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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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David Schmitt, internationally recognized master of Tang Soo Do

SCHMITT, David (Dubuque, IA, Mar. 14, 1947-- ). Renowned martial arts expert (7th Degree Dan) of Tang Soo Do. In 1966 while a member of the United States Army, Schmitt joined the Ft. Sam Houston Tang Soo Do Karate Club under the instruction of Mr. Amos Judd, a 2nd degree black belt in Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan. The following year, he was promoted to an assistant hand-to-hand combat instructor for Special Forces troops (Green Berets).

Returning to Iowa in 1970, Schmitt opened the DUBUQUE KARATE CLUB located at 527 W. 8th, the first karate school in Dubuque and one of the first in Iowa. The same year he opened the first karate school at the University of Wisconsin - Platteville. This was one of the first karate schools opened in that state.

In 1973, Schmitt began teaching Tang Soo Do full time and introduced the first all women's martial arts and self-defense program the following year. In 1975, he founded the American Tang Soo Do Karate Institute (ATKI) to identify all studios that opened under the instruction of Master Schmitt or one of his Black Belts. The same year, Schmitt hosted the first Midwest Tang Soo Do Open Karate Championship in Dubuque, Iowa. This tournament became one of the largest karate championships held in Iowa. He also started the first all-kids karate program.

Schmitt continued his own growth in karate. In 1980 he became a certified judge with the PKA (Professional Karate Association) for full-contact karate matches. He also trained full contact fighters and co-sponsored several PKA sanctioned full-contact fights held at the FIVE FLAGS CIVIC CENTER. In 1990 he joined the World Tang Soo Do Association (WTSDA). This allowed him to continue his training under the instruction of Grand Master J.C. Shin, 8th degree Black Belt and founder of the WTSDA. Master Schmitt became one of the ten highest-ranking Masters in the WSTDA.

Schmitt’s commitment to the sport led to increased responsibility. In 1991 he was appointed Region 3 director of the WTSDA and a member of the WTSDA board of directors. His responsibilities included the promotion of all black belts in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

In 1993, he was promoted to the rank of Oh Dan, 5th Degree Black Belt, "Sunnim Sabumnim" (Senior Master Instructor). The same year, Schmitt was selected by Grandmaster J.C. Shin to represent the World Tang Soo Do Association as a United States Delegate and member of the 1993 WTSDA China/Korea team. The team of six members accompanied Grandmaster Shin to Korea and China on a 15-day martial arts tour. One of his highlights was their visit to the Shaolin Temple where the team performed for the Shaolin fighting monks and had the honor of watching the monks perform for them in front of the Shaolin Temple.

Schmitt won high respect in the world of Tang Soo Do. In 1998 at a special awards ceremony, he was presented the 30 year plus award from Grandmaster J.C. Shin in a special ceremony dedicated to those who had dedicated 30 years or more of their life to training and teaching the art of Tang Soo Do. In 2000 at the World Tang Soo Do Association Championships held at the Convention Center in Orlando, Florida in the presence of over 2000 spectators, he was promoted to the rank of Yuk Dan, 6th Degree Black Belt, "Kook Jae Sabumnim" (International Master Instructor). He was a certified world-class judge for the World Tang Soo Do Association.

Master Schmitt opened 11 ATKI schools, trained and coached competition teams for over 35 years, and was one of the first promoters of team matches in karate tournaments in the Midwest. He promoted the first Iowa vs. Wisconsin and Iowa vs. Minnesota team matches with top rated fighters from all three states competing.

In July, 2010 Master Schmitt was officially promoted and knighted to the rank of 7th degree black belt at the World Tang Soo Do Association world championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. In becoming only the fourth 7th degree black belt in the WTSDA, Schmitt had to pass a two-year test and a final exam at a Masters clinic at the University of North Alabama including a five-hour skill exam and writing a 20,000-word essay.