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From out of the midst of chaos and years of suppression of a people, the martial art known as Tang Soo Do was born and has since thrived into the present day. It can be argued that Tang Soo Do was a catalyst that served to provide a nation in turmoil with a cultural identity as was well as manifesting a new found sense of national pride.
During the many years of Japanese domination, the Korean citizenty was expressly forbidden to engage in the practice of Martial arts. As a result, many practitioners went "underground" with their training. Even with the promise of execution at the hands of the Japanese should they be caught, dedicated martial artists continued their practice, thus insuring their art would not die. Some ventured into China and Okinawa to escape capture and to continue practice of the arts unfettered. One such person was the founder of Tang Soo Do-Grandmaster Hwang Kee.
Although the Japanese forbade the practice of martial arts GM Hwang Kee continued to practice and teach in his native homeland. As a result he was arrested and sentenced to death. GM Hwang Kee managed to escape and sought refuge in northern China. While there, he studied he northern Chinese style of Gung Fu. Eventually, he migrated to the southern region of China and studied the martial arts indigenous to that area as well. It has been documented that GM Hwang Kee was a martial arts prodigy which facilitated his mastery of the Chinese martial arts. After the United States liberated the Koreans from Japanese occupation, Kee returned to his native homeland to pick up where he had left off before his dramatic escape years earlier.
In time, GM Hwang Kee established a successful martial arts program incorporating knowledge gained from studying abroad and was well regarded throughout Korea. In the mid 1950's, shortly after the Korean conflict which separated North and South Korea, the United States and South Korea sought to strengthen their relationship. In a gesture of goodwill the Koreans permitted United States Servicemen to train in their martial arts on a full time basis. The primary styles that were offered to US servicemen were Tae Kwon Do and Tang Soo Do.
A US soldier who was a part of the 8th Army and who has been credited with providing the inspiration that resulted in the creation of the Tang Soo Do Karate Association took advantage of the offer to learn Tang Soo Do. That person was GM James Cummings. Because of the opportunity presented, GM Cummings was able to earn his Black Belt in 13 months. This was unprecedented and caused some resentment among the native Korean practitioners. Most Koreans begin training in the martial arts at a very young age and continue throughout their life times. A Black Belt is not awarded in Korea until one has reached the age of 18-regardless of the number of years of practice. Still, GM Cummings was able to earn his Black Belt in record time because the Army permitted him, along with other servicemen, to train full time. GM Cummings was trained by Master Chun Cha Kyu during the week and on Saturdays he would be trained by GM Hwang Kee himself. Although GM Cummings trained primarily under the instruction of Master Chun, his Black Belt number was assigned personally by GM Hwang Kee. His belt number is 4493. That means that he was the 4493rd person to be promoted to Chodan by GM Hwang Kee. GM Cummings belt number is a relatively low number in the Tang Soo Do numbering system when you consider that there are now Tang Soo Do Black Belts who have a belt number that is in the 30,000's.
Grand Master James Cummings
After his retirement from the Army, GM Cummings moved to San Angelo Texas where he attended Angelo State University. While he attended college, he opened a dojang near Goodfellow Air Force Base. GM Cummings initially followed the bylaws of Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan as enumerated by GM Hwang Kee, however, after a period of time he protested the exorbitant fees that were charged by the Tang Soo Do headquarters in Korea. As a result, GM Cummings respectfully parted ways with the Tang soo Do Moo Duk Kwan establishment and set out to find his own WAY. He was subsequently labeled a "maverick" by the Tang Soo Do establishment. The ensuing years proved to be succesful for GM Cummings' dojang as a result of his pupils rigorous competition schedule throughout Texas and the Southwest. A number of his students were nationally ranked in fighting, weapons, and kata competition by Black Belt Magazine and Karate Illustrated. Among those who were nationally ranked was a young Air Force serviceman by the name of GM Johnny Thompson.
GM Thompson began his martial arts training at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida in 1975 under the instruction of Master Yong Su Gilroy. He subsequently moved to San Antonio Texas and continued his instruction under 5th degree Black Belt Jimmy Dupree. Thompson joined the Air Force in 1977 and was subsequently stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo Texas. While here he continued his training under the caring tutelage of GM Cummings at the Martial Arts Academy of San Angelo, Tx. GM Thompson successfully tested for his 1st degree Black Belt in 1980. Shortly thereafter, the Air Force reassigned him to San Antonio where he established his own dojang, Thompson's Karate Academy. In 1985, he was once again transferred-this time to Europe, where he stayed and taught martial arts until late 1987. Upon his return from the overseas area, GM Thompson reunited with some of his former pupils whom he had promoted to Black Belt. He immediately noted numerous deficiencies that he attributed to his lengthy absence and the lack of a support structure. He felt that something had to be implemented to insure the integrity of his martial art.
Grand Master Johnny Thompson
In early 1988 GM Thompson called his Black Belts together to discuss the creation of an association that would serve to provide guidance and support for our growing family of Black Belts. The Association was well received by the attending members and was christened as the Tang Soo Do Karate Association. With little fanfare the members of the new association set to work to structure and unify the discipline of Tang Soo Do as it had been taught by GM Cummings. Since 1988 the association has sponsored numerous workshops and team building events as well as creating an instructional manual for its students. To ensure that information is disseminated to its Black Belts alike were treated to a visit by GM Cummings for the association's annual Black Belt promotion test. Since that first visit, the association sponsors association has been truly blessed over the last decade. We expect even greater things in the future as we look for additional ways to improve and offer our students continued quality training.
Grand Master Johnny Thompson, Tom Balmos, and Clarence Smith