Michael began his martial arts career in 1963 at Kim Studio in Silver Spring, Maryland. The first twenty years of skills that formulated his knowledge came directly from Mr. Kim and his influence. Even today, the forms, Tang-soo-do and Aikido that Mr. Kim taught in his second-floor studio, carried him to heights that Michael was sure he would be proud of. The dynamic kicking and fighting style that Mr. Kim taught Michael fifty years ago, has become the foundation of Kinney Karate. Michael’s father passed away in late 1964, and his mother arranged for him to take lessons from one of Mr. Kim's Black Belts at the YMCA who offered classes at a lower cost. She was working three jobs to make ends meet. In some ways, this was a blessing and a curse to him. Michael never got his Black Belt rank from Mr. Kim, but he always said I never would have gotten to the unbelievable place I was at if it hadn't been for the vision of the rebel Black Belt, Dale Tompkins. He had broken away from Kim Studio and taken me under his wing for the ride of my life. Major changes were happening in the martial arts in America. I had stepped into the middle of the Golden Age of the Martial Arts.
Michael Kinney received his Black Belt in 1969. He had been a Brown Belt for four years due to the fact that there was no such thing as a "junior" Black Belt. He had to wait until he was eighteen to be promoted to Black Belt, which was a good thing. Michael became the FIRST Black Belt in his new school started by the man who had “kidnapped him” from Mr. Kim. His new master named the school TKA (The Tang Soo Do Karate Association). Michael became the chief Black Belt instructor of this new school. TKA grew to over 50 locations with over 2,000 students by 1975. They were the first school to contract into recreation centers and school gymnasiums. They brought martial arts into small communities, but on a large scale, which was incredibly unique. Before TKA, it was rare to see children and women in the martial arts. This was a groundbreaking school that introduced family-style martial arts into suburbia for the first time.
After Michael graduated from Spring brook High School, he began college at the University of Maryland. That year, he also opened a studio in Adelphi, near the campus, with his instructor, Dale Tompkins. Over the next 8 years, the huge base of instructors that he produced would lead TKA into the future. Today, scores of Black Belts that he trained as kids are teaching thousands of students in their own schools in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area and around the country.
During the growth of the school, Michael was also an active competitor and was training other instructors and students to be competitors to represent their school. They were highly successful with hundreds of competitors throughout the East Coast. Michael also coached and fought on a school team that represented Washington DC. No one was doing this at the time. He was also well known as a breaking competitor. Michael’s school also sponsored the Eastern Regional Karate Championship. One of the first large annual open tournaments starting in 1970 that is still running today. Michael and the school also sponsored an annual Karate Camp with over 500 campers. The first camp was held at Buffalo Gap in West Virginia in 1968.
The amazing size of TKA resulted in hundreds of thousands of students participating in this visionary program. They taught celebrities, politicians, athletes, diplomats, writers, newscasters, professors, government agents, and their families. The area had an abundance of activity. Michael Kinney’s mother had remarried, and after 40 years, retired to Florida. Michael's wife and he decided to make a lifestyle change. In November 1980, they headed to St. Petersburg, Florida, and the adventure in the south began. Kinney Karate was created.