Just a week ago I spent time with friends in the Lone Star State.
For those of you not familiar with the term, I’m talking about Texas.
What comes to mind for a lot of people when referring to Texas might be cowboys, longhorns, oil, football (American, of course!), BBQ, …..
I have to admit that I thought of some of that, too.
But visiting Dallas this time somehow got me thinking of the first American to receive his Black Belt from the founder of Taekwondo in the U.S., Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee, who had come to Austin, Texas, way back in the late 50s to pursue his college studies. The year was 1957 to be exact.
In 1959, Allen Steen started his karate training under Jhoon Rhee and just 3 years later as brown belt he opened up the first storefront dojo in Dallas.
In 1962, he was promoted and became Jhoon Rhee’s first American Black Belt.
What followed, is nothing short of shock and awe in Texas, the U.S. Southwest and beyond.
Grandmaster Allen Steen is remembered for creating a very aggressive fighting style that was very rough and tough. We’re talking about bare knuckle fighting competition, years before Jhoon Rhee launched his Safe-T protective gear.
In 1966, Allen Steen left a path of destruction at Ed Parker’s International Karate Championships in Long Beach, California, by beating even Joe Lewis and Chuck Norris both on the same day.
I found a video clip of his fight against Chuck Norris that I would like to share with you at the bottom of this post. Hope you like it.
Besides being an extremely successful competitor himself, Allen Steen trained together with his first Black Belt student J. Pat Burleson and surrounded himself with other very dedicated students who went on to become champions in their own right.
Some of the names that I still remember from devouring martial arts magazines way back in the day are Skipper Mullins, Fred Wren, Demetrius “The Greek” Havanas, Roy Kurban, just to list a few.
Allen Steen further impacted American and Texas Karate by opening countless dojos and promoting tournaments of which one has truly stood out over the years.
Originally known as the Southwest Karate Championships, the tournament name was later changed to the United States Karate Championships and became THE karate tournament on the second weekend in February.
I will add that Allen Steen handed over the karate business affairs to his trusted aides and friends years ago to move on to other business ventures, but his impact is felt even today.
I also stumbled across something that might interest you which is what it took to get a Black Belt from Grandmaster Allen Steen:
He expected technical perfection with a “No Quit” attitude.
After a grueling performance of basic techniques, katas and heavy warm-up fights, the student had to go up against one tough Black Belt fighter after another. Many of these guys were accomplished National Champions!
Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse: You were then challenged by 2, then 4, and finally even 8 fighters, all at the same time.
But we did say “No Quit” attitude, right?!
And even if one survived the “punishment”, Allen Steen would only put his signature on the certificate if one met his technical standards.
Let that sink in for a while.
Anyway, here’s the clip I promised. Enjoy!
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