Keshia Richmond: Oh Do Kwon Tae Kwon Do℠
Keshia is what so many of us aspire to be- a true entrepreneur, and it’s no wonder she’s successful. Her charismatic laugh, and confidence sparkle even just over my laptop speakers. Having recently taken over complete responsibility for her father’s business, and his legacy, Keshia uses her business savvy and her passion to bring martial arts out of the dojo and into the streets.
Dylan: So you’re living in Dallas now?
Keshia: I am. But I’m from New York actually, and I have been here for about a year and a half. So I’m just kind of getting adjusted to being in the South.
Dylan: Yeah, it’s pretty different. I’ve been to New York a few times.
Keshia: It’s definitely a culture shock. It takes a bit of time to get used to. I also feel like I was so a bill of goods that I did not receive- in terms of the weather is great, and there’s actually a winter.
Dylan: [laughs] There’s no winter here!
Keshia: Maybe you have two seasons. You can put on a jacket.
Dylan: What brought you to Texas in the first place?
Keshia: Well, I have family here, and they always said, you know, Texas is great, and I came here for a birthday party and I ended up staying. So we’ll see.
Dylan: So you’re living in Dallas, but you’re running the business- is it in New York or is it in Virginia?
Keshia: The business is actually in Virginia. I was born in Virginia. My parents were born and raised in Virginia. They got divorced when I was 8 years old. And after I was born my father started becoming proficient and having an extreme interest in martial arts. But I moved to New York at 8 years old, and then my father died. And he actually left the business to myself and his other two children. And so last year, I actually negotiated with the other heirs for me to be the sole beneficiary of all his business assets, so I’m back and forth between here and Virginia.
“I really had to defend myself walking to and from school- it was just very harsh living conditions.”
Dylan: Wow. That’s such an interesting story. So did you do any martial arts with your father growing up?
Keshia: Yeah. So actually growing up when me and my sister were toddlers, he would use us both as weights- you know how a man would normally do a curl with barbells? He would use me and my sister. And then he would also train us in our backyard. He made like punching bags and attached them to our swing set.
Every summer that we were there, I trained with my dad. And that really prepared me because when I got to New York in the 80’s, it was very very tough. And I really had to defend myself walking to and from school- it was just very harsh living conditions. I have tons of stories regarding that, but in short- yes, my father did train me.
Dylan: What got him interested in martial arts to begin with?
Keshia: It was just something that just was ever since I can remember. All his first cousins who live nearby are all martial arts trained- like one of his first cousins actually tried out for the Olympics. We kind of had a martial arts family. And in New York at the same time, martial arts was all that was on TV. So from 11AM to 3PM you are only gonna be watching Bruce Lee and ‘Enter the Dragon’ which had a big influence on our community at that time, which is even evident to this day.
Actually, when I asked my mom, “Why did Dad get involved in martial arts?” She said that he went into the military- the National Guard, and when he came back he was really really into it. And I have to mention- my dad only had one leg. He lost a leg in a workplace accident. That was in like… 1975. So from 1975 until his death he practiced martial arts with just one leg.
Dylan: Wow. So he’s like really tough. That’s a cool guy right there.
Keshia: I think so.
Dylan: So you take over the business. And you’re living in New York at the time, so you’ve pretty much always run it from out of state.
Keshia: Right. So being the sole beneficiary just happened this year, so the first thing I’m doing is the annual tournament. Since 2011 there’s been an annual tournament in my father’s name: The Grandmaster Roy Richmond Legacy Tournament. And so the first thing that I’ll be doing is taking that on and doing that tournament for 2020.
I was kind of sitting here thinking to myself “What am I doing?”
Dylan: So you’ve got people there helping you out I’m sure.
Keshia: Yes, absolutely.
Dylan: So kind of as the overseer- what kind of role do you play in that?
Keshia: Well, I’m the visionary. Of course- the CEO, the Owner, Operator. But my hands on experience is actually as tournament director. That’s hiring the actual martial arts blackbelts, the judges, people of that nature… making the tournament run smoothly…having the foresight to say what kind of classes will we offer after the tournament? Because that’s where we’ll make the announcement.
The closest thing I can give you to someone like me is Bruce Lee’s daughter. I was kind of sitting here thinking to myself “What am I doing?” Even though I am an award winning business woman- martial arts- I haven’t done that to the extent my father had. And then I read this article about Shannon Lee- Bruce Lee’s daughter. And she has a very very similar story, in that she studied with her father when she was young, and now doesn’t necessarily teach classes, but she’s in charge of licensing his name, the story of his own legacy. Which is essentially what I’m doing for my father. So that’s the friend in my head. The mentor in my heart. The one I’m looking to as the blueprint for carrying forth my father’s legacy.
Dylan: Yeah. So what kind of vision do you have for his legacy?
Keshia: My vision for his legacy is #1 to protect it. Because he built such a name for himself. Especially in that area. To make sure that the people in his immediate community remember him, know him, and truly know who his real legacy is- that would be me. And the people who he touched during his time on this planet. And that involves continuing to touch people and allow them to learn martial arts and also learning the business side of martial arts. And then also to do some Bruce Lee type of stuff- we can make short films; we can write books; there’s tons of stuff that my father did that as a benefactor of his legacy that I will be looking to expand and introduce to the world.
Dylan: That’s awesome. I have a couple of questions that are running through my mind. So you’ve got kids in college?
Dylan: Are they interested in the martial arts business? Do you see them continuing on with it after you get older?
Keshia: Actually my daughter is a professional softball player. So she’s really right now very focused on her career. That knowledge of sports and sports management will definitely be an asset when this gets passed onto her. My son is very interested in business and sales. This is something that I’m sure both of them in time will appreciate and pursue and carry on the legacy; it’s just that now- they have to make their own mark in the world, and bring some of that knowledge back to the family legacy.
“You can be a blackbelt in the dojo, and a white belt on the streets.”
Dylan: Right. Absolutely. My other question I was thinking of, we talked a lot about what martial arts meant to your father and how you envisioned carrying on his legacy, but how does martial arts fit into your life? What does it mean to you? I mean- you’re a businesswoman. You’re not a martial artist, professionally.
Keshia: No. I’m not a martial artist. But one of the things that my father did emphasize was martial arts as self-defense. One Grandmaster, Grandmaster Salim Abdullah in a Grandmasters of New York documentary, said, “You can be a blackbelt in the dojo, and a white belt on the streets.” You can be a college graduate, but when you get out- nothing. And so the way it affects me every day is the way I defend myself. So using self-defense, being aware- it affects me on a day to day basis.
Dylan: Yeah. That awareness.
Keshia: So even though I’m not a belted martial artist, it affects me on a day to day basis. Because the ultimate goal for a lot of people is to be able to use it outside of school.
Dylan: I love how passionate you are about it. When I think about martial arts, I really just think about 8 year old boys in karate class because their parents don’t know what else to do with them. And they’re not even really learning anything, they’re just getting belts because their parents paid for them. But it sounds like your business is really passionate about teaching real skills to anyone of any age and not buying into that stereotype that you see sometimes.
Keshia: Well, I did put my son in martial arts training. But those kids are there for discipline, self-respect, self-control, and focus. It can help. When I put my son in marital arts training, it was to help focus him. It was something I was having difficulty doing and something that was becoming obvious in school, and so he needed an outlet to let go of a lot of energy that he had. And at the same time, if you’re trying to get your child into it, you have to focus on what you’re trying to get out of martial arts. Is it discipline? Is it self-focus? Self-defense? Is it just a hobby? A sport? A career? A lot of things that a parent has to decide along with their child when they’re putting their child into martial arts.
Dylan: I just wonder how many people really think about their end goals.
Keshia: They really don’t. You really have to have a vision. And share that vision with your child.
“You really have to have a vision.”
Keshia: What most people don’t know is that your name and your likeness is a piece of property. Just like your house is a piece of property. Just like your car is a piece of property. So you have to protect your reputation, and you have to protect your name. Make a name for yourself.
Dylan: That’s a great concept. I always tell people that I’m slowly leveling up my name. My parents hyphenated names when me and my brother were born, so my maiden name was Eccles-Locke which is a big ol’ mouthful to go through life with. Then when I got married the first time it was just “Good” which was awesome because it was just four letters. And now I’m remarried, and now I’m King- which is still four letters, and a whole lot better.
Keshia: You bring up a good topic. You know, I was married and divorced, and for a long time I didn’t like my name. My teachers in school would be like, “Your mother didn’t spell your name correctly.” It’s too ethnic. Now I love it. When I got married, although the name I married- I took his name. One time I got pulled over and the cop was like, “Where did you get this name from?” Because it wasn’t a name that was typically associated with a person like me. [laughs]
But then I decided that if I get married again, I’m not changing my name. If I build my businesses and things around this one name, then I’ll be good.
Dylan: I appreciate hearing your story. It was so different from anyone I’ve talked to yet.
Keshia: I appreciate you having me!
Keshia’s father left her an impressive legacy, and now she is the owner of Oh Do Kwon Tae Kwon Do℠, Team Oh Do Kwon℠, Tazewell Tae Kwon Do℠, Tazewell Tae Kwon Do “Dawg” Pound℠, GM Roy Richmond℠ Legacy Tournament, Richmond’s Tae Kwon Do.