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Isshinryu Karate Academy

Hanshi William H. Duessel

Hanshi William H. Duessel

Hanshi William H. Duessel’s life and legacy are a testament to the idea of living a life of dignity and purpose. He was a loyal husband, a beloved father, a valued friend, and a renowned and respected Master of Isshinryu Karate. In essence, there are many people alive today that are better for having known Hanshi William H. Duessel. For those who do not understand the terminology associated with the martial arts the word “Hanshi” means teacher of teachers and Hanshi William H. Duessel embodied this title in the way in which he chose to live his life.

Hanshi William H. Duessel, who was honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps in 1946, he began his career in the martial arts during a brief exposure to Jujitsu and Shotokan Karate in 1957, he later began his formal training in Isshinryu Karate under Harry G. Smith in 1962. However, it is was in 1964 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania at the age of 37 that he was afforded a life altering opportunity to train extensively for three months with Master Tatsuo Shimabuku, the founder of Isshinryu Karate. At the conclusion of this training period, the founder of Isshinryu Karate personally promoted Hanshi William H. Duessel to Sho-Dan (First Degree Black Belt).

Following his promotion to black belt, Hanshi William H. Duessel continued to develop as a martial artist and in 1970 he and his life-long friend and student, Charles A. Wallace, opened the Academy of Isshinryu Karate, one of the first recognized Karate dojos in Pittsburgh history. At the dojo’s peak in 1975, the school had an active enrollment of over 500 students and it rose to national prominence as the school was universally recognized as one of the largest Karate dojos in the country. Hanshi William H. Duessel and Charles A. Wallace were responsible for much of that growth as they were both active as full-time instructors within the dojo throughout the 1970’s. Subsequently, by the end of the 1970’s the national interest in Karate began to wane and the Pittsburgh dojo’s enrollment began to decline. As a result, Hanshi William H. Duessel was forced to reorganize and relocate his dojo within a local YMCA where it remained for the next 13 years before ultimately relocating in 1993 to a new permanent location in Greentree, PA.

In 1990, Hanshi William H. Duessel was awarded the formal title “Hanshi” when he was promoted to Ku-Dan, 9th degree black belt by the president of the Isshinryu World Karate Association (IWKA), Kichiro Shimabuku, 10th Dan and the son of Isshinryu founder Tatsuo Shimabuku. With this promotion, Hanshi William H. Duessel became the highest-ranking practitioner of Isshinryu Karate in the United States within the Isshinryu World Karate Association and second world wide only to Kichiro Shimabuku in Okinawa Japan. Throughout the 1990’s Hanshi William H. Duessel rose to national prominence and was featured in several publications including Who’s Who in Isshinryu Karate, and Inside Karate Magazine where he was the featured master within that publication. During this period he also conducted several individual seminars along side notable Karate masters including, Osamu Ozawa (8th Dan) and Fumio Demura (7th Dan). In addition, as the highest ranking IWKA instructor in the United Sates, Hanshi William H. Duessel continued to promote Isshinryu Karate nationally by teaching seminars and developing long-term relationships with students within Isshinryu dojo’s in New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, Texas. Nevada, and Maine.

For the remainder of the 1990’s and well into the 2000’s Hanshi William H. Duessel tirelessly promoted Isshinryu Karate in multiple ways, including the development of two comprehensive training videos where he performed the open-hand and weapons katas of Isshinryu Karate at the age of 69. These VHS videos were later remastered for improved picture quality and subsequently released on DVD. Additionally, in 2004 Hanshi William H. Duessel became an accomplished author when he and one of his senior students, Don Washabaugh, collaborated on and later published the book Beyond Black Belt – How to Improve Your Karate Training. This seminal work garnered national success within the Isshinryu community as it explicates Hanshi William H. Duessel’s personal philosophy as it relates to Karate training, teaching, and martial development. Following the success of this initial version, a second edition of this book was later published in early 2014.

As an active leader within the Isshinryu community, Hanshi William H. Duessel made the city of Pittsburgh the central focus of the Isshinryu world on three separate occasions when he co-hosted the IWKA Isshinryu World Karate Championships in 1985, 1992, and 2009. In 2007, Kichiro Shimabuku gave Hanshi William H. Duessel the nickname “Mr. Isshinryu” in a personally signed letter of appreciation due to his unwavering loyalty and his tireless promotion of Isshinryu Karate and the Isshinryu World Karate Association throughout United States.

Hanshi William H. Duessel has enjoyed a lifetime in the martial arts, which included two trips to Okinawa where he was the last American to train with Isshinryu founder Tatsuo Shimabuku before his death in 1974. In August of 2013, Hanshi William H. Duessel received the highest honor anyone could achieve within the martial arts when Kichiro Shimabuku, president of the Isshinryu World Karate Association (IWKA), promoted him to Ju-Dan (10th degree black belt). As a result, William H. Duessel became the first and only American to be promoted to a 10th degree belt through the Okinawa based Isshinryu World Karate Association, a feat that may never be duplicated.

Hanshi William H. Duessel passed away on August 15, 2014 due to respiratory complications brought on by pneumonia. He was a beloved pioneer of Isshinryu Karate in the United States who influenced and inspired thousands of people to be the best they can be as Karate practitioners and as people. He often used his experiences with Karate as a metaphor for life by saying things like, “Posture is of the utmost importance…. you must stand straight and tall.” We know that his legacy stands tall and it will always remain everlasting as it continues to live on in the hearts and minds of his family, friends, and students as we strive to honor his memory. We ask that the city of Pittsburgh and the larger martial arts community join together in celebrating the life and legacy of Hanshi William H. Duessel.

Hanshi you will always be loved, respected, and never forgotten.
Thank you for all that you have given us, your life and legacy is, and will always remain an inspiration to us all.

With love and my deepest respect,
Your humble student,
Kevin B. Kumpf, PhD, NCC, ACS, LPC
Fifth Degree Black Belt
Isshinryu Karate (Renshi-Go)
Isshinryu World Karate Association (IWKA #15496)

Author’s Note: Listed below is a brief summary of Hanshi William H. Duessel’s noteworthy martial arts awards and accomplishments:

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