PLEASE NOTE: Those listed here are PAID UP and CURRENT AKATO Dan (black belt) members. If your name is NOT here please contact us about renewing your membership.
Master instructors and black belts with their own classes include brief bios.
Please see "Styles and Family Trees" for a listing of ALL Black Belts promoted by AKATO sanctioned schools and systems.
Jhoon G. Rhee Although he was not officially an AKATO member, Grandmaster Rhee must be listed here because he is the "great-grandfather" of the AKATO. He introduced America to the Korean martial arts when he came to Texas in 1956. Recognized by Black Belt magazine as the "Father of Tae Kwon Do in America" his many innovations (such as sparring equipment and musical forms) have changed the face of the martial arts in the United States and around the world. An instructor to many leaders in the U.S. government (including senators, congressmen and cabinet officials) he passed away in 2018.
AKATO ADVISORY BOARD
Allen R. Steen was the first black belt of Grandmaster Rhee on American soil. Mr. Steen is known as the "Father of Texas Blood and Guts Karate" and could also be called the "Grandfather of the AKATO,” since he was Mr. Yates' original teacher. He is a former International Karate Champion (he beat both Joe Lewis and Chuck Norris in a single evening in 1966) and a trainer of many national champions. Grandmaster Steen was one of the first martial arts business entrepreneurs building a chain of schools across the Southwest in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As Mr. Yates’s teacher he a valued advisor to the AKATO.
J. Pat Burleson is another advisor and instructor of Mr. Yates, Grandmaster Burleson became the first National Karate Champion in 1962 by winning the U.S. Nationals in Chicago. A well-known teacher and trainer, Mr. Burleson has given several AKATO seminars sharing his wealth of knowledge with us. See karateUSA.com
Keith D. Yates, our founder and president, is an internationally known author and teacher. See about Keith D. Yates.
The following list of CURRENT (paid-up) AKATO member Black Belts is in alphabetical order. Their current rank is in parentheses. If you are a currently paid-up AKATO member and your name is not listed here please contact us.
Dan Ackerman (1)
Jon Alster (7) Mr. Alster owns the American Karate Academy in West Lake Village, California just north of Los Angeles. He started his training in high school in Virgina. Moving to Texas to attend SMU (where he earned his degree in business), Mr. Alster started training with Keith Yates in 1980. He has trained with many AKATO instructors including Bryan Robbins and Mike Proctor. He currently holds a 6th degree Black Belt in Nam Seo Kwan Tae Kwon Do and 1st Dans in Kobudo and Escrima.
John Bain (5: Kickstart, 10: Kenpo) Mr. Bain is an instructor with Chuck Norris's Kickstart organization.
Aaron Barnett (6) Mr. Barnett assists in several AKATO classes in the Dallas area.
Judy Barnett (2)
Mike Bilderbeck (1)
Bobby Blakey (6) Mr. Blakey has travelled all over the world training and teaching. See his Facebook Page.
Drusilla Blakey (2)
Helmut Block (3)
Mike Bonstaff (8) Mr. Bonstaff teaches at his school in Drestrehan, LA
Tom Booker Mr. Booker owns Broadway Family Karate in Knoxville, Tennesse
Jackie Bradbury (2)
Kate Bradbury (1)
Liane Buckley (2)
Kevin Buckley (2)
Ralph Carrington (5) Mr. Carrington also holds a black belt in American Kenpo.
Daniel Cohen (1)
Kelly Cox (9) Master Cox is the founder of Marudo Karate-Do and teaches that system at his Richardson, Texas dojo. He began martial arts in 1973 under Master Hido Park, earning his 1st Dan in 1979 in Moo Duk Kwan. During the 1980s, he served as an instructor with the American Tae Kwon Do Association in Dallas. After affiliating with the AKATO in 1992, he has become one of the most sought-after instructors in the organization. He has earned a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Kobudo and was awarded his Master Instructor Certification in 2000. Master Cox is also a certified instructor by the American Council on Martial Arts. He teaches Technical Theater at J.J. Pierce High School in Richardson.
Danny Davis (7) Mr. Davis is the Assistant Head Instructor at the Dragon School of Taekwondo in Richardson, TX
Justin Davis (1)
Rick Davis (2)
Cliff Dillehay (6) Master Dillehay teaches Kenpo Karate classes at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. He has won numerous competitions across the Southwest and is one of the most respected instructors of Kenpo in the country.
Lynne Divita (2)
John Egan (3)
Duane Ethington (10) Born in Bloomington, Ill. Moved to Texas at age 7. After stint in Army Security Agency and a brief singing career with brother Hap, took up Tae Kwon Do at Allen Steen's TKI back in 1967. Now a 9th Dan with AKATO and a 9th Dan in Jujitsu, Mr. Ethington says he has experienced a “good run” in the arts. Southern California's Martial Arts Man of the Year in 1977 and in Who's Who in American Karate-2nd Edition. He is a member of the Living Legends of Sport Karate and the Texas Martial Arts Hall of Fame. Mr. Ethington also has penned over 500 articles for martial arts magazines as well as written screen plays and has authored three books.
Stu Fischbeck (3)
Caroline Goodspeed (8) Mrs. Goodspeed teaches classes at several locations in the Dallas area. She began her training in 1979 under Keith Yates at the Richardson YMCA to spend time with her daughter who was taking lessons. A certified instructor with the American Council of Martial Artists, she now teaches the Saturday classes at Richardson and Mondays at the Lake Highlands YMCA. She is the highest ranking woman in Nam Seo Kwan, holding a 7th degree Black Belt in Nam Seo Kwan Tae Kwon Do. She is highly sought after as an instructor in women’s self-defense.
Julie Royal Grotefend (1)
Mark Harris (1)
Jesse Poff-Hancock (1)
Laronda Hawkins (4)
Alan Hammill (3)
Terry Heronime (2)
Meg Hinkley (1) Mrs. Hinkley is a well-respected instructor in women's rape prevention. She has taught throughout the North Texas area for several years and has served as a volunteer with the Dallas Rape Crisis Center.
Paul Hinkley (5) Mr. Hinkley started his martial arts career in Kyokushin Kai and made black belt under Mr. Yates in the late 1970s.He taught for a number of years at SMU and Richland College.
Niaal Holder (3)
Abraham Iglesias (1)
Olga Iglesias (2)
Joshua Lay (3)
Ceasar Johnson (5) Mr. Johnson, a former US Army Drill Sergeant, has taught across North Texas. He won the 2010 AKATO Instructor of the Year Award.
Tony Kaufman (5)
Fadi Khoury (2)
Forrest Littlejohn (8) Mr. Littlejohn began his martial arts training in 1971 at Texas Karate Institute, under such martial arts greats as Kirby Fugate, Ronnie Cox, Demetrius Havanas, and Raymond McCallum. He has since earned black belts in American Tae Kwon Do, Karate, and Kenpo. Mr. Littlejohn teaches Kenpo, Tai Chi, and women's self-defense at various locations throughout the Dallas metroplex in his Chinese American Kenpo Way of Four Winds.
Tim Looney (7) Mr. Looney started his training in the 1960s under James Toney and Keith Yates. After pursuing other activities for several years he rejoined Mr. Yates and is now a senior instructor at the Richardson YMCA.
Mark Lynn (8) Mr. Lynn teaches at Hidden Sword Martial Arts in Roanoke, Texas. www.hiddensword.com
Buddy Matthews (7) Dr. Matthews made his black belt originally under Roy Kurban. He has trained with the AKATO since the 1970s.
Tim Meeks (1)
Eric McMurry (2)
Jarod McMurry (1)
Alan Mejia (1)
Thomas Merhout (6) Mr. Merhout holds the distinction of being the youngest person ever promoted to black belt by Keith Yates. He holds a black belt in weapons and is also a medal winning Judo champion. Mr. Merhout and his wife Jessica own Bulldog Judo in Grand Prairie, Texas. See Facebook Page.
Ysabel Merhout (5) Mrs. Merhout teaches at Hands On Karate in Garland and also at the Plano YMCA. In addition she teaches tai chi classes.
Lawrence Miller (3) Mr. Miller is the senior instructor at Contender Martial Arts in Memphis, TN. A veteran competitor on the NASKA circuit, he earned his Shodan in 1990 from the Tennessee Karate Institute, founded by Patrick Wrenn, Bill Wallace, and Elvis Presley.
Alyssa McPhail (1)
Lauren McPhail (1)
Randy Miller (6) Master Miller is one of the most respected teachers in the AKATO. He is also a noted tournament coach and referee.
Libby Moore (1)
Payton Mueller (2)
Don Mullins (3)
Jessica Myers (2)
Zac Neill (1)
Yair Or (1)
John Patterson (3) Mr. Patterson teaches the Little Dragons class at the RIchardson Y.
Caitlin Pennell (2)
Sam Perez (8) Mr. Perez owns Denison Family Karate in Denison, Texas. A master instructor, he has been a top champion on the competition scene for a number of years. www.denisonfamilykarate.com
Amelia Poulton (1)
RIcardo Ponte (2)
Debbie Preston (3)
Michael Proctor (10) Proctor Sensei is the martial arts "pro" at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, a position he accepted after several years in law-enforcement. He also teaches at Karate, Kobudo and Tai Chi at Presbyterian Hospital and several other Dallas locations. Mr. Proctor has been practicing the martial arts since childhood and is the founder of Renbudo Karate-Do. He heads the AKATO division overseeing martial arts with Japanese roots.
Kathy Rhine (5) A U.S. Army veteran, Mrs. Rhine is an instructor for the Garland YMCA which holds classes at AXE Memorial Methodist Church in Garland. She also teaches women’s self-defense classes.
Lyman Roark (5) A certified official in Olympic-Style Taekwondo, Mr. Roark teaches at Alpha Self Defense Academy in Dallas and at the McKinney Rec Center.
Diego Rocha (1)
Robert Rothlesberger (2)
Michael Schulman (3)
Jeff Shumaker (1)
Steve Servin (2)
Wendy Settle (3)
Dennis Shuman (2)
Daniel Skipper (2)
Jerry D. Smith
Al Snyder (2)
Janet Snyder (3) Ms. Snyder is the head instructor at Cypress Martial Arts in Rochester, MN.
Lance Spradlin (1)
Layne Spradlin (1)
Alisha Starnes (3)
Stephen Starnes (8) Mr. Starnes is the head instructor at North Texas Karate Academy in Bridgeport. He began his training in 1985 at the age of 7. He received his black belt at the age of 12 and taught for his instructor, Darrel Sanders, throughout his teenage years. He currently trains under Billy Smith as well as with Mike Proctor and Keith Yates. He also teaches Christian homeschool kids with the Koinos (karate) Homeschool Fellowship. www.northtexaskarateacademy.com
Dick Strom (10) Master Strom owns the Strom's Black Belt Academy and Family Fitness Center in Seguin, Texas. He started his martial arts career in Chicago and has been a member of the AKATO for several years. He is the founder of Jung Tong Moo Sul Tae Kwon Do.
Jihane Tahiri (1)
Alvin Tang (1)
Ken Terrill (2)
Susan Terrill (1) Mrs. Terrill teaches the Little Dragons class at the Richardson Y.
Tony Tempesta (8) Master Tempesta has studied the martial arts all over the world, including his native Italy. He currently trains under Mr. Proctor and instructs at the Cooper Center in both Renbudo and Kobudo. He speaks four languages fluently.
Alton Thibodeaux (8) Master Thibodeaux teaches classes at the Heights Recreation Center in Richardson, Texas. He started his Tae Kwon Do training under Mr. and Mrs. Jack Erickson. He is the head of the Dragon School of Tae Kwon Do.
Tom Thompson (9) Grandmaster Thompson owns and operates the Alpha Fitness Centers in Dallas. Beginning his training in 1970 under Allen Steen, Dr. Thompson is the founder of the Ki Il Do Kwan style of Tae Kwon Do.
Dan Trimmell (1)
James Trimmell (1)
Ginny Aversa-Tyler (3) Mrs. Aversa Tyler began her training with Keith Yates, and received her 1st Dan in 1999. She has also trained under traditional Okinawan and Shotokan instructors in Virginia, and in Sherman, Texas. Ginny currently teaches for the First Class North Texas Homeschool Co-op, and is the founder of DMD Tae Kwon Do.
Tommy Vaughan (6) An experienced teacher and U.S. combat veteran, Mr. Vaughan became affiliated with the AKATO in 1997 and teaches at Truth, Honor, Discipline Martial Arts.
Kimberly Wang (1)
Glenn Watson (1)
Lee Washburn (4)
Coleman Weber (1)
Colin Wee (6) Instructor at Joong Do Kwan Tae Kwon Do in Western Australia. Mr Wee has been trained primarily by Sensei Bryan Robbins and Sensei Michael Proctor. He is a 6th degree black belt with 36 years of experience in the martial arts and was previously a national representative and coach in Archery.
Jill Weston (2)
Paul Whiteman (1)
Bob Woerner (7) Master Woerner started training under James Toney and Keith Yates in 1969. He has taught at several Dallas area health clubs for several years and teaches private lessons at the Richardson Y.
David Wollard (8)
Rodney Yates (1)