"I began training in Tae Kwon Do, at J. Pat Burlesons KOREAN WAYS martial
arts school in January, 1965. At that time, the KOREAN WAYS school was located in the
World Health Studios, on East Belknap, in Ft. Worth, Texas. Next door, in the same
building, was an "after hours" club, called the EASTSIDE CLUB. This club was
well known around Ft. Worth as a very rough place. It provided an interesting backdrop and
an exciting atmosphere for a karate school. I saw my first practical application of
martial arts in the parking lot of this club. If I am to tell the whole truth, or most of
it anyway, some of those "demonstrations" actually took place inside the club.
Of course, no one from our karate school was ever involved. (Let me know if you believe
At the time I joined KOREAN WAYS, most of the classes at the Belknap location were
taught by Mr. Ronnie Moffett, one of Mr. Burlesons Black Belts. Mr. Moffett was a
fine instructor, and a demanding taskmaster. To this day, I am still very much aware of
the influence Mr. Moffett had in the foundation on which my martial arts skills are built.
I will never forget him.
Left - Mr. Chuck Loven Top - Mr. Ritchie shows a take down move
at Tarrant Jr. College with Mr. Burleson's demo team in the late 60's
About the time I made blue belt, the classes were taken over by Mr. Chuck
Loven. Mr. Loven was (and probably still is !) one tough black belt. His classes were
brutal. He and Mr. Burleson had many things in common, but one thing stood out above all
the others. They were extremely tough men, and they thought everyone was like that. Some
of us were not!! But, never-the-less, we were pulled along as if we were as tough as they.
I dont think Mr. Burleson or any of his black belts were intentionally cruel to us.
I do think that they were clueless as to what a bunch of near-sissies they were trying to
turn into Texas Black Belts. I think any review of U.S. Karate history will show that they
did a pretty damn good job.
I remember well, one evening when Mr. Loven gave me a particularly bad thumping. As Mr.
Gary Hestilow was helping me off the floor, Mr. Loven shouted down to me, "I may
never make you into my best brown belt, but by God Ill make you the meanest s.o.b.
(he didnt abbreviate) in town!" I have heard it said that he kept his word. I
know he sure tried.
When I tested for blue belt, the exam board was headed by Tae Kwon Do Grand
Master Hong Hi Choi, with Master Jhoon Rhee, Mr. Allen Steen, Mr. Pat Burleson, Mr.
Skipper Mullins, and Mr. Mike Steen among those present. Hows that for
horsepower? No pressure there! After the test, Grand Master Choi remarked,
"Texans fight harder when playing than Koreans do when they are mad at each
other." From what Ive seen, Id say hes right.
fighting in tournaments
I made brown belt January 28, 1968. Pat and John Worley were also among those who
tested that day. Soon after I received my brown belt, Mr. Hestilow mentioned that Mr.
Burleson was looking for someone to run a new karate school he wanted to open. I asked Mr.
Hestilow what he thought Mr. Burleson would charge someone to do that. To my surprise, he
said it didn't cost anything! In fact, he said Mr. Burleson was willing to pay
someone to work there. It would be sort of like a job. I remember thinking, "get paid
to play karate? That aint work; that's money for nothing." "Sign me
up!" I said. The band Dire Straits later wrote a song about that. Of course, we never
had any chicks. (Let me know if you believe that.)
Mr. Burleson has a grand sense of humor. For my very first karate school, he scouted
Ft. Worth long and hard to find the perfect place for me. A place where there were plenty
of drunks to play with. Somewhere that would have a lot of entertainment, like regularly
occurring gunfights in the street right outside the front door. Somewhere with friendly
motorcycle gangs to practice karate moves with. Get the picture? Well, he found just the
place. It was on south Hemphill St. I started to become ill when he showed me the place.
But, he said not to fear - -- - all I had to do was stay alive for only one year and I
could have a new karate school anywhere I wanted. No problem.
Mr. J. Pat Burleson
Ritchie's first school in south Fort Worth, TX, 1968
Things worked out pretty well. We had some great students at that school. Some of them
sure could fight, even before they started taking karate. When my year was up, I sold that
school to one of Mr. Burlesons black belts, and moved to the other side of town. Way
on the other side of town! My next school was in Hurst, Texas, across the street from the
Bell Helicopter plant where I used to work.
I was soon helping Mr. Burleson run several of his karate schools. I think he had five
schools then. He was spending some time in California, hanging out with Bruce Lee, Chuck
Norris, Joe Lewis, and Bob Wall. I looked after things when he was gone. I was also a
member of the demonstration team, which represented our schools by performing at many
functions around Ft. Worth. I was attending Tarrant County Jr. College in the mornings,
working at the karate schools in the afternoons and evenings, and going to karate
tournaments on weekends. Like the man said, "This aint work; this is money for
nothing." Life was good.
One evening in the summer of 1972, a prominent law enforcement official from Tarrant
County extended to me an invitation to leave the county. " By sun up", as I
recall. I explained to Mr. Burleson what had happened, and he made a phone call to Mr.
George Minshew in Houston. Mr. Minshew owned BLACK BELT ACADEMY. I had a job waiting for
me when I arrived.
Mr. Minshew had two schools under the Black Belt Academy banner, and he wanted to open
more. We found a location to our liking, near the intersection of Gessner and Longpoint in
Spring Branch. The school grew and quickly became too large for that building. Within one
year, we moved to a much larger place on the Katy Freeway. That school remained there for
about ten years, and it produced some outstanding students and tournament competitors.
Jane Ritchie, Don Mullins, Kevin Scott, Jeff MacRae, Henery Spafford, Chris Klecka and
Terry Butler are just a few of the many state and international champions to come from
that school. The Houston Hurricanes kickboxing team, of the National Karate League, also
I worked for Mr. Minshew and his Black Belt Academy schools for 12 years. During that
time, BBA grew to seven schools. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Black Belt
Academy students were the dominant force in Texas karate tournaments, winning local,
state, national, and international tournaments by the hundreds. I still feel a lot of
pride for the part that my students and I played in making Black Belt Academy the power
house it was during those years.
In 1972, while with Black Belt Academy, I started doing bodyguard and special security
work for rock and roll bands. At first, a couple of my students and I provided only
personal bodyguard services for the star performers of the rock bands. Within a year, I
had taken over all personal protection and private security functions for the rock
concerts at the Summit, Sam Houston Coliseum, Music Hall, and all U. Of H. facilities. I
was licensed by the State of Texas as a Security Services Contractor and held a Texas
handgun commission. We continued providing these services until 1980.
Those rock concerts were an unbelievable testing ground for martial arts theories,
concepts and techniques. We were constantly dealing with drunks, drugies, and psychos. We
were always outnumbered, and usually unloved. Anyone who was not there will have a hard
time understanding how dangerous it was. Some of the top black belts in Texas worked with
me at these events. Black belts like Mr. Steve Powell from College Station, Mr. Raymond McCallum from Dallas,
Mr. John D. York, Mr. Keith
Dundas, Mr. David Berlad and
Ms. Jane Ritchie from Houston, were part of my crew.
Mr. Ritchie with Linda McCartney at Wings Concert
Joe Lewis, Ray McCallum, Larry Ritchie, Carol Long and Bill
Wallace at Mr. Ritchie's karate tournament in 80's
In 1985, I, along with my black belt staff, decided to leave the Black Belt Academy
organization and go our own way. That was not an easy decision to make. There were a lot
of hurt feelings for a long time after that; however, things worked out for the best. We
named our new organization "American Black Belt Academy" to show that we were
taking a new path yet still retaining a link to our roots.
Since that time, my staff of instructors and I have continued our effort to turn out
strong martial artists. We have kept our standards high, while watching others continually
lowering theirs. The following is a list of martial artists earned their black belts the
old fashion way; they worked for them:"
Left to right to:
Mike Gilbert, Kevin Lavorgna, Doug Wilson, Carol Long,
Larry Ritchie, John Epling, Rick Williams, Sally Morales.