Memorial to 3rd Degree Black Belt Mr. David Curtis

His story in the martial arts -- from my perspective -- Master Erik Kluzek


Mr. David Curtis was the main instructor over the Basement TKD classes, until he passed away on January 21st, 2008. Mr Curtis was a 3rd Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do Chung Do Kwan Schools (TCS). He trained for seven years in California before moving to Colorado. He trained in the martial arts for 14 years. He also trained for 5 years in Kung Fu. He was certified in first aid, CPR and AED by the American Heart Association. Mr Curtis completed Black Belt Leadership Academy 2006, an intensive one-day course in martial arts instruction.

Mr Curtis always put his utmost energy into his classes. He was an extremely dedicated student and always put his entire effort when demonstrating techniques for students. At the same time he was very patient, compassionate and understanding working with beginners.

Mountain View TKD

David started his martial arts training at the Mountain View School of Tae Kwon Do in Mountain View California in 1994. He trained under Master Mike Conboy, and after years of consistent training and hard-work he earned his first degree black belt from the Chung Do Kwan Alliance in Sep. 23, 2000, under 7th Degree Master Don Richardson of Flagstaff AZ.

Move to Colorado -- UCAR TKD

Soon afterwords, in 2001, David moved to Colorado, where he connected with my class UCAR TKDwhich was being taught at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). He came to the evening classes as often as he could which was very consistent. I was impressed with his ability, power and commitment. He worked hard and always tried to learn and do better. Sometimes Black Belts forget that they are students too and forget to work and develop. Not David, he worked hard at keeping his skill up as well as learning more both physically and mentally.

In March 2004 he tested to his 2nd Degree Black Belt, from Tae Kwon Do Chung Do Kwan Schools under 9th Degree Grandmaster Dong Hoon Kim in Tucson Arizona. I was fortunate to watch and participate in his test, and was very proud of his work and accomplishment.

Basement TKD

In November of 2004 Dave started new classes in his basement -- basement-TKD. He started teaching a few friends and work colleagues and had a small -- but very enthusiastic -- group of students. His first student was his sweetheart Sandy Priest. David did a very good job with his students, he paid close attention to them, and helped them to improve. Sometimes martial artists teach -- in order to show-off to students. But David put the students needs first. He was patient and careful with them and didn't overwhelm them (Sandy interjects that this wasn't the case when free-sparring! ;-) But, as a fellow instructor I'm sure this was helping students to do more than they thought they could.)). He was also encouraging and helpful. One way to judge an instructor is to look at their students -- and David's students are all fine upcoming martial artists. Pictures a test of of one of his students Swasti testing to yellow belt test from December 2005 are here.

Colorado Blue Wave Martial Arts

In Sept 2005 he became one of the five founding members of Colorado Blue Wave Martial Arts, which is a non-profit organization for teaching the martial arts in Colorado. David wanted to teach -- to contribute to the community and to help -- not to make money. David was elected President by the board of directors. In November of 2007 he switched positions to Treasurer. David did a good job on the board and his opinion was listened to. He was also instrumental in helping and organizing COBWAMA Summer Camp 2006, as well as Rockies Kick 2007, and all of the seminars we had with Master Kim. He and Sandy became the "King and Queen of T-shirts" and designed and developed the T-shirts for all of our events. I have just loved the shirts they have done and was always impressed with their efforts in that regard.

Understanding the meaning of Black Belt

In our advanced curriculum I list attributes that Black Belts should strive for.

  • Solid: have a solid understanding and skill level in basic techniques and forms.
  • Dedicated: put forth dedicated effort and commitment to one's martial art training.
  • Independent: able to self-direct some aspects of their training.
  • Exemplary: good role models to other students.
  • Leader: able to lead other students effectively.
  • Seeker: actively seek to further their training and knowledge.
  • Humble: does not brag about abilities or seek attention to one's skill in an unseemly way.
  • Controlled: able to control their emotions and restrain from conflict if possible.
  • Indomitable Spirit: have strength of will that cannot be put down.
  • Faithful: comes to class regularly and consistently.
  • Patient: able to wait for results in personal training and in life.
  • Respectful: shows respect and courtesy to fellow students as well as instructors, other leaders and the art of Tae Kwon Do Chung Do Kwan itself.

David was exemplary in all of these attributes both in his dedication to the martial arts and in his personal life. One of the things I was especially impressed with is that he understood what it means to be a black-belt.

Getting sick and advancing to 3rd Dan

Before Rockies Kick 2007 David was already ill, and he wasn't able to participate much. But, he came, had a good attitude and took pictures of events as well as participating in the forms clinic, and in discussions. Shortly afterwards he had to have surgery, and a complication of the surgery was a blood-clot to his liver. The liver failed, and eventually the kidneys went into temporary failure, and the only way to save him was a liver-transplant. But he continued to have infection and wasn't able to qualify for a transplant. The doctors finally had nothing more they could do for him, and he was sent home with Hospice care on Thursday, January 17, to enjoy his last days in the comfort of his own home.

On January 18th 2008 he was advanced to 3rd Degree Black Belt. It was my utmost privilege and honor to give him his certificate and shake his hand in congratulations for this representing both Colorado Blue Wave Martial Arts and Tae Kwon Do Chung Do Kwan Schools. The required time for advancement from 2nd to 3rd is 3 years and David exceeded that by almost a year. Personally I wanted him to advance sooner and we talked about having him advance last November. Even though I felt he was ready -- he was reluctant to advance. But, he had worked hard on his forms, kept training, had started teaching students all of whom were doing excellent. I had just been looking through past pictures of David and found the different seminars he went to, and was impressed with his form and technique. In a critique I did of his forms in 2005 I said

"Good power, speed, focus. Good eye focus. Good focus, power and speed within techniques. Nice, snap with sang-soo".

So although the official certificate will have to say "Honorary" (because he was unable to do the physical requirements) -- in my mind and heart David was a full fledged and well deserving 3rd Degree Black Belt. And we congratulate him in spirit and rejoice in his achievement in Tae Kwon Do Chung Do Kwan.

I was honored to be able to make that presentation to David last Friday at his home -- before he passed away. I was again impressed with his character when he didn't want us to do that. I literally had to convince him he deserved it, and it was something I wanted for him long beforehand. I recently had a phone call from someone who wanted to become black belt as quick as possible. In contrast we have David who had high standards and lived as a black-belt -- not just around his waist -- but in his heart and mind as well; and did his best to fulfill those high standards and inspired those around him. After we shook hands (in good Korean martial form with his left hand under his elbow) at presenting him with his belt and certificate -- with tears in his eyes David said he was proud to be part of Chung Do Kwan. And David we are indeed all proud you have been part as well.

Comments from folks who knew and trained with David:

  • I enjoyed David's company at the training events or functions of karate. He could be tough with the martial arts, and then have a quiet and composed demeanor afterwards or have a good laugh. I had many good conversations with him, but what I liked most about David was the importance of family to him.

    David brought an instant smile of continuity and camaraderie when he arrived at Mr Rich's (Master Don Richardson of Flagstaf AZ) camps or some of the other places. Now this; it's so sad.

    My condolences to the family he cherished and his colleagues who enjoyed his friendship.


  • David was a wonderful and gentle spirit whose company we both truly enjoyed.

    -Rod and Lisa

  • I remember last year when we had the big snowfall. We couldn't get the car out of the garage and I was just getting over rotator cuff surgery. David, Joe and Sandy showed up with snow shovels and cleaned off my driveway and walk of about 2.5 ft of snow - without being asked. He just wanted to be of service.

    I miss him greatly.

  • He was a great student, instructor and friend.

  • I want to send my feelings, condolescences, to the family.

    It was an honour to meet David, learn and train with him.

    I want to mention that the number 18, the day he was advanced, means "life" in the antique bible writing. Maybe this coincidence just symbolizes that we will always remember him as a human being and as a warrior.

    In mutual friendship. Dorita

  • ...anyone who had the honor and pleasure of working with him and training under him, knew well his deservedness. I truly enjoyed his leadership, thoughtfulness, and most of all his friendship. He was a true and faithful friend.

    David, my friend, you are and will be missed greatly!!!


  • It was great for me to have David as a teacher and group mate every time we trained together.

    He is a fighter.

    I will always remember how he answered to you when you asked what does it mean to become a black belt: He said it means to become a beginner, only then you start the true way, the understanding.

    Please, I do not know where to send this, let them know that from the Holy Land I am thinking about him and that his soul will always be around.


  • He was an intense competitive warrior when it comes to the martial arts, yet he was also an excellent, patient, and skilled instructor. Even more importantly, he had a huge, gentle, and generous heart and has been a wonderful friend to many.


  • We're very sad about David, but we're sure it is was a great fortune to be able be at home and with his loved ones before he passed. There are many battles throughout all our lives, but at the end of our time here there simply can be no battle, and truly we find eternal peace. We both recall with admiration and fondness, David's leadership and camaraderie to us, and wish him both strength and serenity to prepare for the coming change.

  • We were David's tae kwon do schoolmates in Mountain View, CA. From day one, when David, Joseph and Lynn walked into the dojo, David was giving it all - being a very attentive, intelligent, remarkably self-driven, disciplined, supportive and unreserved student and friend. His advancement and enlightment in the art was second only to his natural humility. The memories we have of training, camping and riding bikes with him will stay with us for as long as we live.

    Jenya and Jena

Pictures of David

Video Memorial

Tribute to 3rd Degree Black Belt Mr. David Curtis from Colorado Blue Wave Martial Arts on Vimeo.

Sandy receives his 3rd Degree Black Belt Certificate

Helping with Student Testing -- (Sep 2006)

COBWAMA Summer Camp at Outdoor Wilderness Adventure Camp -- (August 2006)

Testing out glasses

Training Outside

Goofing Around Inside

Challenge in the Pines Training Seminar -- (Jun 2005?)

(photo courtesy of Master Lou Blazquez)

Advancement to 2nd Dan -- (March 2004)


1 Step sparring

Free sparring


Multi-opponent sparring

Group Shots

How to contribute to his memory.

With David's ordeal in the Hospital, it brings home to me the importance of staying healthy, checking in with the Doctor regularly, giving blood, and also being an organ donor.

Stay healthy

Although we can't say if David's condition could have been prevented earlier -- we can say that having the doctor check you out and having regular testing done -- is a good thing. David also stayed healthy with his martial art training -- which helped but no one thing will cure everything. Eat right, take supplements, exercise, and see the doctors you need to.

Give Blood

David's condition also brings home the need to give blood. David went through gallons of donated blood through his ordeal -- and it underlines the critical need there is to donate blood to folks. Bonfils is a non-profit organization that helps people give blood in Colorado.

Become an organ donor

Finally, although David wasn't able to take advantage of an organ donation of a liver -- other folks would be able to. Simply by donating organs after your death -- you could save someone that others care for as much as David. Consider checking a yes for organ donation on on your driver licence and let your loved ones know you'd like to do so. More information on organ donation is available from Donate Life America.

The COBWAMA David Curtis Memorial Scholarship fund

We have started a scholarship program to help pay for students in need. See Scholarship Program for more information.

Contribute memories

If you have memories, pictures, thoughts, or even corrections that you would like to contribute to this web-site contact Master Erik Kluzek at

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