In 1984 Master Allen Wheeler resigned from the karate organization he had been President of because of some irreconcilable differences. Many of us who were also members of that organization followed him fully understanding the reasons for his leaving. We followed him not only because of his vast knowledge and ability in Isshinryu and the martial arts in general, but also because of his morals, his wisdom and true dedication to his people.
Master Wheeler had no intention of forming any type of union or organization but at the urging of several high ranking karateka, a few months later, a meeting was held at a restaurant in Tennessee with the intent to lay the foundation of forming a new organization. Attending the meeting were Master Wheeler, Joe Smith, Sherman Harrill, Don Roberts and Dan Jones. Master Wheeler was proud that two of the five founding fathers, Joe Smith and Sherman Harrill were students of Grandmaster Shimabuku, the founder of the Isshinryu style of karate. This added to the credibility and legitimacy of the new open minded organization.
Many different names for the new organization were bounced around. Then Master Wheeler explained his vision for the organization; It would be open to all Okinawan martial arts and any art that is of Okinawan descent. He didnít want it limited to only Isshinryu people. This, he felt, would widen our member's scope of learning and understanding of martial arts as a whole. Master Wheeler feels in order to obtain a true understanding of karate you need to study aspects of a variety of styles. This way all styles within the organization would benefit by learning from each other.
Master Wheeler also wanted and insisted on an organization free from egos and politics. One thing that can destroy an organization is infighting and positional maneuvering among its members. With a clear rank structure, strong leadership and goals, we felt much of this problem could be minimized, if not eliminated.
In July of 1986 after several meetings, by-laws, a constitution and board of directors were established and approved. On the original board of directors there was representation from several states including Iowa, Tennessee, Alabama, Michigan, Illinois, Massachusetts, Delaware, Indiana and South Carolina. In addition, at this meeting we decided on an official founding date for the new organization. The Okinawan Karate Do Union, (O.K.U.), was officially founded January 1, 1987 with Master Allen Wheeler named founder and chairman. A distinctive patch was also designed.
The O.K.U. was not designed to become a large organization (although it now boast memberships from all around the world). Instead the goal was to be the best. The O.K.U. is a close-knit group where you are considered a family member not a number. Every year a three-day seminar is held. Ten to 15 instructors from all over the United States, representing many different styles, gather together for a great weekend. Students of all ranks stand side-by-side learning in harmony. At the 2001 seminar we had two author / instructors join us. Both mentioned how impressed they were with the O.K.U. They had never seen the camaraderie, fellowship and quality of instruction they had witnessed over this weekend. One of the gentleman commented how amazed he was the black belts spoke and even mingled with the lower ranked practitioners. At many other seminars itís not unusual to feel that an imaginary line is drawn on the floor at these functions, separating the black belts from the color belts, (or kyu ranks).
Many feel the best benefit to an O.K.U membership is the communication, fellowship, and exchange of techniques and teaching styles. When the quarterly newsletter began it was only six pages with limited information. Itís not uncommon now for the periodical to have eighteen to twenty pages of articles, information and photos. The O.K.U. web site also provides an avenue for on-line real-time discussions and communication. Both have become a wealth of information.
On June 16, 2001, Master Allen Wheeler promoted several individuals within the O.K.U. He did this to place those into a position which he felt would continue the O.K.U. tradition and carry on his legacy. This was a very hard decision for him to make. There are many qualified and dedicated karateka within the O.K.U., many who have been loyal to him, Isshinryu and the O.K.U. Master Wheeler made it very clear he only wanted one leader to oversee the O.K.U. He was not going to make several posthumous promotions like other organizational leaders had done.
Sensei Scott Shamblin from Tennessee was named to succeed Master Wheeler as head of the O.K.U. Upon the passing of Master Wheeler, Sensei Shamblin will be promoted to tenth-dan (10th degree black belt). Until that time, Sensei Shamblin would be promoted to ninth-dan and hold the position of President of the O.K.U. Sensei Don Roberts was promoted to ninth-dan and named the Regional Director of the Southern United States district. Sensei Bill Wright was promoted to ninth-dan and named Regional Director of the Central United States district and Sensei Dan Jones was promoted to ninth-dan and named the Regional Director for the Northern United States district. Because of his vast area, Jones named Sensei Joe Arvidson as assistant Regional Director for the Northern United States District. Sensei Jim Alley was named assistant Regional Director for the Central United States District and Keith Lowry for the Southern United States District. The President, Regional Directors and the Board of Directors will do everything they can to continue the tradition of this great organization.
The leadership helps guide the organization, but itís the membership who are the organization. Without the strong dedicated individuals who support the O.K.U. the organization would not exist. The Okinawan Karate Do Union will always remain the organization of its members and we should all be proud and honored to be associated with those in the O.K.U. family.
The Okinawan Karate-Do Union - Our Members Make Us Strong