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ABBA Profiles:

 Dr. John David York

Editor note:  ABBA is saddened with the loss of one our martial arts family members, Dr. John David York 4th Dan.  Dr. York passed away on April 6th after a long hard fought battle against illnesses that lasted for many years.  Our deepest condolences go out to the York family.  Mr. Ritchie and Dr. York were very close friends and Doc was a respected member of the Texas Martial Arts Community.   

On a personal note Doc was one of the kindest and considerate people I have ever known.  Even though Doc was dealt a bad hand of cards with his health he played them like he had a full house.  Even when he was ill he was more concerned on how you were doing.  Doc responded to every e-mail I ever sent him, even if it was just a joke.  He would thank me for thinking about him and ask how I was doing.  That was Doc, always thinking our others before himself.  I will miss you  Doc, R.I.P Sir.

Below is Dr. York's  obituary and following it his biography that details his trials and tribulations in the martial arts and how its aided him in his life.  


John David (Doc) York, 56, of McAllen, Texas, passed peacefully to his eternal rest in the presence of his family and friends on Thursday, April 6, 2006.

John David was born in Houston, Texas, December 1, 1949, and was preceded in death by his mother, Margaurite Wooten York; his father, David Coleman York; his brother, Paul York; and his daughter, Heather Maureen York. John graduated from Bellaire High School and served his country in the United States Coast Guard.

Doc was a loving family man to his wife, Jacque, his sons, Eddy, Larry and David; his grandchildren; his great grandchild; his brother, Bill; and wife, Fay; and his sister, Bonnie Dubrow, and a part of too many lives to list. He was graced with the friendship of Tracy and Monika Hawkins, who befriended him and his family, taught him to enjoy his life and come to terms with his illness, and nursed him. He was blessed with Hilda Soliz, who was always there to hold his hand. He loved and was loved and supported by his co-workers at South Texas College who worked with him, helped care for him, and gave him a reason to get up every day to fight the good fight against a consuming illness, and who were at his bedside when he needed them.

Doc was graced to live in interesting times. He was a 4th degree blackbelt who served as bodyguard to Abby Hoffman, security to some of the great bands of the 60s and 70s, chronicler of sporting events, from Sam Houston University Rodeo competitions to professional wrestling to professional boxing. He was an avid shooter, gun and knife collector, was a member of Mission Trap and Skeet Range, Pharr Rifle and Pistol Range, and the indoor Hole in the Wall Range. York received his Bachelor of Arts, Masters in Sociology, and Ed.D from The University of Houston. He worked as an instructor at Sam Houston State University, and in the state prison system with Walter Bennet and George Beto as mentors through Sam Houston State University, taught at the University of Houston, but found his home with South Texas College, where he served as the Project Director for the accreditation sight visits. Doc also acted as mentor to friends and associates of STC in obtaining their doctorate degrees.

A visitation and wake will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., today, Sunday, April 9, 2006, at Kreidler Funeral Home, with family present to receive friends. The funeral service will be held at 10 a.m., Monday, April 10, 2006, at Kreidler Funeral Home, 314 N 10th St, in McAllen. Tracy Hawkins, Ray Pegoda, Dennis Ray Gotcher, Keith Prewitt, Jose Cruz and Juan Mejia will serve as pallbearers. All who wish to help celebrate Docís life are welcomed. Memorial contributions in Docís name can be made to the Humane Society of the Upper Valley, P.O. Box 3386, McAllen, TX 78502


Biographical sketch of John D. York, Ed.D.-4th Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do under the AKBBA

I currently work for a large community college in South Texas. I oversee the scheduling of classes, program review, accreditation issues, and I act as "a Jack of all trades" for the Vice-President of Instructional Services. I earned all three of my university degrees from the University of Houston. My B.A and M.A. are both in Sociology. At each level I was given a cash prize in honor of the Faculty voting me the outstanding student upon my graduation. I attribute my academic success in large measure to my martial arts background.

Preparing for and passing belt exams is a good means by which to tackle more academically oriented subjects. Prior to pursuing my doctorate in 1983 I trained especially hard to get in shape and be worthy of taking my 3rd degree black belt under George Minshew in the AKBBA. Mr. Ritchie and Mr. Tabares both helped me prepare for that. After I earned my doctorate in 1988 from UH, I spent a number of years acting as a freelance evaluator working on privately and publicly funded evaluation projects. I also taught at six community colleges and four universities in the period of time as well as serving as a Research Scientist for The Center for University-School Partnerships.

When I moved to the Rio Grande Valley I went to work at the McAllen Independent School District as their Evaluator for Special Populations. I held that position until the local community college asked that I apply for a teaching position with them. Apart from my current position I have also acted as the Chair of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Department and acted as the Director of the Institutional Self-Study that the College is required to do to keep their accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. I am currently overseeing the State mandated evaluation of all workforce education programs and related areas for the College.

I first became interested in the martial arts in the mid-fifties when I saw the classic Spencer Tracy film, "Bad Day at Black Rock". He played a one-armed WWII vet combating corruption and racism in a small western town.  He combated the villains in the film with takedowns, foot sweeps, chops, and hip throws.  I was first able to study Kenkoju kyu Shotokan in Houston for a brief period in the early sixties in Houston. Several years after my first experience in studying a martial art, I started studying Seibukan Shorin Ryu, an Okinawan style of karate-do.  I earned my first black belt in that style in 1969. It was a traditional style. Great emphasis in that style was placed on kata, basics, one-steps, self-defense training, and some free sparring. My instructor Mike Richardson was killed in a car wreck shortly after I earned my black belt. For several years I trained with other traditional stylists such as Richard Sapp, Victor Cheng, Eddie Grigson, Keith Prewitt, and other Houston based martial artists of that time.

Dr. York (on the far let) with ABBA staff in December 2001

In the early seventies I moved to Austin to train with Mike Uselton. Uselton was an Allen Steen black belt. Even though he ran a more traditional school than most of his peers of that period he himself was a regionally rated fighter and all of his students were expected to fight their way to higher rank. To get my first black belt from Mr. Usleston I had to fight in as many tournaments as I would have if I had been a white belt starting out anew. That would have been easy. I had to fight as a black belt. If I didn't have to fight an SWKBBA/AKBBA black belt I usually won. The fighters from the SWKBBA/AKBBA of that time period were the best in the nation though. I didn't win many matches when I had to fight those fellows.

I parted company with Mr. Usleston and went to California to train with Robert Halliburton a nationally ranked fighter of the late sixties and early seventies. Mr. Halliburton had me training to test for my first black under him in Kenkoju kyu Shotokan. A changing economy cut my west coast training short of my achieving that goal and I returned to Texas. While searching for a place to train I either rejected or was rejected by several then prominent Asian instructors as being an American black belt and therefore too rowdy to participate in their training activities.  While I was never a first rate tournament fighter my training and participating in dojo bouts and fighting in tournaments with the best fighters of that era gave me an attitude towards fighting that moved far beyond traditional stylists. To be blunt, if we fought and you tried to kick or punch me I tried to kick and punch you first and to hit, strike, and kick you harder than you did me. That was considered unsporting by the Asian traditionalists and their adepts.

Unfazed by my rejection by the Asian traditionalists, which clearly had racist overtones, I started training with what was then becoming the strongest stable of tournament fighters in the nation the Houston based Black Belt Academies. While the Dallas-Ft. Worth area had been the epicenter of blood and guts fighting in the early sixties to the early seventies many of their most prominent practitioners and instructors had dispersed across the southwest and throughout the country. Such stellar fighters and notable instructors as the Worley brothers, Ray McCallum, Dennis Gotcher, Larry Ritchie, Jimmy Tabares, Linda Denley and many others either were working or were training in the Houston based schools which were run by George Minshew.

In 1975 I tested for second black under Dennis Gotcher in his school up in Waco. Gotcher who now is a police officer in North Texas had a deserved reputation as being a hard case. His students up there were no different than the Black Belt Academy students in their fighting attitude, but none of them really knew me and when he told them at the start of the test to take it to me they did so with gleeful enthusiasm.

After that period I started training with and working concert security with Mr. Ritchie. That was where I really learned "what was for show and what was for go."  Mr. Ritchie and I also collaborated on any number of martial arts articles during the mid-seventies through the early eighties for national martial arts  magazines, most notably Official Karate. An examination of Al Weiss's compilation of the best of Official Karate (Mr. Ritchie has a copy in his office) will reveal an unattributed cross section of our writing and photography from that period of time.

My involvement with the martial arts came to a halt in the early nineties when I was preparing to get in shape for my fourth black belt under Mr.Minshew. That was when I came down with several serious illnesses and one life threatening illness during that period of time.

Only since June of 2001 have I felt strong enough to start throwing technique again. Still let me emphatically add, that like my involvement in studying for my university degrees, that it was the discipline and the physical hardihood that I acquired from my lifelong pursuit of the martial arts that allowed me to live through my medical treatments and to survive the various aliments that still afflict me. But then that gets back to the core of martial arts. One should train oneself to overcome adversity.