By Herb Borkland
Among other distinctions, cardio kickboxing and Impact Fitness entrepreneur Steve Doss grew up down the street from kickboxing pioneer Jim Harrison and knew pre-fame Chuck Norris. He trained with Bill Wallace at Elvis Presley’s legendary co-owned Tennessee Karate Institute and, in Corpus Christie, learned from pioneer karate champion Pat Burleson.
Herb Borkland: Where did you grow up, and what did your dad do?
Steve Doss: I grew up in Kansas City. Dad was a business man.
HB: How did you first hear about martial arts?
SD: Jim Harrison lived next door. His school was across the street from the high school I went to. He ran two floors: one for judo, the other for karate. Sparring was a bunch of men beating each other up and bleeding. Harrison’s [style of] kickboxing was holding up your hands like a boxer and jumping around.
I was a little scrawny guy and I was scared to death, but I took some classes. I never saw Jim, but I took karate from Steve Mackey. I met Chuck Norris when he just got back to the States and competed in Jim’s first tournament.
HB: Turning point?
SD: I joined the Navy in 1975 because I thought they’d send me to Japan to learn karate. It was the heyday of Bruce Lee movies, and everybody wanted to learn martial arts. But nobody knew them — except me. In boot camp, I was using hand combinations and kicks.
I went from [training with] Jim Harrison to Bill Wallace. We were stationed outside Memphis, and I’d trade watches so I could go take classes at the Tennessee Karate Institute founded by Bill Wallace, Patrick Wrenn, Elvis Presley and Red West. I trained there from November ’75 until May ’76.
Later, while in the Navy, I was stationed in Corpus Christie and worked out with Pat Burleson and Demetrius “The Golden Greek” Havanas. I had won state championships and was the number-one brown belt in Texas. But, that first night with the Greek, I went back to being a peon. I got my black belt from Demetrius. He’s the reason I stayed in martial arts.
When he died, I opened my own first Austin, Texas, school in 1984.
I was the guy that introduced cardio kickboxing. I did about a thousand seminars in most every city. By the way, the inventor wasn’t me, and it wasn’t (Tae Bo creator) Billy Blanks, either. It was a friend’s wife; she called it “Karobics.”
Ever since Jhoon Rhee invented musical forms [in 1975], they used music to do karate moves. One day, I was on a commercial flight, thinking that I could do the same thing with kickboxing. I was talking to some women and they were fascinated. One girl said, “Call it cardio kickboxing.” Yes!
So, I started classes and we were the sensation of Austin — cover of the newspaper, different locations cropped up, lines out the door. I gave seminars, did VHS training tapes and a marketing manual. Big international fad!
SD: Now I’m with World Kickboxing Champ Abel Villareal’s Karate Club. We do a 30-minute Impact Fitness workout, which is exactly what customers want, to tone and burn body mass.
Herb Borkland is a veteran black belt who can be contacted at [email protected]
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.
Fill in your information below and we'll get started on a growth plan for your school.