Walter K. Nishioka

USKL Founder Dean Pickard with Sensei Nishioka

USKL Founder Dean Pickard with Sensei Nishioka

Walter K. Nishioka was born on June 18, 1932 in the Kalihi district of Honolulu, Hawaii. His father Hikoki Nishioka came to Hawaii from Kamamashiki City in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. Hikoki Nishioka had a great influence on his son Walter becoming involved in the martial arts. Hikoki was skilled in various martial arts including the ancient art of jujitsu. He taught martial arts to the police force and to marines of the Japanese imperial army in Kyushu, Japan before immigrating to Hawaii. Walter Nishioka's mother, Kiyo also came from Kumamoto Prefecture. At an early age, Walter Nishioka started learning jujitsu from his father with encouragement from his mother to train hard. In 1940, at the age of eight Walter Nishioka began formal training in jujitsu & judo at the American Judo and Jujitsu Institute located in the Alapai district of Honolulu. He was a student at the main dojo of Professor Henry Seishiro Okazaki, who was the founder and chief instructor of the American Jujitsu Institute. Professor Okazaki was a renowned jujitsu instructor and a respected honetsugi (chiropractor). Nishioka mentions that Professor Okazaki was skilled at healing people but had the deadly skills to maim or kill if the situation required it. At the age of 16, Nishioka received his black belt (shodan) rank from Professor Okazaki. He studied jujitsu continuously from 1940 to 1950.

At his father's request, Nishioka also began studying karate, kendo, and yawara (a form of martial arts used primarily to break various holds) with one of Okazaki's instructors skilled in these arts, Hamamoto Sensei. Nishioka graduated in 1950 from McKinley High School in Honolulu. In 1951, during the Korean conflict he served in the United States Naval Reserve at Pearl Harbor, later volunteering for active duty in the United States Air Force. In the Air Force, he was trained as an aerial gunner on B-29 bombers and other aircraft but Nishioka's prowess at unarmed combat got the attention of the Base's hand-to-hand combat instructor, Sgt John Hodges and Base Commander, Gen Musgrade. He subsequently was transferred to the instructor cadre of the Survival Training Course where he taught hand-to-hand combat to flight crews, who would need the skills to survive should they get shot down behind enemy lines. Nishioka later became the head instructor of the survival training school at Walker Air Force Base in Roswell, New Mexico where over 10,000 aircrew members were taught hand-to-hand combat techniques. Nishioka incorporated many deadly and effective jujitsu techniques into the training program.

In 1951, General Curtis LeMay, the commanding general of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), implemented a physical and survival training program for his aircrews. He designated judoka Emile Bruno as supervisor of judo and combative measures for the Strategic Air Command. In order to integrate aikido, judo, jujitsu and karate techniques into a systematic unarmed combat style, Bruno initiated a new training program for Air Force instructors in Japan. This program worked so well that General LeMay, a judo student of Bruno, invited the Japanese Government to send their top martial artists to train the SAC aircrews in unarmed combat. This invitation resulted in the legendary 1953 tour of the United States by some of the most famous martial artists in the world. The illustrious group included Toshio Kamata, Isao Obata, and Hidetaka Nishiyama as the karate practitioners. Kenji Tomiki was the aikido practitioner. Six judo practitioners that included Kazuo Kobayashi, Sumiyuki Kotani, Kusuo Hosokawa, and Senseis Otaki, Sato and Ishikawa accompanied the tour.

Nishioka was one of the select Americans to be trained by these outstanding masters and to accompany them during part of their stay in the United States as their interpreter. The legendary tour went to every SAC air base in the United States and Cuba. It also brought attention and acclaim to the mysterious Asian martial arts. The young Nishioka got to know and learn from these masters.

In 1955, Walter Nishioka was honorably discharged from military service and returned home. But the then young Nishioka was not satisfied with his own abilities and thirsted for more knowledge about the martial arts. He decided to leave Hawaii and train in Japan. He stayed at Judo's renowned Kodokan training center where he earned a black belt in judo. He also trained in Aikido techniques with Master Kenji Tomiki. During his spare time, he trained in Shotokan Karate at the Yotsuya, Tokyo dojo where Gichin Funakoshi was the founder in the early 1930's. He later returned to Hawaii and opened a school of self-defense called the Hawaii Karate Goshin-Kai at the Moilili Community Center on South King Street in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Nishioka continued to travel back and forth to the Orient whenever he had the opportunity to learn and train in the various martial art styles. He had the opportunity to train and live with several renowned karate masters such as Professor Hironori Ohtsuka (founder of the Wado Ryu karate style); Professor Tatsuo Suzuki, Yoshio Kawaguchi, and Master Choshin Chibana (originator of the Kobayashi style of Shorin Ryu karate). He visited countries such as Okinawa, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea to study and research their martial art techniques.

In 1961, Nishioka initiated proceedings to bring Professor Ohtsuka, Kawaguchi Sensei, Professor Suzuki and a young karateka by the name of Kiyohisa Hirano to Hawaii (note- Hirano Sensei is now Chief Instructor and Founder of his own large karate organization). At the time (post World War II) Japanese nationals were not allowed to travel abroad except to attend college or on official business. Because karate was viewed as an art, the U.S. Immigration Service granted permission for Nishioka to host these karatekas to visit Hawaii for about two months. These karatekas toured the Hawaiian Islands giving karate demonstrations, which culminated in a final exhibition to a standing-room only crowd in Honolulu.

Before Ohtsuka returned to Japan, Nishioka asked his permission to form a school of his own. This school would be a new karate school different from the Hawaii Karate Goshin-Kai School that he established at the Moilili Community Center. This new school was the beginning of what is now known as the International Karate League (IKL) established in a traditional dojo built by Nishioka's students in 1962 and located behind his home in Manoa Valley. This new school and style that Nishioka developed, which he called modified Shorin-ryu was based on the Wado-ryu karate (learned from Ohtsuka), Shorin-ryu karate (researched by Chibana) plus White Crane Chinese martial arts. The initial school was called the Statewide Karate League (SKL) and later changed to the International Karate League (IKL) as his students established dojos world-wide.

Walter K. Nishioka is also one of the founding fathers of the Hawaii Karate Congress formed in 1961. He was elected President of the Hawaii Karate Congress in 1965 and 1966. He continues to be an active member of the martial arts community in Hawaii since 1955.

The school that Nishioka formed back in 1962 has grown to branches throughout the Hawaiian Islands, Mainland and Internationally. His main or Honbu dojo remains today the little totan (metal) roofed hut in his own backyard in Manoa Valley, Hawaii that his students built. Like the humble Honbu dojo nestled in his backyard, Shihan Walter K. Nishioka remains humble and down to earth.