Long and Wheeler: Old friends, new paths

Sandra ClarkOur Town Stories, Powell

The most valuable book on my shelf is a small paperback, “Dynamics of Isshinryu Karate” by Harold Long and Allen Wheeler. Amazon has the book for $75. It sold for $2.50 back in 1978 when I acquired my copy.


Wonder how many folks know the significance of Long and Wheeler in establishing karate in the United States? Both men had strong ties to North Knox County.

Harold G. Long (1930-1998) studied the Isshinryu method with grandmaster Tatsuo Shimabuku while serving with the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa. A Rockwood native, he returned with his wife, Doris, and three sons to Knoxville upon his discharge from the Marines. Long was a candidate for sheriff in the Republican Primary. His quote that’s stuck with me: “You don’t quit when you’re tired; you quit when you’re finished.”

He opened a dojo here, then another. As Long trained instructors, he and they would open another dojo. And that’s how the Wheeler School of Karate came to be opened in Powell in 1973. It was located on Emory Road in the squatty block building that is now owned by the Heiskell Community Organization and operated as a community center. (Before the dojo that building had housed the furniture store of Happy Harry Day. I took pictures the day the store flooded. There was a most unhappy Harry stacking chairs on couches and lifting lamps up on chairs as water from Beaver Creek surged through the store. Another story for another day.)

So, Harold Long and Allen Wheeler were friends in 1978 when their book was published.

Later there was a falling out. The world of karate had split into as many factions as the Baptists. Long was a purist, a sort of physical philosopher. And Wheeler was a better marketeer and incredibly stubborn. Long had founded the Isshinryu Hall of Fame and was the second person inducted, with founding grandmaster Tatsuo Shimabuku being the first. He was protective of the brand.

The Wheeler Academy in Powell Center, now owned by Chuck Reynolds, is the former Wheeler’s School of Karate. On the academy website, Reynolds says Mr. Wheeler was one of the first martial arts instructors to really show the importance of a family/Christian martial arts school.

Reynolds says the Wheeler Academy continues the traditions of character development by teaching integrity, discipline and courage with every lesson. Instruction is offered in martial arts, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and kickboxing. There is no mention of Isshinryu karate.

But in the book, one hears whispers from a young Marine studying with a grandmaster: “Be in harmony with all things so that your movement can be either blocking or deflecting without your being off-balance so that you can change direction at any time and strike when the opportunity occurs as you look and listen in all directions.”

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.

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