Jhoon Rhee, Rest in Peace, 4.30.18

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.

Yates Inducted into Martial Arts History Museum Hall of Fame


matsudaLeft: 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/

2015.inductees