Grand Master James C. Cummings Jr. – April 22, 1939 – July 1, 2003
He was born April 22, 1939 and in 1955, at the age of 16, James “JC” Cummings, Jr. made the United States Army his home. A youthful Cummings saw the Army as a way out of a dead end environment in Ohio.
During the mid 1950’s the United States and South Korea sought to strengthen their relationship. As a good will gesture the Koreans permitted United States servicemen to train in martial arts on a full time basis. Grandmaster James Cummings was offered the opportunity to study Tang Soo Do while stationed in Korea with the US 8th Army. Grandmaster Cummings trained primarily under the instruction of Master Chun. Because he was allow to study full time he was able to receive his Black Belt in 13 months and, In October 1961, was personally assigned 4493 as his Chodan number by Grandmaster Hwang Kee.
Grandmaster Cummings retired for the US Army and moved to San Angelo, Texas. In San Angelo, he attended Angelo State University where he studied psychology. While attending ASU he opened his first martial arts school, holding some of the first classes in the back yard and garage of his home. He eventually became a probation officer for Tom Green County and opened The Martial Arts Academy.
His dojang became quite well know 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.
In the mid- 80’s, he relocated to Columbus, OH to be closer to family, While in Columbus, the Grandmaster counseled at risk children and opened a operated a home health maintenance business for the mentally and physically handicapped.
Through the 90’s GM Cummings returned to San Antonio, Texas each year in December to participate in his the Tang Soo Do Karate Association’s annual conference and black belt test. In the June of 2002 he permanently relocated to San Antonio, Texas and once again picked up the reins of instructor and mentor to the many students associated with TKA.
Grandmaster Cummings continued to study martial arts throughout his life. He received black belts in Tang Soo Do, Soo Bahk Do, Tae Kwon Do, and, at the time of his death, he was studying Kenpo. In December 2001 Grandmaster was promoted to the rank of 8th Dan.
On July 1, 2003, Grandmaster James “JC” Cummings, Jr. passed away at the Audie Murphy Veterans Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.
Martial Arts Academy
A Real Hero by Dan Walthers
Other than the occasional funny war story, Grand Master Cummings never spoke of his military service to others. Following Grand Masters death, I was one of those honored to put his household and belongings together for shipment back to his mother in Ohio. While going through his personal items, I discovered that James Cummings was a true hero.
James Cummings was a Combat Medic, While serving in Viet Nam as a combat medic, James received the following awards, (not necessarily in order of preference):
- Bronze Star
- Army Commendation Medal w/ bronze oak leaf and bronze “V”
- Meritorious Service Medal
- Army Good Conduct Medal
- National Defense Medal
- Vietnam Service Medal w/four bronze stars
- Republic of Vietnam Service Medal
- Army Presidential Unit Citation
James never spoke of his service and would probably be embarrassed to know his service has been presented here. It took his death for all of us to realize that not only was he a hero to us, he was a hero to many of our servicemen and women.
‘Grandmaster’ was Angelo Karate Pioneer – San Angelo Standard Times
By Rick Smith, Staff Writer
July 9, 2003
During his time, James ”JC” Cummings Jr. wore many hats: Welterweight boxer, Army paratrooper, Angelo State University student, Tom Green County probation officer.
But his many students remember him as ”Grandmaster,” the founder of the Tang Soo Do Karate Association and one of the first and finest martial arts instructors in San Angelo.
The martial arts expert held his first San Angelo karate classes in his back yard in the early 1960s, said former student George Howard. Before JC arrived, ”judo was the only thing we knew about,” George said. The karate instructor created an instant stir. ”He had people from all over the block just bring down chairs and watch. It was a very big thing.”
Later, JC founded his Martial Arts Academy on North Chadbourne Street. Tang Soo Do is a Korean form of karate. JC studied martial arts while in the military and perfected his technique over a lifetime of work. He never stopped learning. He earned his eighth-degree black belt in December 2001, at the age of 62.
George said JC was more than a mentor and teacher to his hundreds of students – he was a friend.
”No student was ever too young or old, too gifted or too unyielding to benefit from James’ teaching,” George wrote, in a eulogy to his teacher. ”He simply would not consider allowing any of the hundreds of students whose lives he touched each year to go away without some bit of knowledge, some shred of empowerment to make them a better martial artist – and a better person.”
In 1982, Standard-Times reporter Neil Landsman visited JC’s Martial Arts Academy.
”To Cummings, the martial arts are a way of living,” the reporter wrote. ”The discipline pertains to school, social and family life. At the academy in north San Angelo, self-defense is more than a karate chop, grunt and high kick. It’s a state of mind.”
That year, the academy’s students ranged in age from seven to 57. JC worked as a probation officer by day and taught at his academy at night.
During a 1985 interview, JC told another reporter that he enjoyed the sport because it emphasized internal strength, spirituality and it built self confidence.
”The thing I emphasize, especially with younger kids, is that martial arts is a way of life,” he told the reporter. ”We try to be an extension of the family and stress enrichment of life.”
George said JC left San Angelo in the mid-1980s. The grandmaster died July 1 at the VA Hospital in San Antonio following a brief illness. He was 64 years old. His Tang Soo Do Karate Association will hold a memorial for him on July 26 during a karate tournament at Glenn Junior High in San Angelo.
”James was as excited talking karate ‘shop’ with a 6-year-old brand-new white belt as he was with another grandmaster,” James wrote in his eulogy.
JC, he said, ”was a man of great dignity, strong in his beliefs and willing to let everyone and anyone into his inner circle.”
He made martial arts a way of life. And he made a difference.
Loosing a mentor by Frank H. Jakobs
“Loosing a mentor, honored teacher or friend; leads to feelings that are difficult at best to describe, most likely close to impossible to put down on paper. Today, July 1, 2003 marked the passing of Grandmaster James Cummings mentor to the chosen, honored teacher to hundreds, and friend to all who knew him. To summarize his life in a short paragraph would be futile, and best left to a professional writer. However, to describe a man that most of us have come to know like a grandfather and strong figurehead for our association of Martial Artists over the course of his life, is a task I’ll attempt here. No student was ever too young, or old, too gifted, or too unyielding to benefit from James’s teachings. He simply would not consider allowing any of the hundreds of students whose lives he touched each year to go away without some bit of knowledge, some shred of empowerment to make them a better martial artist, and a better person. To me personally, James was a man of great dignity, strong in his beliefs, and willing to let everyone and anyone into his inner circle. James was as excited talking Karate “shop” with a 6 year old brand new white belt as he was with another Grandmaster. From his seed, the tree of the Tang Soo Do Karate Association sprung so many years ago. I could write paragraph after paragraph describing the man, his love of the martial arts, his ever-present smile, and his continual quest for knowledge, but I’ll leave off here and perhaps allow others to add their own thoughts to this message. James Cummings, it was a pleasure to know you, and learn from you.
Life is a dream walking, death is going home.
Thank you from all of us at the Tang Soo Do Karate Association. You will not be forgotten!”