New Black Belts—May 19, was an inspiring day of martial expertise as the AKATO presented six new first degree black belts to Martin Davila, Andrew Poulton, Nick Samuel (all from the Richardson YMCA), Mateo Cisnero (Hands on Karate), Miguel Jaimes (Axe Methodist Church), and Robert Rothlesberger (Dragon School TKD). Earning their third dan ranks in impressive fashion were Ginny Tyler (doing a Wing Chung demonstration) and Caleb Skipper (showing his han-bo specialty). Tim Meeks took on the task of testing with the black belts and did an impressive job in earning his second brown belt. Also promoted were long-time teacher Dr. Robert Woerner to eighth dan, and the senior instructors from the Dragon School; Danny Davis to seventh and Alton Thibodeaux to eighth. Steven Starnes demonstrated why he was cross-ranked as an eighth degree in the AKATO with a performance that included advanced black belt kata. Congratulations to all these outstanding martial artists. See some photos.
Jhoon Rhee Passes Away—On April 30, grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, 86, the "Father of American Tae Kwon Do" passed away after a long illness. Mr. Rhee introduced the Korean martial arts to the US in 1956. His contributions were almost too many to list. He invented the foam-rubber sparring gear that made tournament competition into a national and international sport. He put martial arts forms to music and changed the face of Kata competition world-wide. He also was called the "Father of TKD in Russia," and traveled to that country numerous times spreading his philosophy and teaching. He introduced Tae Kwon Do to the nation's capital with a chain of schools and taught many politicians and celebrities.
Of course he was the "grandfather" of the AKATO since his first black belt was none other than Allen Steen. Mr. Steen was one of just many who spoke at the memorial services at the McLean (VA) Bible Church on May 8th. Chuck Norris, Linda Lee Cadwell (widow of Bruce Lee), champion Jeff Smith, governor and senator George Allen, grandmaster Rhee's children, Jimmy, Chun and Meeme all delivered stirring testimonials of his life and legacy. Mr. Rhee's influence will be felt in the martial arts world for years to come. See the photo page for images of Mr. Yates's trip to DC for the services.
CELEBRATION OF KEITH D. YATES'S 50 YEARS AS A BLACK BELT
The 2018 AKATO seminars and banquet on March 17, was a great success. Sixty participants in the seminars started the day off with a bang. Mr. Yates, Mr. Kelly Cox, and Mr. Oliver Martinez all gave excellent classes and received rave reviews from students and black belts alike. The evening banquet was one of the best we have ever had with almost 200 guests which included Grandmasters Allen Steen (the founder of Texas Karate) and Roy Kurban (a past Black Belt Magazine Man of the Year). Almost sixty of Mr. Yates's own black belts (and black belts who have benefited from his teachings) came to honor him on this special night. Of course, the AKATO Student of the Year Awards were also presented (see the photo page).
Renbudo Karate: James Murphy
Disciples Making Disciples: Malachi Kongpayabel
Axe Methodist Church: Allie Knagg
Hands On Karate: Lauren Cisnero
Plano YMCA: Vidyuth Srinivasan
Richardson YMCA (Tues): Michael Lawler
Richardson YMCA (Sat): Martin Davila
Richardson YMCA (Little Dragons): Emmett Ross
Lake Highlands YMCA: JaNessia Carhee
North Texas Karate: Mike Vaughn
Alpha SelfDefense: Ryan DeArmond
Dension Family Karate: Sarah Heinen
Bonstaff TKD: Logan Coates
Iss Hogan: Christopher Fowler
American Karate CA: Jack Hardacre
Dragon School TKD: Caitlin Pennell
Cypress MA: Joseph Block
Marudo Karate: Anh Nguyen
NEW FORMS BOOK NOW AVAILABLE—Mr. Yates's 2018 version of The Complete Book of Tae Kwon Do Forms is here! Containing all the patterns the AKATO uses in its American Tae Kwon Do curriculum (including the three Tang Soo Do forms) as well as history of the art in the United States, this is another must-have textbook for the serious student. On the inside back cover you will find a code to download and unlock the "Basic" version of the smartphone APP which includes the first five forms and applications of some of the movements.
WE ARE CURRENTLY SHOOTING videos for the "Premium" version of the APP which will have ALL the forms. Stay tuned for that.
New Nam Seo Kwan black belts—The September 9, 2017, black belt promotion saw three candidates promoted to black belt. Mark Harris, Kevin and Liane Buckley all survived the forms, ones-steps, self-defense, board breaking and multiple sparring to earn their first dan black belts. Congratulations to these three outstanding martial artists. See the picture on the current photo page.
And don't forget the BLACK BELT WORKOUTS on the third Saturday of the month at the Richardson YMCA from 12:30 to 2 pm (after the regular Saturday morning class for lower belts). You'll pay a five dollar fee to the YMCA as a donation to their scholarship fund.
Keith Yates Inducted into Hall of Fame
Although Mr. Yates is in several Halls of Fame, this one is special. The Martial Arts History Museum in Los Angeles only inducts ten individuals every year (not 200 like some of those halls). This year was Pat Burleson: the first national karate champion (and an AKATO advisor), Gina Carano: MMA superstar turned Hollywood actor, George Chung: internationally known kata champion, Donn Draeger: author and historian, Pat Johnson: champion and one of Chuck Norris's first black belts, Pat Morita: Mister Miyagi from the Karate Kid movies, Steven Lopez: the first man to win an Olympic gold medal in taekwondo, Frank Shamrock: MMA legend, Gogen Yamaguchi (the "cat"): famous founder of the goji-kai in Japan, and our own Keith D. Yates, founder of the AKATO.
Mr. Yates traveled to Los Angeles in July to not only visit the MA History Museum but to attend the Dragonfest 2016. Here is who else was in this class of inductees. See more photos from Mr. Yates's California trip on the gallery page.
Check out the new AKATO BLACK BELT FAMILY TREE
Click here for a viewable PDF.