Mar 9

Keeping the Art traditional: Master Kevin Roberts speaks out against “commercial belt factories”

For this week’s article, we feature the story of a great friend and fellow martial arts instructor, Mr. Kevin Roberts. Mr. Roberts has been a great supporter of our program, always enthusiastically participating in our tournaments with his family and students.

Mr. Roberts shares his experiences in martial arts and why he teaches in the following article.

Through the Tenets of TaeKwon-Do: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, Indomitable Spirit, martial arts has affected my life in several ways.

What I value most about the martial arts are the values and discipline that are contained within them.

If students study and practice the art as a whole, and not just the self-defense or sport aspects, they may find themselves with less stress and receive more respect from others, for they will be giving more respect to those they come in contact with.

The physically demanding challenges that the martial arts offer can also help the weaker become stronger, which in turn, should build more self-esteem more self-confidence.

Why do I teach?

Well, I guess I will answer this as, “Why did I start teaching AGAIN?”

In TaeKwon-Do, there are so many instructors and groups out there promoting people just for financial gain. I have watched TaeKwon-Do be torn apart and treated like T-ball and a huge “marketing store,” giving out black belts in a year and promoting 5- and 6-year-old children to Black Belt.

The Art I studied and love so much was becoming a dinosaur. I watched as stances, blocks and strikes became Hollywood moves, “looking cool” with no practical application behind them.

I teach to help pass on an Art before it is gone.

Some thought I wouldn’t get many students being as I practice “old-fashioned” TaeKwon-Do. Now here I am with over 50 students.

People want true Martial Arts. It is up to us to educate and teach the public what that is. I don’t have the gimmicks and toys for kids to play with. I tell them up front that it will probably take five years to get a Black Belt from me. Sometimes the parents are shocked, and then I ask them to watch a class. When they do, they see the difference.

One high point in my teaching is when a student with learning issues makes a breakthrough and advances to the next technique or belt. Regular school sports just don’t have the time or care to take the time to develop these kids.

Another moment is when the teens or adults take the class, but have thoughts that maybe they are wasting their time.

However, when they see the value and the techniques to be learned, how they are applied and start enjoying the Art, it’s like winning in the fight against the “commercial belt factories” that have watered down and sold out my Art.


Mr. Roberts started TaeKwon-Do training on Dec. 7, 1978, under Mr. Duane Connett, at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois. One of the smaller children his age, he was part of the original TaeKwon-Do class when LLC first offered it. At that time, the demanding two-hour classes consisted mostly of adults, and the then-16 year-old Roberts was the youngest student in the class.

Other than doing missionary work in Haiti in 1981, he trained for three years without missing a class and practiced another two hours a day at home on top of that. Three years after his first lesson, he successfully tested for 1st-degree Black Belt in TaeKwon-Do under Mr. Phil Minton of Terre Haute, Ind., in 1981. During that time, he also attained a brown belt in ShudoKan Karate under Mr. Terry McConnell. He has competed in many tournaments and placed in many divisions.

In 1983, Mr. Roberts tested for 2nd-degree Black Belt under Master Yong Duk Choi, earning additional degrees in 1985 and 1988. He reaffirmed his 4th-degree Black Belt in a test led by Grand Master Han Min Kyo in 2007. More than 30 years since his first class, he passed his test for 5th-degree Black Belt in Springfield, Mo., under a panel of judges in June 2010. The National Progressive Taekwondo Association (NPTA) awarded Mr. Roberts “Instructor of the Year” in 2009.

He teaches a Chang Hon style of TaeKwon-Do at Lake Land College TaeKwon-Do in Mattoon Illinois & Fighting Tigers TaeKwon-Do in Charleston Illinois.

He is also the Director and co-founder of the Kyumson TaeKwonDo Alliance. This is a new organization and his hope and mission is to help TaeKwonDo instructors find their way back to the more traditional Art: uniting TaeKwonDo to train together as one Art.



  1. Sabrina 8 Dec 2013 | reply

    I’m glad you’re my teacher Master Roberts! I couldn’t ask for anyone better to teach me everything I know about TaeKwonDo ^^ *bows* Thank you, sir!

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