In 1973, Harold Long headed a group of Isshin-ryu practitioners who traveled to Okinawa to see Master Shimabuku—knowing that it might be the last time. Mr. Long’s purpose was to gain Master Shimabuku’s blessing to start a new United States based Isshin-ryu Karate organization. Upon meeting with Master Shimabuku and receiving no objection to his plan, Mr. Long returned to the US and proceeded with the formation of the I.I.K.A.
The International Isshin-ryu Karate Association was officially formed in December of 1974 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Notable Isshin-ryu practitioners from all over the United States were present at the meeting such as Harold Long from Knoxville, Harold Mitchum of Georgia, Ed Johnson of Texas, Don Bohan of North Carolina, Tom Lewis of Maryland, Harry Acklin of Ohio and John Bartusevics of California. Harold Mitchum made the motion that Harold Long be elected president of the association for a life term. Members present passed the motion. Additional seats were held on the board for Don Nagle of New Jersey, Steve Armstrong of Washington and Jim (A.J.) Advincula of California; but the board was never fully assembled.
One year later, in 1975, because of the distances for travel and the difficulties in communication, the board was disbanded and Mr. Long reorganized it in favor of more “local” practitioners. That board was assembled and became the most recognizable of all Isshin-ryu organizations in the years to follow. Original members of the “second” I.I.K.A. board were Harold Long, Glen Webb, Tommy True, Cas Cox, Denny Shaffer, Phil McElroy, Butch Chilton, Maurice Msarsa, Allen Wheeler, Pete Mills and J.C. Burris.
Originally, the I.I.K.A. had a goal to unite all of Isshin-ryu into one association. As the years progressed, those in leadership positions within the I.I.K.A. realized that there were far more Isshin-ryu associations rather then less. Later generations of instructors knew nothing of the older generation of instructors, and it became obvious that uniting all of Isshin-ryu was no longer practical. Thus, the mission of the I.I.K.A. changed from uniting all Isshin-ryu practitioners to promoting good Isshin-ryu karate through seminars, competition and other events, validate rank as it applies to the I.I.K.A. membership and to promote brotherhood.
One outstanding accomplishment of the organization was the institution of the I.I.K.A. Hall of Fame in 1979. The Hall of Fame was later disassociated with the I.I.K.A. so that it could become a universal Isshin-ryu activity. It has no association to any organization, and it has become “the world’s largest gathering of Isshin-ryu Karate-Ka.” The Hall of Fame remains the single best attempt to unite the Isshin-ryu world. The present board is made up of members with unparalleled experience and expertise in Isshin-ryu Karate.