In l973, Harold Long and other leaders of Isshin-Ryu visited Master Shimabuku on Okinawa. During this visit, Mr. Long talked at length with Master Shimabuku about forming a new Isshin-Ryu organization, headquartered in the U.S. Upon returning, Master Long sought input from the other leaders who would become the original board, and in 1974 a new organization, the International Isshin-Ryu Karate Association (I.I.K.A.), was founded. The original Board of Directors included Harold Long, Harold Mitchum, John Bartusevics, Ed Johnson, Don Bohan, Harry Acklin, and Tom Lewis. Other board seats were held for Don Nagle, Steve Armstrong, and Jim Advincula, who were not in attendance. At the conceptual meeting of Isshin-Ryu black belts from around the U.S. in 1974, at the Ramada Inn, in Knoxville, TN, Harold Mitchum nominated Harold Long to be the association’s first president, and the board unanimously agreed. The term was to be a lifetime appointment. The entire board was never fully assembled, and it proved too hard to get board members together because of distance. The result was that about one year later, in l975, the I.I.K.A. was reorganized, including more ranking Black Belters in Tennessee - Glen Webb, Denny Shaffer, Cas Cox, Allan Wheeler, Tommy True, Phil McElroy, George Chilton, JC Burris - with Harold Long remaining as President. A geographically closer board could better share responsibility of operating the large organization that the I.I.K.A. was becoming.
(Left to Right)
Front: Butch Chilton, Maurice Msarsa, Tommy True, Allan Wheeler, Phil McElroy
Back: Harold Long, Roy Vaughn, Jim McDonald, JC Burris, Denny Shaffer, Jimbo Butler
Early I.I.K.A. board meeting in Nashville, TN around 1979
It was Mr. Long’s original goal to unite all of Isshin-Ryu Karate under one association; therefore, uniting Isshin-Ryu became the major purpose listed in the I.I.K.A. constitution. The constitution has since been changed to reflect the widespread growth of Isshin-Ryu. A number of Isshin-Ryu organizations exist today, many of which are doing an excellent job of promoting Isshin-Ryu karate, and others, unfortunately, exist exclusively to promote an individual or an agenda. The I.I.K.A. leadership recognizes that the Isshin-Ryu world is too large and too diverse to ever be united under one organization, so our primary purposes have become to offer leadership to our members through instruction and activities, to authenticate rank, and to regulate rank as it applies to I.I.K.A. members. The I.I.K.A. continues to strive toward friendship and cooperation with all other valid practitioners of the "way of one heart."
Presently, the I.I.K.A. is led by Chairman J.C. Burris. The chairmanship was passed to Mr. Burris along with a 9th Dan ranking by Harold Long in February, 1988. Mr. Long announced his pending retirement and that Mr. Burris would assume his role of leadership in Isshin-Ryu. In 1992, Mr. Long and Mr. Don Nagle united to announce both their retirements, and to jointly appoint J.C. Burris of the I.I.K.A., along with Mr. Nagle’s students, Toby Cooling of the Order of Isshin-Ryu and Joel Buchholtz of Nagle’s A.O.K.A., to cooperate with one another in leading these organizations as they joined together. In 1997, Mr. Long gave a 10th Dan ranking to Mr. Burris, along with a letter designating Mr. Burris to be his successor. Again, just before his death in 1998, Mr. Long affirmed his appointment of Mr. Burris with yet another rank certificate for Ju-Dan dated September 23, 1998. On this same date, just before his death, Mr. Long also signed a number of other diplomas of high rank: three other 10th Dans, three 9th Dans, as well as several Hanshi certificates and various other rank designations.
The I.I.K.A. is known by everyone in the Isshin-Ryu world and regarded highly. The I.I.K.A. has awarded high rank certificates to many leaders in Isshin-Ryu, among them Founder Harold Long, Don Nagle, Harold Mitchum, Toby Cooling, Phillip McElroy, Tommy True, Maurice Msarsa, and Chairman J.C. Burris. The I.I.K.A. was the premier Isshin-Ryu Karate association for many years. Practically all of the early pioneers of Isshin-Ryu were once members. The intent was to involve every Isshin-Ryu practitioner. Other early members were Cas Cox, Glen Webb, Dennis Fink, Allen Wheeler, Ronnie Barkoot, John Nichols, Albert Mady, Pete Mills, George Iberl, William Duessel, and far too many more to list. The American Okinawan Karate Association (A.O.K.A.) had split into factions, neither of which was very active at the time. Kichero Shimabuku was starting his new Isshin-Ryu World Karate Association (I.W.K.A.). The I.I.K.A. set in motion the Isshin-Ryu Hall of Fame in l979, which is no longer an I.I.K.A. activity, but which continues to be the single best effort to bring unity to the Isshin-Ryu world. The I.I.K.A. sanctioned the Harold Long book series and video series on Isshin-Ryu. The board of directors is dedicated to maintaining the viability and integrity of the association and promoting good Isshin-Ryu Karate within the association. New members who are bonafied practitioners of Isshin-Ryu and who are willing to practice within the standards set out in the I.I.K.A. constitution are welcome.