National Karate History and Lineage

National Karate Academy of Martial Arts Founders:


Grand Master John Worley, 10th Degree

JWorley Color Ma

  • Tested for Black Belt with esteemed panel of examiners including film star Chuck Norris.
  • Performed karate demonstrations with Bruce Lee in the 1970’s.
  • Expert Fight Commentator for ESPN Kickboxing.
  • One of the most recognized Fight Promoters of Professional Kickboxing bouts in the 1980’s and 90’s.
  • Former Vice-President of the kickboxing federation known as the PKA (Professional Karate Association – based in Los Angeles)
  • Promoted to the rank of 9th Degree Black Belt by 10th Degree Grand Master J. Pat Burleson on Sept 7th, 2007

Grand Master Larry Carnahan, 10th Degree

Larry Carnahan Mag Cover

  • Pioneer of professional Kickboxing. (Fought his first bouts using hand pads not boxing gloves.)
  • Honored as one of the “Top Ten Black Belts” in the Nation in 1975 by Karate Illustrated Magazine.
  • President of NASKA (North American Sport Karate Association) the world’s largest sport karate sanctioning body.
  • Along with Master Worley, Promoter of the Diamond Nationals – the largest and most prestigious sport karate tournament in North America.
  • Promoted to the rank of 9th Degree Black Belt by 10th Degree Grand Master J. Pat Burleson on Sept 7th, 2007

The National Karate Organization:

Established in 1973, National Karate is Minnesota’s largest professional karate and self-defense school. Over fifty thousand Minnesotans of all ages have been benefited from NK training which combines ancient eastern martial arts methods with state-of-the-art training tools designed to help prepare students for the challenge of modern America.

There are twenty schools in the Twin Cities, 2 in the St. Cloud, MN area, one in Rochester, MN, four in Illinois and one in Milwaukee, WI. All National Karate Schools are staffed by professional instructors who are concerned for your progress, safety, and personal development. Our instructors receive ongoing training, both in the martial arts and in best practice teaching methods.

NK self-defense programs have been conducted at Augsburg College, The Boys and Girls Clubs, General Mills, Best Buy, Nash-Finch, and dozens of child care centers and public and private schools.

in front of panel                       testing bb self def                  panel

All National Karate instructors and owners earned their black belts through our thorough testing process. They are part of one of the largest martial arts organizations in the mid-west. Our instructors take pride in the quality of their students. From 1973 to present day, the quality of our black belts is second to none. Many of our students and instructors are nationally and world rated competitors in the North American Sport Karate Association.

Over the years, the NK schools have produced some of the finest martial artists in the country. They have produced World Champions in nearly every arena of competition including professional Kickboxing and Sport Karate tournaments (in both Forms and Sparring). Competitors and promoters at nearly every major martial arts tournament in the United States know about the National Karate Schools. That tradition of top fighters and form competitors continues today with dozens of NK Black Belts holding top World Rankings and Championships. Although most students do not desire to be world-class competitors, it is nice to know that the training they are receiving is of world-class quality.

The National Karate Schools have one of the richest histories in the martial arts community. Every NK Black Belt can be proud to be part of an organization that has such a strong lineage of Masters and reputation for quality. When you follow this lineage from its roots in Korea and Japan, to the Karate Club in Texas, to Washington D.C., to Minnesota, to Chicago, to Wisconsin, you can see the quality and see why National Karate has become not only the largest martial arts organization in the Midwest, but one of the strongest and most recognized martial arts organizations in America.

National Karate’s History and Lineage:

1945 Chung Do Kwan, Korea’s first post war dojang (school) was opened by Master Won Kook Lee. Jhoon Rhee would later become a student at the Chung Do Kwan.

1955 Korean Martial Arts leaders unified several kwans (schools) and adopted the term “Tae Kwon Do” as created and submitted by General Choi Hong Hi, the President of the Korean Tae Kwon Do Association.

1956 Jhoon Goo Rhee, “Father of American Tae Kwon Do,” introduced the Korean martial arts in the U.S. when he attended San Marcos Southwest Texas State College.

1956 – 1960 Under Jhoon Rhee’s direction, Texas became one of the most active martial arts areas in America. Two of Mr. Rhee’s first black belt holders, Allen Steen (Dallas) and Pat Burleson (Ft. Worth) opened some of the first commercial martial arts schools in Texas.Jhoon Rhee Karate masters

“Tex Kwon Do” – The American style of Tae Kwon Do practiced in Texas soon became recognized for its bruising style of fighting and was often referred to as “Tex Kwon Do”. It was in this hard-hitting environment that future National Karate School founders John Worley and Larry Carnahan and others (including film star Chuck Norris in Oklahoma), earned their black belts. Several prominent Texas martial artists including Master Worley and Master Carnahan moved out of Texas to spread martial arts throughout America.

1964   At the Long Beach Karate Championships, Bruce Lee first met Tae Kwon Do master Jhoon Rhee. The two developed a friendship — a relationship from which they both benefited as martial artists. Jhoon Rhee taught Lee the side kick in detail, and Lee taught Rhee the “non-telegraphic” punch.

Jhoon Rhee Bruce Lee handshake

1960  Jhoon Rhee left Texas and moved to Washington D. C. He opened the professional chain of martial arts schools known as the Jhoon Rhee Institute.

Master Rhee became a very successful businessman and in addition to his prosperous chain of martial arts schools, he invented the first line of martial arts protective gear. Mr. Worley tells the humorous story of how he and the other Jhoon Rhee instructors would be asked to test Master Rhee’s first prototypes of martial arts gloves and footpads made of foam rubber and duct tape. When the instructors were asked what they thought of the new pads the universal answer was almost always, “They need more padding Mr. Rhee!” Jhoon Rhee finally perfected the sparring equipment, which is very similar to the equipment that we still use today.

Grand Master Rhee is one of the few true 10th Degree Black Belts in the United States (the highest possible rank in the martial arts). He now spends his time training U.S. Senators and Congressmen and other famous students.

1961 Allen Steen, promoted to black belt by Jhoon Rhee, opened the first commercial karate school in Dallas, Texas.

1963 J. Pat Burleson (who also studied the karate style of Wadō-ryū) was promoted to black belt by Jhoon Rhee and opened his first school in Ft. Worth, Texas.

J. Pat Burleson

J. Pat Burleson

1966 Charles (Chuck) Loven was promoted to black belt by Jhoon Rhee and Pat Burleson and was the head instructor at the Worth Health Studio in Ft. Worth, Texas.

1967 John Worley (23 years old) and his brother Pat (age 17) enrolled at Worth Health Studios under the direction of Chuck Loven. Later, Larry Carnahan (17 years old) enrolled at Worth. John Worley held the rank of brown belt when Larry Carnahan enrolled.

1969 John and Pat Worley, were members of a Texas All-Star brown belt sparring team and traveled to Los Angeles for an event promoted by martial arts sparring champion Chuck Norris. While in Los Angeles, they tested and were promoted to First Degree black belt by a panel of top national black belts including Allen Steen and future film star Chuck Norris.


1970 Larry Carnahan was promoted to First Degree black belt by Pat Burleson, Allen Steen, and others.

1970 John and Pat Worley, along with their families moved to Washington D.C. to teach for Jhoon Rhee at the Jhoon Rhee Institute.

1970 – 1973 As the Director of the Jhoon Rhee Institute in Annadale, VA (Washington, DC suburb), John Worley was a part of the JRI black belt sparring team and competed for several years. He was honored as Instructor of the Year in 1972. During the three years that he was teaching for the JRI, he trained directly under Master Rhee.

Additionally, he had several opportunities to train with future mega film star and martial arts icon, Bruce Lee and performed several martial arts demonstrations with him.

1971 Larry Carnahan became recognized as one of Texas’ top tournament fighters and was named “Rookie of the Year” by the Southwest Karate association. Mr. Carnahan was also selected to be on the Texas National Karate Team captained by Pat Burleson and Chuck Loven.


1972 Larry Carnahan moved to Washington D.C. to teach at the Jhoon Rhee Institute.

1973 John Worley, his family and an associate left Washington, DC and moved to Minnesota to open what would eventually become the National Karate Schools. With Master Rhee’s blessing, he and his associates opened Mid-America Karate, which eventually became known as The National Karate Schools. Over the years, National Karate has developed its own unique system, blending elements of Karate, American Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing and other forms of martial arts.

1975 Larry Carnahan stayed in Washington, DC as the General Manager of the Jhoon Rhee schools. He was among the most successful point fighters in North America and was named among the nation’s “Top Ten” tournament competitors by “Karate Illustrated” magazine. Master Jhoon Rhee sent his top sparring team to Dallas, Texas to compete in the National Team Fighting Championships at Allen Steen’s United States Karate Championships. Mr. Carnahan and teammates Jeff Smith, Pat Worley, Michael Coles and Wayne Van Buren won the National Team Championships.

1977 Larry Carnahan left Washington D.C. and joined John Worley in Minnesota.

1978 The first Diamond National Karate Championships was promoted in St. Paul, Minnesota. Approximately 550 competitors entered the event—which received great reviews due to the level of competition and organization.  It grew to become North America’s largest and most prestigious martial arts tournament. It is named the Diamond Nationals because the Black Belt grand champions win a diamond ring. The Diamond Nationals have been voted the #1 tournament in the United States for the last 18 years, and recently, the #1 tournament in the world by Black Belt Magazine!


1979 Larry Carnahan was rated the world’s number three – ranked lightweight full-contact fighter by the Professional Karate Association.

Larry Carnahan fighting

1979 – 1985 John Worley was vice-president of the Los Angeles based Professional Karate Association (PKA). His duties included coordinating the ESPN televised series of full-contact karate events. During this six – year period, he worked as expert color commentator for over one hundred televised kickboxing shows on ESPN and other networks.

1983 – 1984 The Mid-America Karate School organization owned by John Worley, Larry Carnahan, Gordon Franks and Pat Worley was split into two separate companies: National Karate School – owned by John Worley and Larry Carnahan, and USA Karate School – owned by Pat Worley and Gordon Franks. John Worley and Larry Carnahan had NK Schools in Minnetonka and Maplewood.

1984 – 1996 Jim Albertson opened an National Karate School in Burnsville in 1984 and is the first licensed NK school owner. Mr. Albertson now owns five NK licensed schools and holds an NK Seventh Degree.

1988 John Worley and Larry Carnahan were promoted to the rank of Sixth Degree black belt by Grand Master J. Pat Burleson of Ft. Worth, Texas. Mr. Burleson holds the rank of Tenth Degree black belt and is one of the pioneers of American martial arts.

1990 The North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA), an organization of North America’s top sport martial arts tournament promoters is formed. Larry Carnahan was elected President of NASKA in the first year and has held the office every year since. NASKA is now the world’s most respected sport martial arts association. NASKA’s champions are the most widely recognized and respected competitors in the world.

1990 National Karate black belt instructor Bruce Nelson moved to Rochester, MN and became the first instructor to leave the Twin Cities area to open an NK licensed school.

1992 National Karate instructor Scott Masterton won the United States Middleweight Full-Contact Karate Championship in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 11, 1992.

Scott Masterton

1995 National Karate black belt instructor Cris Nelson moved to the Chicago, Il area and became the first instructor to go out of state. Now holding the rank of Seventh Degree, Mr. Nelson now owns and operates four Chicago area NK schools.

Jesse Zaragoza
is presented with the National Karate Schools Instructor of the Year Award recognizing his high standard of teaching and the consistent high quality of his students.

2007 John Worley and Larry Carnahan were promoted to the rank of 9th Degree Black Belt by J. Pat Burleson on Sept 7th, 2007.

1984 – 2013 National Karate has grown to a total of thirty-two schools, twenty of which are located in the Twin Cities. National Karate has licensed school owners Bruce Nelson (Rochester, MN), Cris Nelson (Roselle, IL ; Bartlett, IL, Bloomingdale, IL. and So. Elgin, IL), Gregg Sutherland (Ramsey, MN), Sue Lomasney (Andover, MN), Chris Kennedy (Hibbing, MN), Jesse Zaragoza & Paula Aburto Zaragoza (Woodbury, MN); the Halonen family (Gary, Becky & Chrissy) (St. Cloud & Sartell, MN), Gopi Donaparthi (Milwaukee, WI) and Kim Dewey (Ohio) making the National Karate School organization one of the largest and most successful in North America.

2014 Grandmasters John Worley and Larry Carnahan are awarded Martial Art’s highest honor and are promoted to 10th Degree Black Belt by 10th Degree Grandmaster J. Pat Burleson on April 26, 2014.  National Karate School Jim Albertson is promoted to the high rank of Eighth Degree Black  Belt on the same date by Grandmaster J. Pat Burleson.  National Karate School owner Jesse Zaragoza is promoted to Sixth Degree Black Belt on December 6th, 2014.



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