Allen Steen: Tae Kwon Do

Jhoon Rhee and Allen Steen at the induction of Steen into the Hall of Fame of the U.S. Taekwondo Grandmasters Society
Jhoon Rhee and Allen Steen at the induction of Steen into the Hall of Fame of the U.S. Taekwondo Grandmasters Society in 2012.

Allen Steen was an early student of Tae Kwon Do Grand Master Jhoon Rhee 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 Allen 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.