Toby Cooling, 1944 – 2022

Grandmaster of Order of Isshin-Ryu Martial Arts

Grandmaster CoolingWalter Cooling, nicknamed “Toby” by his family, began martial arts training in Judo at the age of sixteen in 1960. At 20, he began training in Isshin-Ryu Karate under Sensei Tom Lewis in Salisbury, MD.

Some time later, while a green belt, Sensei Lewis asked him to attend a meeting for him in New Jersey. The meeting had been called by Master Don Nagle, one of Master Shimabuku’s first American students. While there, he took the opportunity to work out in Master Nagle’s dojo. The trips to New Jersey to train became regular, and he eventually asked Master Nagle to be his sensei. He achieved shodan in 1965.

For the next few years, Mr. Cooling worked towards his nidan ranking as well as attending college at the University of Baltimore. Nidan was awarded in 1967 and in December 1969, he received his bachelor’s degree in Personnel/Labor Relations and hopped a plane for Okinawa. He had heard the wonderful stories from his teachers about Tatsuo Shimabuku, the founder of Isshin-Ryu Karate, and  he wanted to experience the man himself. He carried a letter of introduction to the Master from Sensei Nagle and Sensei Steve Armstrong, translated by the Japanese embassy in Washington, D.C. He trained with the master for the next few months and before his departure for home, Master Shimabuku promoted him to roku-dan (6th degree black belt) in March, 1970. It was an experience he has treasured ever since.1975 in Puerto Rico

After his return home, Toby worked for several companies before starting his own real estate firm in 1969. He owned and operated a successful retail business, Jayco Liquors, from 1975-1989. 

In 1971 Master Nagle honored him with a promotion to nana-dan (7th degree black belt). Grandmaster Shimabuku and Masters Harold Long, Steve Armstrong, and Harold Mitchum honored him with a diploma also recognizing him as such. He was promoted to hachi-dan in 1986 by Master Nagle, followed by a diploma in 1987 by Master Long for the same rank.

Master Cooling was inducted into the international Isshinryu Karate Hall of Fame (IHOF) in 1988. He was selected to receive the Spirit of Isshinryu award from the same organization in 1991. This award is presented to the individual who best represented and promoted Isshin-Ryu throughout the nation for that year.

On June 14, 1992 Master Cooling was promoted to ku-dan (9th degree black belt) by Master Don Nagle, ju-dan, and Master Harold Long, ju-dan. On February 6, 1995, the World Head of Family Sokeship Council officially recognized Master Cooling as one of the heads of the Isshin-Ryu family worldwide.  Master Long honored Master Cooling by presenting him with the certificate personally in a ceremony on March 11, 1995.

Master Cooling continued his martial arts education, becoming proficient in chin-na, and kyusho. He was active as an instructor for municipal, county, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. These included the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers, the Maryland Police Training Commission, and private security groups. He served as deputy for the Cecil County Sheriff’s Department, Maryland, as a reserve deputy for Douglas County (NV) Sheriff’s Department, and as a deputy constable for East Fork Township, Douglas County, Nevada.

Master Cooling served on the board of directors of the Isshin-Ryu Hall of Fame, and continued to promote Isshin-Ryu Karate through seminars and his travels until he passed away. He was chairman emeritus of the Order of Isshin-Ryu.

Grandmaster Cooling founded the Order of Isshin-Ryu on January 15, 1971 in an effort to keep his word to Master Shimabuku, who asked him to “. . . go back to the States and teach good Isshin-Ryu for me, make happy family.” He passed away on February 12, 2022 after several months of cancer treatments and then contracting COVID-19.

He wanted the Order of Isshin-Ryu to be a family first and an organization second. He expected the very best from his students in martial arts and in life and above all he believed that when one gave his word, he should keep it at all costs.