Tang Soo Do

What is American Tang Soo Do?

Tang Soo Do is a “hard style” martial art developed in Korea in the early and mid 1900’s. Primary emphasis is on stand-up fighting-striking with a variety of hand techniques and kicks with knees and elbows used also. Less emphasis is placed on grappling. Its roots are primarily traditional Korean martial arts with influence from Northern China and Okinawa. Grandmaster James Cummings studied Tang Soo Do under the founder of Tang Soo Do, Grandmaster Hwang Kee, and received his first degree Black Belt from him in Korea and then started teaching in the United States. As Grandmaster Cummings and other TKA black belts have adapted techniques from other styles, our style has evolved into what we now call American Tang Soo Do.

American Tang Soo Do Logo
Tang Soo Do Grandmasters


Grandmaster Clarence “Daddy-O” Smith (Center)

Grandmaster Johnny Thompson (Right)

Grandmaster Tom Balmos (Left)

Tang Soo Do Karate Association

Visit the official website of the Tang Soo Do Karate Association (TKA).  Members practice the style of American Tang Soo Do, as it was brought over from Korea by Grandmaster James Cummings Jr, and passed down to our current Grandmaster council.

TKA Logo

How long does it take to earn a black belt?

There is really no fixed answer to that question. It simply takes as long as it takes. For some, it may take four years, while for others it may take 10 years. Because the study of martial arts is a personal journey, the level of effort and dedication you put into your training will have a direct impact on your progress. Most of our affiliated schools, called dojangs in Korean, hold class at least twice each week. If you simply attend class and practice only during class, you can expect to reach Black Belt level in about 10 years (maybe). You are expected to train at least a little bit every day on your own. Besides the instruction given in class, you will find that when you apply what you’ve been taught, you will make some discoveries on your own. That is when true learning occurs. Your instructor is merely a guide in your journey. The actual process of learning is something that you will accomplish on your own.

What are the qualifications for TKA instructors?

The head instructors at all TKA schools are required to be certified as “Senior Instructors”. The minimum requirement to be a senior instructor is to be a second degree (or higher) black belt with a minimum of 300 instructor hours. First-degree black belts with at least 50 hours of instruction time teaching under a senior instructor can be certified as an “Associate Instructor” and can run classes on their own, but not operate their own school. Senior and Associate instructors must also prepare lesson plans and teach classes using those lesson plans while being evaluated by a fourth-degree or higher black belt.

As a further quality control measure, at least three “Senior Instructors” with at least one being a third-degree or higher black belt must make up the promotion board for all colored belt promotions. Black belt promotion examinations are normally held once per year under the supervision of the TKA Executive Council.

Doesn’t teaching martial arts to kids promote violence?

The answer is an emphatic NO! American Tang Soo Do is like any other skill; it is not inherently good or evil. It depends on how people utilize a skill that makes it good or evil. The study of American Tang Soo Do requires discipline. TKA instructors impose external discipline in the dojang to help students develop self-discipline. TKA students who pick fights or demonstrate other discipline problems, in or out of class, are suspended or barred from training. Our training can actually help decrease violence. As students increase their skills and physical fitness, they display more confidence and are more aware of potential dangers; both decrease the likelihood of a physical confrontation.

What belt colors does the TKA use and what do they signify?

We have 10 formal levels before Black Belt. These levels are called gup levels. The Black Belt levels are referred to as the Dan levels. The gup and Dan levels along with their respective belt colors are presented below:

LevelBelt ColorRank
BeginnerWhite Belt
White I Belt
White II Belt
White III Belt

Orange Belt
Orange I Belt
Orange II Belt

10th Gup
10th Gup
10th Gup
10th Gup

9th Gup
8th Gup
7th Gup

IntermediateGreen Belt
Green I Belt
Green II Belt
6th Gup
5th Gup
4th Gup
AdvancedRed Belt
Red I Belt
Red II Belt
3rd Gup
2nd Gup
1st Gup
ExpertBlack Belt
1st Degree
2nd Degree
3rd Degree
Ea dan
MasterBlack Belt w/ Red Stripe
4th Degree
5th Degree
6th Degree
7th Degree
8th Degree
9th Degree
10th Degree