business ventures and he divested his karate schools and tournaments to various students and associates.
Mr. Steen states that he never intended the organization to become the individual property of any one person or group. In a 1999 meeting with the AKBBA–CSHK High Dan Board in Houston, Steen explained it was his intention that any of the black belts of his lineage and the lineage of those other founders could and would maintain the legacy. He had hoped it would continue long after him and he never incorporated the association nor sold the legal rights to the name for that very reason.
Two of the original branches of the AKBBA remain active today, operating independently and with their own directors. The AKBBA/Chin Sook Hage Kwan operates under a High Dan Board whose members are in a direct lineage to the original SWKBBA/AKBBA under Grandmaster Steen. The AKBBA–CSHK is a registered nonprofit and focuses on the standards set by Steen, and the other founders from the 1960s. This is the association that Mr. Steen recognizes as the continuation of his legacy.
THE CHIN SOOK HAGE KWAN
As mentioned, after Steen’s departure from the helm, many of his associates focused on their own organizations. The face of tournament karate had changed, and so did the karate-school business. However several original AKBBA black belts were still teaching and practicing Texas “rough and tumble” karate. One of them was Charles Bouton, who continued to use the AKBBA region that Steen had granted to him in the early 1980s.
Bouton had come into the SWKBBA in the 1960s as a Dai Ni Gojuryu black belt wanting to cross-train. After earning black belt certification with Steen, Bouton taught in his schools. In March of 1981, Steen traveled to Bouton’s school in Clarksville, Texas where he licensed Bouton to use the AKBBA name and to form his own organizational branch. Bouton became an instructor in Steen’s Lubbock Texas Karate Institute and later opened his own school, Lubbock Karate.
Bouton reconnected with Richard Jenkins (a teacher and mentor) from the original SWKBBA. Jenkins was operating his Brownfield Karate Institute. They joined together to carry on the Texas-style tradition. They were joined by another original AKBBA member and champion, Ronnie Cox, of Dallas and several other noted instructors and champions.
In March 1986, “Chin Sook Hage Kwan” was added to the organization’s name. It was derived from a term that the original group had jokingly bantered about, “Tex Kwon Do.” The name Texas comes from the American Indian “Tejas,” which literally means “friendly.” Friendly in Korean is “Chin Sook Hage.” Thus the name “Friendly School” or “Chin Sook Hage Kwan” was coined to represent the old phrase, “Tex Kwan Do.”
In 1997, the emblem of the AKBBA-CSHK was redesigned to reflect the uniqueness of the organization. In July of 2010 the emblem was modernized even more to update the look and to establish a new identity going forward into the 21st century. High Dan Board Member Keith D. Yates (who, ironically, designed the very first AKBBA shield for Mr. Steen back in 1972) did the redesign.
OUR ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE
We operate under the guidance of a High Dan Board composed of several of the original SWKBBA/AKBBA black belts from the ’60s and ’70s; Keith D. Yates (one of Steen’s original black belts) serves as Chairman, Charles Bouton is the Executive Director, Steen black belts James B. Toney, Royce Young and Richard Jenkins are Emeritus members as is Tim Vought (an original black belt of Ed Daniel). Several other board members have been added over the years (see their bios on the High Dan Board page).
We are a Texas, Non-Profit Corporation and the High Dan Board serves as the legal Board of Directors. We have three levels of membership, 1) student, 2) black belt, and 3) affiliate instructor.
There are currently several Dantai (organizational) Affiliates: Kokusai Dai Ni Gojuryu Karate Kyokai, Dragon Society International, Shorin Aikibudo Association, The American Karate and Tae Kwon Do Organization, and the International Modern Arnis Federation.
An intricate weaving of circumstances created and continues to form the AKBBA/CSHK. It is a captivating story acted out by a kaleidoscope of powerful and unique players. All of the first generation of Allen Steen’s original SWKBBA/AKBBA black belts are now well past the half-century mark in age (and some have been passed on to an eternal Dan). But, the “Texas Blood and Guts” American Karate and Tae Kwon Do styles and the high physical and mental standards they lived, breathed, and bled still lives on under the direction and leadership of the High Dan Board.