The High Dan Board is made up of distinguished leaders of the martial arts who hold an 8th Dan or higher. They set standards for membership and rank certifications. The HDB serves as the legal Board of Directors of the Corporation. They are listed alphabetically (with the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Executive Director listed first).
Keith D. Yates, 10th Dan, High Dan Board Chairman
Keith D. Yates is recognized as one of the nation’s leading authorities on the martial arts. Starting his training in 1965 at the age of 14, Yates became one of the youngest black belts in the country when he earned his rank at age 17 from Allen Steen. He established a reputation as one of the top kata (forms) practitioners in the Southwest. After a successful tournament career he embarked on a study of other martial arts and has earned black belts in Japanese Ju-Jitsu and Okinawan Kobudo.
Mr. Yates was a member of the original Southwest Karate Black Belt Association and was on the Board of Directors of the original AKBBA. He was the designer of not only its original red, white, and blue shield emblem but the updated one currently in use. He created the original lineage chart of the Allen Steen Black Belt line which was published in Black Belt Magazine as “The House that Steen Built.”
Mr. Yates began the first college “karate for credit” program in the Southwest in 1972 at Southern Methodist University and he served as an adjunct professor at SMU for several years in both the Physical Education and Communications Departments. Allen Steen states that Mr. Yates is the longest, continually-teaching karate instructor in the state of Texas. In 2001, he became just the fourth person that Mr. Steen promoted to the rank of 10th Dan.
Mr. Yates was the head-coach of the U.S. TaeKwonDo Children’s Demo team that performed on the National Mall in Washington D.C. at the unveiling of the Korean War Memorial in 1995. He has authored 15 books and written over 500 magazine articles. He serves in leadership positions in several other national and international organizations and is in several legitimate Halls of Fame. Recognized as an outstanding instructor and innovator he is in frequent demand nationally.
He graduated from SMU and Dallas Theological Seminary where he did his master’s thesis on the “Spiritual Aspects of the Martial Arts.” We are proud to have an accomplished member of the original class of Allen Steen black belts serve as our chairman.
John Liles, 8th Dan, Executive Director
John Liles is the Head Instructor and President of Premier Martial Arts in Lubbock, Texas, Mr. Liles inherently believes that each student who walks through his door is someone whom he is meant to impact in a positive way. He also has the unique ability to personally connect with each individual (parent and student alike) while maintaining the instructor/student relationship. His sense of humor and smile create a fun, family atmosphere for learning.
Mr. Liles holds earned black belt in TaeKwonDo, Okinawan Karate, Batto Jutsu and Kobudo. He serves on the National Board of Directors of Premier Martial Arts and received their 2008 Award of Excellence. His school was voted into the top 100 black belt schools in the U.S. by United Professionals and has maintained that distinction for 14 years running.
Roy D. Kurban, 10th Dan, Vice-Chairman of the HDB
Roy Kurban began his martial arts training in 1965 under Texas Karate greats Allen Steen, Larry Caster and Skipper Mullins, earning his black belt in 1968. While in the U.S. Army he spent a full year in Korea training with Grand Master Won Chik Park. Mr. Kurban is one of the most decorated fighters in the history of sport karate. He won 127 awards in national and international competition including over 80 first places and grand championships. He was ranked in the “Top Ten” fighters by Black Belt Magazine, Karate Illustrated, Official Karate and Professional Karate. Mr. Kurban was a founding member of the Amateur Organization of Karate (AOK).
Mr. Kurban has served as an instructor for the U.S. Army, the National Guard, the Great Southwest Police Academy, and for U.S. Treasury and FBI agents. He also established an ongoing accredited karate course for the University of Texas at Arlington P.E. department. He has served as the Rules Commissioner for the Karate International Council of Kick Boxing (KICK) and was as a referee for international kick boxing and Olympic Taekwondo tournaments. He founded the American Black Belt Academy in Arlington Texas in 1973 where he trained many national and world rated fighters.
He was named the Black Belt Magazine “Man of the Year” in 1981 and is in too many national and international Halls of Fame to list. He served many years as a certified peace officer and judge in Arlington, Texas. He currently is Assistant Chief of the Tarrant County (Texas) Sheriff’s Office. He is recognized by the Taekwondo Grandmaster’s Society, and is one of the few Americans to receive an Instructor Certificate from the Kukkiwon World Headquarters, Seoul, Korea.
Charles G. Bouton, 10th Dan
Charles Bouton began his training in a style that eventually became known as Dai Ni Gojuryu, but at the time called “Tode.” In addition to the Gojuryu system, which he heads as president of its international association, he trained in judo, aikido, jujitsu, batto-jutsu, iaido, aiki-jujitsu, and two styles of tae kwon do.
Bouton associated with Allen Steen’s group in the 1960s. Although he was younger than many of the students of the day, two of Steen’s instructors, Richard Jenkins and James Toney took him under their wing. He trained under other pioneers such as Pat Burleson, Skipper Mullins, Royce Young, and Art Heller.
He had wins in such tournaments as the US Karate Championships, the Central North American Karate Championships, Jack Hwang’s All American Tae Kwon Do Open, and held a World Lightheavy Weight Full Contact Karate/Kickboxing title, undefeated, for three years. For years he taught in Steen’s Lubbock school, while continuing to practice and teach the Dai Ni Gojuryu System. Bouton earned advanced ranking in both Kihara Aikido and Judo under Tim Joe.
After Steen sold the school, Bouton, along with Andy White opened their own school, known as the American Ni-Goju Karate Association. Mr. Bouton, also known as “Father Photius Bouton,” is an Ordained Greek Orthodox Priest. This vocation became more demandingly, and he sold the Lubbock Karate School to his senior student, John Liles, and relocated to his Parish responsibilities in Amarillo, and later, El Paso, Texas. He served as High Dan Board Chairman from 1981–1997 and as Executive Director from 1981–2018.
Dennis Cox, 8th Dan
Dennis Cox was one of the first champions and teachers of Texas Karate in the 1970s. His list of tournament wins as well as champion students is long and impressive. He has served in law enforcement and as a special investigator. He is also the younger brother of Ronnie Cox, who was one of the founders of the AKBBA-CSHK.
Steve Doss, 8th Dan
Steve Doss has traveled and competed (and won) around the globe. He grew up as a neighbor and family friend of the legendary Jim Harrison, with whom he has trained for many years. Mr. Doss also holds the distinction of being one of only a dozen black belts of Demetrius “Greek” Havanas. Besides winning many championships in the U.S. (including the U.S. Open, the All American and the Masters National) in 1990 he defeated the defending Korean National Champion with a head kick winning the Heavyweight Title of the Korean Nationals in Pusan, Korea. He holds black belts in five different arts and has trained with Dr. He Young Kimm, Remy Presas and Wally Jay. Master Doss currently runs a successful school in Austin and is the founder of a new fitness program, Impact Strong, for martial artists and people just interested in staying healthy and fit.
Linda Denley, 10th Dan
One of 12 children, Linda Denley was born in Houston. A natural athlete, she participated and excelled in many sports as a teenager. She began martial arts in 1973 in Tang Soo Do with Robert Torres in order to enhance her performance in other sports. Within two years she had earned black belt and was winning tournaments. While still in high school, Denley qualified for the Olympics in five track and field events, but was declared ineligible due to her professional winnings on the karate circuit. In 1979 she gave up an offer to play semi-pro basketball for the Houston Angels because of her burgeoning karate career.
Known across the nation as the “Texas Terror,” Denley’s aggressive, hard-hitting style made her the most feared competitor in the woman’s divisions. She was rated number-one from 1973 to 1996. At one point she went nine years without losing a match. Denley won the Battle of Atlanta 11 times, The Diamond Nationals three times, The U.S. Open nine times, The Long Beach Internationals four times and the U.S. Capital Classic nine times. Denley was “Competitor of the year” by several Hall of Fame organizations including Mars Hall of Fame (1988), NASKA Hall of Fame (1994) and the Diamond National Hall of Fame (1989). She was the first female to be inducted into the Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame (1980) and was the PKL and Kick Illustrated “Competitor of the Year” in 1982.
She runs her own school, the Texas Black Belt Academy in Houston. Ms. Denley gives seminars around the country and promotes her annual Space City Open Karate Championships in Houston. Each year her alma mater, Jefferson Davis High School, has a Linda Denley Day in honor of her achievements.
Grandmaaster Jose Santamaria, 10th Dan
One of the earliest black belts in MuDukKwan and Taekwondo in Texas Mr. Santamaria has operated schools across the state and one of the first promoters of sport karate and professional kickboxing in the country. Mr. Santamaria teaches at Santamaria’s Karate and Kickboxing in Wylie, Texas. He and was promoted to 10th Dan in 2013 in recognition of his achievements and contributions to the martial arts in Texas and beyond.
Steve Selby, 9th Dan
Steve Selby inherited his love for the martial arts from his father, Prentiss Selby, an ex-navy lieutenant commander and collegiate boxing champion. At age three Steve got his first boxing gloves. But it wasn’t until his teens that he discovered Allen Steen’s Texas Karate Institute. He began his training in 1974 as a 14-year-old under the late Ronnie Cox.
Mr. Selby earned his Black Belt from Allen Steen in 1978, and was a stable mate of U.S. Champion, Tim Kirby, and both were dynamic competitors in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Following Ronnie Cox’s unfortunate death, Selby continued his training with kickboxing pioneer, Demetrius “Greek” Havanas, and world champion, Raymond McCallum. However, his lifelong goal of becoming a world champion, in his own right, was shattered in 1981 when he sustained a near fatal basal skull fracture. Despite doctors’ poor prognosis for recovery, Selby rehabilitated himself to regain most all his previous abilities.
He founded the Dallas Karate Academy in North Dallas in 1986, which has grown into one of the nation’s finest martial arts academies. The school’s unique concept incorporates serious training in kickboxing and Jiu Jitsu in a professional environment. His system includes formal training in Tae Kwon Do Chung Do Kwan, Modern Arnis, Small-circle Jiu Jitsu, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Selby, also, offers Kickbox Aerobics, a program that he developed along with long-time friend, Steven Doss.
He has trained with jujitsu great Wally Jay, as well as other top jujitsu instructors. Always considering himself a student, Selby continues to learn by promoting training camps with the world’s greatest instructors, such as Remy Presas, and Rorian and Royce Gracie. The camps attract martial artists to Dallas from as far away as Australia, Germany and India. Mr. Selby focuses on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu by training regularly with world champion, Carlos Machado, and Filipino Modern Arnis as a personal student under Remy Presas. His era marks the beginning of the “second generation” of the Texas “rough and tough” karate style and he maintains the same high standards in his own school.
Selby joined the High Dan Board as its Tournament Director in 1996. He holds additional Dan rankings in Tae Kwon Do Moo Duk Kwan, Okinawan Dai Ni-Gojuryu, and Filipino Modern Arnis.
Robert Smith was born September 28, 1958 in Heidelberg, Germany (an Army brat), and began his martial arts training in 1974 at age 16. He was promoted black belt in 1982 by the American Karate Association. His first style is Tae Kwon Do Chung Do Kwan. Mr. Smith, also, holds a 6th dan in Tae Kwon Do Moo Duk Kwan. He taught at the local American Karate Association school from 1982–1988, when he opened his school, Tiger’s Den Martial Arts in Bryan/College Station, Texas.
Smith is a police officer in Bryan/College Station, Texas, and also serves as Minister of his church. He is active in his community with the training and assistance for at-risk juveniles. He has studied under numerous instructors, including: Terry Lee Bryan, of the American Karate Association and Phillip Plumber, of the American Modified Karate Association.
He studied Pressure Point Defense Tactics at the Texas State Department of Public Safety Academy and is a State Certified Instructor in several areas of Police Officer Defensive Tactics, and Law Officer Street Survival. He is highly proficient in gun, knife, club, grappling, and tonfa self-defense tactics.
Retired from competition since 1992, his tournament carrier was distinguished with numerous wins and Grand Champion honors in the black belt heavyweight fighting division including: Houston’s Karate Olympics, Austin’s Capitol City Martial Arts Open Karate Championships, Houston’s Open Tae Kwon Do Championship, Houston’s Southwest Texas Karate Championships, and the Texas Karate Showdown.
Philip WIlemon, 10th Dan
Phil Wilemon started his training under Phil Ola at the Texas Karate Institute in Arlington, TX. He has a long history of tournament success starting with winning Allen Steen’s United States Karate Championships as a blue belt. As a brown belt he either won or was disqualified in every tournament. As his longtime instructor, Larry Caster, would say, “two out of three aren’t bad.”
In 1973 Mr. Wilemon was voted the Rookie Black Belt of the Year at the Heart of Texas Championships. He won 13 tournaments in a row as a middle weight black belt. He was on the winning team at the Battle of Atlanta, along with David Archer, James Stevens, Dennis Gocher, and Demetrius Havanas. He was also on the US Karate Team with D.P. Hill, Ishmael Robles, Demetrius Havanas, and Raymond McCallum that won three years in a row.
He was a founding officer for the Texas Amateur Contact-Karate Association with Larry Caster, Roy Kurban, Demetrius Havanas, and D.K. Price. Mr. Wilemon severed as a Southwest representative for the Professional Karate Association and referred or coordinated over a hundred full-contact karate matches. He is still in constant demand as an instructor and seminar leader.