Since 1976

2022 AKATO Tournament is set for November 5. Click here to see more information, and here to go straight to the pre-registration page.

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In 1976, Keith D. Yates, one of the original black belts of Allen R. Steen (the Father of Texas Karate) founded the Southwest Tae Kwon Do Association. It was the early days of the martial arts in America, and there were few associations which maintained quality standards and credible programs for both instructors and students. The group was born out of that need, and that need has driven it for well over four decades.
At first just an association of Mr. Yates' own black belts, membership soon swelled to include martial artists from several styles and states. As the arts in America began to diversify, so did the association. In 1996 the name became the American Karate and Tae Kwon Do Organization, indicating the group's widened stature. Standards of membership for both individuals and schools were set up and two divisions were established—one for arts of Korean background and one for arts with a Japanese/Okinawan origin.

But one thing has not changed—the AKATO is still committed to the benefits of the traditions of the martial arts while acknowledging that the arts must keep up with the ever-changing society in which we live and practice our various styles and skills. With members in seven states the AKATO is not the biggest martial arts organization around but it is one of the most credible and well-organized.

The American Karate and Tae Kwon Do Organization has three main purposes:
• To promote quality education of martial artists
• To provide high professional standards for schools, instructors and rank promotions
• To cultivate friendship and mutual understanding between martial artists

We maintain an eclectic but traditional approach. Keeping the emphasis on the "art," we also incorporate techniques from several other styles such as jui-jitsu and kobudo. In fact AKATO instructors can cross-train and earn black belt ranking in other systems.

We hold regular Continuing Education classes just for instructors taught by master level teachers. And after you earn enough "credits" you are eligible for our Advanced Instructor's Certification. We also sponsor seminars for students, hold occasional tournaments and have an annual awards banquet and clinic.

Many AKATO instructors are direct black belts of our founder, Keith D. Yates, or are from his family tree of black belts. We have occasionally allowed other schools to join providing they:
• 1) are recommended by a senior AKATO black belt,
• 2) personally train with AKATO instructors, and
• 3) are voted in by a majority of the AKATO Membership Committee.

We do NOT require our member schools to follow a set curriculum nor do we tell them how to teach—however we expect the very highest standards of martial arts. For a school to be considered an AKATO "member school,” a minimum of ten students must be AKATO members in addition to the senior instructor who can receive a FREE Black Belt Membership. Examinations are under the complete authority of the individual school, however black belt promotions can be sanctioned by the AKATO. Contact Mr. Yates for guidelines.

The AKATO is not a "mail-order" association. Download an application form here for more guidelines.
akato application
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"Grandmaster Yates has more than just a knowledge of the martial arts but of the philosophy and implications of a lifetime of martial study."
—Jhoon Rhee, the "Father" of Tae Kwon Do in America

"Keith, thanks for your leadership and numerous contributions to the martial arts."
—Chuck Norris