GGM Allen Steen
Allen R. Steen was an early student of grand master Jhoon Rhee's at Southwest Texas State College in San Marcos, Texas. Allen is credited with being Mr. Rhee's first American black belt and he went on to win 30 major titles as well as defeating both Chuck Norris and Joe Louis to win the prestigious Long Beach International Tournament in 1966. Allen also developed a karate business empire including many schools and tournaments.
Allen Steen attended a demonstration put on by master Rhee in late 1959. He was impressed when the master kicked a support beam in the college gym and cracked the plaster from floor to ceiling. Steen signed up for Jhoon Rhee's first Karate class along with 184 other students and soon proved himself to be a dedicated and talented martial artist.
After earning both his black belt, and his college degree, Steen moved to Dallas, Texas and started the first of many Karate schools, "The Jhoon Rhee Institute of Karate," in 1962. This was the beginning of Steen's long and high profile career in the American martial arts. The rigor of his training methods, and the strong emphasis on discipline, combined with the toughness of his texan students resulted in what has come to be known as the "Blood-N-Guts Karate" style that flourished in Texas during the 1960's.
Allen Steen went on to become one of the most famous American martial artists in history, winning many national competitions. He was rated by Black Belt Magazine as one of the top fighters in the U.S. in 1966. His trademark sparring attack was the jump sidekick, delivered so quickly and powerfully, that his opponents were often knocked completely out of the ring.
Steen's many "Texas Karate Institute" schools produced some of the finest black belts in the U.S. At times, his graduates dominated the American Karate scene. In 1963, Steen organized his first "Texas Karate Championships". Characteristically, he entered his own competition and won first place. This tournament was the first to welcome all styles of karate pioneering the now popular, "Open Format."
Some of the many exceptional martial artists who emerged from Steen's schools include: Pat Burleson, Skipper Mullins, Mike Anderson, Fred Wren, and Roy Kurban. Together they established a Texas Karate dynasty that expanded as their own students began to compete. This second generation group includes Walt Bone, James Butin, George Buckner, Phyllis Evetts, Jim Harkins, Demetrius Havanas, Harold Gross, Larry Ritchie, Chuck Loven, Ray McCallum, Jim & Jenice Miller, George Minshew, Rick Vaughn, Jeff Smith, and Pat & John Worley.
Steen created the Southwest Karate Black Belt Association in 1967, but it quickly outgrew it's regional focus and became a national organization. In 1972 the name was changed to the American Karate Black Belt Association which ultimately boasted over 10,000 members. Steen had a vision of uniting all the American Karate organizations under a single banner, the U.S. Karate Association, but he was unsuccessful in this due to the many competing egos involved as well as the variety of differing needs represented.
In 1967 Steen retired from competition, but remained active for many years as a karate businessman as well as a promoter of the sport. Steen was named, "The Father of Texas Karate," by the Texas Martial Arts Hall of Fame and was elected to the Who's Who in the Martial Arts. In April of 2000 Steen hosted the "Allen Steen Event Millennium Karate 20001" one of the largest and most successful Karate events in history.
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.