|Karate in the United States|
|USA National Karate-do Federation|
With the new found skills many of these US servicemen took these skills to the United States and established their own dojos. Many Japanese karate instructors also sent instructors to popularize the martial art in the United States.Robert Trias was the first American to open a karate dojo in the United States.
In 1946 Robert Trias, a returning U.S. Navy veteran, began teaching private lessons in Phoenix, Arizona. Other early teachers of karate in America were Ed Parker (a native Hawaiian and Coast Guard veteran who earned a black belt in 1953), George Mattson (who began studying while stationed in Okinawa in 1956) and Peter Urban (a Navy veteran who started training in 1953).
Prior to 1946, most Karate teachers outside Japan were in the Territory of Hawaii (not yet a state). Many of those teachers taught Kempo to only Asians and locals. One such teacher was James Mitose. It was through Mitose that one style of Kempo (Kosho Shorei Ryu) was introduced to the world through William Chow, one of his black belts, who then went on to modify it and train Adriano Emperado, Edmond Parker, Ralph Castro and a host of other future Grandmasters, some who brought the modified art to the U.S.
In the 1950s and early 60s several other Asian karate teachers began arriving in America to seek their fortunes and to aid in the popularization of the art. They included Hidetaka Nishiyama, Teruyuki Okazaki, Takayuki Mikami, Tsutomu Ohshima, Richard Kim and Takayuki Kubota. Several Koreans also came to America in those days to introduce the Korean version of the martial arts (not yet known by the term tae kwon do). They included Jhoon Rhee, Henry Cho, Kim Soo and Jack Hwang.
In spite of the presence of these Asian instructors, karate was primarily spread across the country in the early days by American-born teachers. They included Trias (called the "Father of American Karate"), Don Nagle, Parker, Mattson, and Urban, plus pioneers like Harold Long, Steve Armstrong, Allen Steen, Ernest Lieb, Pat Burleson, Chuck Norris and Joe Lewis.
The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) was the official organization responsible for the running of all amateur sports in the United States, established in 1888. The AAU was officially charged with the organization and operation of many sports in the US. During this time, karate was one of the committees in the organization and was not an independent governing body.
The Amateur Sports Act of 1978 enabled the governance of sports in the US by organizations other than the AAU. This act made each sport set up its own National governing body (NGB). Each of these governing bodies would be part of the United States Olympic Committee, but would not be run by the Committee. Thus, USA National Karate-do Federation was born in 1996.
No individual can truly claim to be the founder of "American Karate" because it is an eclectic mix of systems and styles. Many instructors have taken what they considered to be the best of different systems to devise a curriculum that worked for them and their students. Some individuals who have claimed to be founders of their own systems of "American Karate" are listed here, some of whom have claimed 10th degree or higher black belt ranks for themselves. In the Asian culture, most 10th degree black belts (typically represented by a Red Belt) were awarded only upon the death of the Grandmaster to his successor.
Tsutomu Ohshima After being taught by Master Gichin Funakoshi, Ohshima traveled to America and brought Shotokan Karate as well as created the Caltech Karate Club, the first university karate club, in 1957. Master Ohshima is a 5th-degree black belt.
Allen R. Steen is a 10th-degree black belt who earned his 1st degree black belt in 1961 in Tae Kwon Do from Jhoon Rhee. Steen opened the first karate school in Texas in 1962 and became known as the "Father of Texas Blood and Guts Karate." He also gained fame for defeating Chuck Norris and Joe Lewis in a single evening to win Ed Parker's Long Beach International Karate Championships in 1966.
Joe Lewis was often called the "Muhammad Ali" of American sport karate. He amassed many firsts including the first World Professional Karate Champion and the first U.S. Heavyweight Champion. He began his martial studies while an 18-year-old U.S. Marine stationed in Okinawa in 1963. He earned a black belt in a record 18 months and due to his outstanding tournament career was named the "greatest karate fighter of all time" by his peers in a Black Belt Magazine survey. Lewis died in 2012.
J. Pat Burleson is a 10th-degree black belt. He received his 1st degree black belt in 1963 in Tae Kwon Do by Allen Steen. Burleson was Allen Steen's first black belt student. Steen, in turn, was Jhoon Rhee's first black belt student in America in 1962. Burleson based his system on Tae Kwon Do, Tang Soo Do, and Wado-Ryu. His website says he is one of the founders of American Karate and his claims have been based on his legitimacy of winning the first National Karate Championships in 1964 in Washington D.C.
Jim R. Harrison is a 9th-degree black belt. He received his 1st degree black belt in Judo and Jujitsu in 1962, Tang Soo Do in 1963, Shorin-Ryu Karate in 1964, having trained under Bob Kurth, Kim Soo Wong and Jim Wax. In 1964 he opened his Bushidokan dojo in Kansas City from which he competed, trained several regional and national champions, and hosted major tournaments.
Ernest Lieb was a 10th-degree black belt. He received his 1st-degree black belt in 1958. Mr. Lieb based his system on Chi Do Kwan, Karate, Judo, Jiu Jitsu, and Aikido. In 1964 Lieb was one of the first teachers to put the word "American" in front of karate.
Edmund K. Parker, Sr. was the founder of American Kenpo Karate. He received his black belt in 1953 from William Chow. Parker based his system on Chow's Chinese Kenpo Karate. Parker was one of the first to commercialize karate in America and became known by many as the "Father of American Kenpo Karate" because he originated the first "Americanized" version of Karate.
Keith D. Yates is a 10th-degree black belt. He received his 1st degree black belt in 1968 in Tae Kwon Do by Allen Steen. Yates was Allen Steen's youngest black belt student at the time. After a successful tournament career Yates went on to become a respected teacher and author. He has served on the editorial boards of most of the major martial arts publications and has authored or co-authored 13 books. He also sits on the governing boards of several international martial arts organizations.
John Worley is a 10th-degree black belt. He received his 1st degree black belt in 1967 in Karate under the tutelage of Charles Loven and Texas karate legend, Master Instructor J. Pat Burleson. Worley also studied with Jhoon Rhee and was one of the top instructors in the Jhoon Rhee Institute in Washington, D.C., before leaving to found the National Karate system of schools in Minnesota in 1973. Along with co-founder and fellow 10th-degree black belt Larry Carnahan, Worley has grown the National Karate schools into one of the most successful sport and Americanized karate systems in North America. In 1977, Worley and Carnahan also founded the Diamond Nationals Karate Championships.
Robert Trias considered my many as the father of American karate.
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Karate experienced a growth of popularity in the 1970s and 1980s due to movies such as the Karate Kid. The popularity has declined since the 1990s due to competition from martial arts like Taekwondo and MMA.