Grandmaster James K. Roberts, Sr.
9th Degree Black Belt - Taekwondo
In 1945, Hwang Kee established the Moo Duk Kwan - Tang Soo Do style in Korea.
Roberts first experience with martial arts was in 1947 when he joined a boxing club at Kaimuki Park, and judo at the famous Henry Okazaki's dojo in downtown Honolulu (near the car barn where the HRT busses parked).
At that time he was not ready to commit himself to these arts. But, in 1957, he heard of an art called karate. It was very different from judo, and he was interested in learning more about it. He went to the old Japanese school in Wahiawa where they were teaching this "mysterious" art. When he arrived, the doors were locked, but he could here the activity inside. In those days, all martial arts were taught in secrecy and only to family and friends.
He eventually was allowed into the school through a friend and was impressed with what he saw. The class was small, consisting of maybe eight people. He soon learned why this was so. It was small because the training was brutal. There were no women or children, only adult males. At first he was intimidated by the training even though he was a physically tough, 24-year old, Korean War veteran.
He finally overcame his apprehension and joined the school. The system they taught was called KAJUKENBO, a combination of karate, judo, kenpo, and Chinese boxing. Developed mainly developed for self-defense. He found it to be an effective street self defense fighting style.
He got his black belt after three years and started teaching for Sijo Adriano Emperado, one of the system's founders, at the Wahiawa YMCA. Among those training at the time were Joe Black, Alapac, Tokamoto, Tony Ramos, and Al Reyes, Sr. At the Wahiawa School, they were the first group of black belts promoted by Sijo Emperado. Roberts and a few others were Emperadoâ€™s second group of black belts.
In 1962, Roberts was assigned to Thailand for a short time, returned to train in Hawaii, and then was assigned to Korea in 1963. At that time, he asked Sijo if he could join another school because he knew he would not be coming back to the islands. Sijo gave his approval knowing that he was a soldier and would be traveling all over the world. While there, he studied Tang Soo Do directly under Master Hwang Kee and obtained his black belt in Korea. His black belt number is 6421. By today's standards, this is a low number and is considered very prestigious. Today's numbers are above 40,000.
After many decades of martial arts training and teaching, James Roberts was promoted to the rank of 9th degree Grandmaster by Sijo Emperado.
Grandmaster Roberts started Roberts Karate in Virginia where he trained Master Randolph Smith. Master Smith moved to Ohio and opened Roberts Karate (later Smith Martial Arts Academy). Mr. Mark Matthews began training with Master Smith in 1991. Mrs. Jennifer Chast began her martial arts journey in 1995 and Mrs. Lisa Matthews began her study in 1996. We all had the distinct pleasure of studying directly under Grandmaster Roberts several times during our training.
Grandmaster Roberts is currently retired and living in Hawaii.