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Hive Martial Arts & The History of American Karate

Hive Martial Arts is lucky to share such a close and rich history with the founders of American Martial Arts. In our previous post we shared how Grand Master Jhoon Rhee shaped our curriculum and popularized Taekwondo in America. 

Another piece of our history comes from Texas, where Grand Master J Pat Burleson became known as the “Father of American Karate.” Unlike Grand Master Rhee, who I unfortunately never had a chance to meet, I was lucky enough to have Grand Master Burleson as a judge for my 3rd Degree Black Belt exam. It was an amazing opportunity to share the testing floor with some of his original students who were earning their 9th Degree Black Belts.

J Pat Burleson is a significant figure in the history of American Karate, specifically within the realm of martial arts and martial arts tournaments. He is considered one of the pioneers of Karate in the United States and has made substantial contributions to the development and popularization of martial arts in the country.

Early Training
John Pat Burleson, commonly known as J Pat Burleson, was born on June 19, 1939, in Oklahoma, USA. He began his martial arts journey in the early 1960s when he started training in Judo. He later transitioned to Karate and became one of the earliest American practitioners to study Korean Karate, particularly Tang Soo Do.

Introduction of Point Sparring
One of J Pat Burleson’s most significant contributions was his role in introducing and popularizing the concept of point sparring in the United States. Point sparring involves scoring points for controlled strikes, kicks, and techniques during matches. This approach focused on technique and control rather than full-contact combat.

Burleson is often credited with organizing some of the first point-sparring tournaments in the U.S., which played a pivotal role in shaping the sport’s competitive landscape. His efforts helped pave the way for the development of modern sport Karate and its integration into American martial arts culture.

Founding the Professional Karate Association (PKA)
In 1974, J Pat Burleson played a central role in the founding of the Professional Karate Association (PKA), an organization aimed at promoting and organizing full-contact Karate tournaments. This marked a shift in Karate competitions, as it introduced a more dynamic and aggressive style of fighting.

The PKA tournaments gained popularity and drew attention from martial artists and enthusiasts across the country. These events contributed to the growth of full-contact Karate in the U.S. and set the stage for the later emergence of other full-contact martial arts organizations.

Influence and Legacy
J Pat Burleson’s influence extended beyond his accomplishments in the competitive arena. He has been a respected instructor, mentor, and advocate for martial arts education. He played a role in training numerous successful martial artists who went on to achieve their own milestones in the martial arts world.

Burleson’s emphasis on discipline, technique, and the importance of education in martial arts has left a lasting impact on his students and the martial arts community. His dedication to promoting the values of martial arts, combined with his contributions to the sport’s evolution, solidifies his legacy as a pioneer of American Karate.

Continued Involvement
Even in recent years, J Pat Burleson remained active in the martial arts community, attending events, seminars, and continuing to share his knowledge and experience with new generations of martial artists. His contributions have earned him recognition and respect as a trailblazer in American Karate history.

J Pat Burleson’s legacy serves as a reminder of the enduring impact that dedicated individuals can have on shaping the trajectory of a martial art and its culture within a country.