Harold G. Long was born in Rockwood, Tennessee, on September 3, 1930. He was one of thirteen children born of Bessie Marie Fance Long and John Riley Long. In 1934, his family moved from Rockwood to Morgan County, where he attended elementary school in Petros, Tennessee. Mr. Long attended Central High School in Wartburg, Tennessee where he excelled as a football player.
In 1949, Mr. Long joined the United States Marine Corps, but was not called to duty until 1950. He was sent to Paris Island, South Carolina where he completed his basic training, and then to Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, where he completed advanced training. Shortly thereafter, the Korean conflict broke out and he was transferred to Camp Pendleton, California, to bring the 1st Marine Division up to strength.
In 1950, as a young marine in Korea, he fought against the Chinese Army at the battle of Chosen Reservoir (a battle which has been termed by today’s historians as, “the most savage fighting in modern warfare.”) With temperatures ranging between four degrees below zero to thirty-five degrees below zero, the Chinese Army had orders to annihilate the marines at the Chosen Reservoir, which they almost succeeded in doing. The small number of marines who overcame staggering odds and survived later became known as the “Chosen Few.” Today, they are referred to as the “Eternal Band of Brothers.”
Upon returning home, Mr. Long married Doris Witsberger on October 18, 1952 in Wheeling, West Virginia. They had three sons, Richard, the oldest, born in Camp LeJeune, North Carolina; Michael, born in San Diego, California; and Gary, born in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In the mid 1950’s, Mr. Long was stationed on Okinawa. For most of his life, he had a desire to study martial arts. Now, with an opportunity at hand, he sought out the best Karate instructor on Okinawa.
His search led him to Chan Village (pronounced Chun) where he found a teacher by the name of Tatsuo Shimabuku. After three visits to Master Shimabuku’s dojo, Mr. Long was accepted as a student and began training, where he studied and worked out vigorously over a nineteen month period.
When Mr. Long again returned to the United States, he was stationed at Twenty-nine Palms, California, where he opened his first dojo in his back yard. After his discharge from the Marine Corps, in July 1959, he returned to East Tennessee, and opened a dojo at the Marine Reserve Training Center.
In 1973, Mr. Long returned to Okinawa to visit with Grand Master Shimabuku. During this visit he discussed his plans with Master Shimabuku to start a new Isshin-ryu Karate association in the United States. Master Shimabuku did not object to Mr. Long’s idea, and the I.I.K.A. began to take shape.
In December of 1995, Master Long closed his dojo in Knoxville, Tennessee, and retired from active teaching. He moved into the US Navel Retirement Home in Gulfport, Mississippi, in 1996, where he remained active representing Isshin-ryu Karate at tournaments, clinics, seminars and special events.
In December of 1997, he represented Isshin-ryu Karate at the World Karate Union Hall of Fame’s annual event in Australia. While returning home to Gulfport, he was involved in an automobile accident and underwent several surgeries to repair ruptured blood vessels in his brain. In August of 1998, while still recovering from the accident, he flew to Knoxville, Tennessee to visit his family. During this visit, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Mr. Long remained in Knoxville until his passing on October 12, 1998.
Master Long was laid to rest at Oak Grove Cemetery in Rockwood, Tennessee on October 15, 1998. Listed below are his major accomplishments and contributions to Isshin-ryu Karate:
Founded the International Isshin-ryu Karate Association (I.I.K.A.)
Co-authored a three book series, The Dynamics of Isshin-ryu
Karate, with Allen Wheeler
Founded the Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame
Inducted into the Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame
Co-authored Okinawan Weapons, with Phil Little
Founded the Isshin-ryu Black Belt Society
Co-produced an eight tape instructional video series, “Isshin-Ryu Karate, The Ultimate Self Defense,” with Tim McGhee
Inducted into the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame, in Knoxville, TN
Co-produced the first national television coverage of the Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame Karate Tournament with Tim McGhee
Issued membership into Tao of the First Martial Arts Fraternity
Co-Authored Who’s Who in Isshin-ryu, with Phyllis Manis Tim McGhee
Issued membership into the World Head of Family Sokeship Council for Isshin-ryu Karate
Awarded an “Honorary Doctorate Degree” by the College of Martial Arts
Received the “Golden Life Achievement Award” and “Martial Arts Pioneer Award” from the World Head of Family Sokeship Council Hall of Fame
Inducted into the World Karate Union Hall of Fame
Inducted into the World Head of Family Sokeship Council Hall of Fame
Co-authored Isshin-ryu Karate, The Ultimate Fighting Art, with Tim McGhee
Inducted into the Universal Martial Arts Hall of Fame
Received the “Living Legend Award” from the World Head of Family Sokeship Council
In 1963, Master Long attended the “Systems Head Meeting” of the first World Karate Tournament in Chicago, Illinois. The purpose of the meeting was to set-up rules for all American karate tournaments. In attendance were John Keehan, Phil Kepal, Harold Long, George Mattson, Anthony Mirikan, Roy Oshiro, Don Nagle, Ed Parker, Wendall Reeves, Jhoon Rhee, Mas Tsuroka, and Robert Trias.
Regardless of style, everyone at the meeting agreed to use the newly formed Kata and Kumite rules for all tournaments held in the United States. With one exception, all of the rules the group adopted were proposed by Master Long.
Master Long also served as Vice President of the United States Karate Association for several years. A true pioneer, Master Long put into motion many of the structures and formats now in use in the martial arts tournament world today.
Harold Long was unmistakably, “A man of unique character,” and was respected everywhere he went. His ideas about training and self-defense are rigid copies of Master Shimabuku’s philosophies and attitudes. Master Long was not known for compromise of principle or technique, and he required…no, he demanded the same commitment from others that he demonstrated himself.
Master Long lived and breathed Isshin-ryu Karate. (His only additional passions involved reading Westerns and watching UT Football.) Through his words and his teachings, he was a fierce proponent that, if practiced properly and continually, Isshin-ryu was all a person ever needed to defend themselves.
Perhaps a result of surviving the Battle of Chosen Reservoir or perhaps an inbred desire to survive, Harold Long was a determined leader whose life was committed to the practice and development of Isshin-ryu Karate.
In 1973, 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. 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.