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Master Walter "Toby" Cooling
9th Dan,
 Isshin-Ryu Karate

Toby began his karate training with me in the mid-sixty's and was one of my early students. He would drive from Chesapeake City, Md. to Salisbury, Md., nearly a two hour drive and would attend class two and three times a week. I promoted him in March 1968 to Sho-Dan and that same year, he opened a school in Elkton, Md.

Thereafter, he went on to train with Master Shimabuku in Okinawa and several notables such as Don Nagel and Harold Long.

Toby was always very dedicated and persevering in his karate training and it shows today with his recognition. He founded the Order of Isshinryu Karate Association, that includes schools around the world.

The name Toby Cooling is well known in the Isshinryu community.


Tom Lewis


Master Walter "Toby" Cooling

Name: Walter "Toby" Cooling


Place of birth: Elkton, MD


Occupation:   Retire - Business Man / Currently -Police officer


Martial arts experience: 45 + years


Teaching experience: 41 + years


Ranks:  Ku-Dan  Isshin-Ryu Karate-Do, Ni-Dan Judo


Training background:   Isshin-Ryu Karate-Do / Judo


Other Interest : Pool (Rated Nationally), Firearms


Served Country: Air Force - 1964-1968



(Toby Cooling)

Walter Cooling was born in Elkton, MD in 1944. Nicknamed ‘Toby’ by his family, he began martial arts training in Judo at the age of sixteen.  Four years later, while attending refrigeration school in Cambridge, MD, he saw an ad in Black Belt magazine for the Isshinryu Karate Club in nearby Salisbury. He located the school and signed up for classes under Sensei Tom Lewis.


“I thought I knew a lot about fighting, but during my first class Howard Tingle “explained” to me that I didn’t know much,” he said. “With my goatee and Harley, Sensei Lewis and Mr. Tingle thought I didn’t belong there. Mr. Tingle was assigned to drum me out of the class, but I had already paid dues for the month so there was no way I was quitting.”


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 got the opportunity to work out in Master Nagle’s dojo.  The trips to New Jersey to train became regular, and Master Nagle eventually became his sensei.


During these years, Toby worked as an appliance repairman while completing his B.S. degree in Personnel and Labor Relations at the University of Baltimore.


He opened his first dojo as a brown belt with his sensei’s permission. At first, classes were held on the front lawn of his parents’ home in Chesapeake City, MD. “Karate was still new and exotic. Unlike today, where there’s a school on almost every street corner, I had the only martial arts school for 30 miles and the only Isshin-Ryu school for 100 miles. When you traveled, you made a point of stopping into every dojo you could find to work out and trade knowledge.” 


In 1969 he attained the rank of ni-dan. With a letter of introduction from his sensei, Toby traveled to Okinawa in December of that year to study with Master Tatsuo Shimabuku. “It was a thrilling time for me. Master Shimabuku was an impressive martial artist. You could feel his aura when he entered the dojo, even before you turned to look and see who it was. It was a privilege to have him tutor me and be a part of his dojo.” Before his departure for home in March 1970, Master Shimabuku promoted him to the rank of roku-dan.


Upon returning home, Toby became a deputy with the Cecil County Sheriff’s Department. He received his real estate agents license, then his broker’s license, and opened Walter Cooling Realty.


Master Cooling founded the Order of Isshin-Ryu on January 15, 1971 as a fraternity of his students and their schools. The OI continues today with Master Cooling as chairman and his senior students serving as the Board of Directors.



On August 11, 1971, Master Nagle promoted him to nana-dan. Grandmaster Shimabuku and Masters Harold Long, Steve Armstrong, and Harold Mitchum also honored him with a diploma for nana-dan.


In 1974 he purchased a piece of property in Elkton, MD that many people thought was a mistake. It was on a remote stretch of highway right across the state line from Delaware that had little traffic. Going heavily into debt with the local bank, Toby began building Jayco Liquors. “I was only 30 years old, and a lot of local people thought I was going to fail miserably. I did a lot of the work on the building myself, and lived in a little apartment on the second floor for eight years. Most times, the only time I got away from work was to teach my karate classes, which were held in a dojo in the back of the building.” Jayco became a very successful business, now owned by good friend and student, Bud Ewing. The dojo is still there.

Over the years, he has been honored by several awards:

·        1987, inducted into the Isshin-Ryu Hall of Fame:

·        1991, IHOF’s Spirit of Isshin-Ryu; 

·        1995, World Head of Family Sokeship Council Head of Family recognition.

Master Cooling has continued his martial arts education, becoming proficient in Chin-Na and Kyusho.  He has been active as an instructor for municipal, county, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.  These include the FBI, the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers, the Maryland Police Training Commission, and private security groups. On June 14, 1992 he was promoted to ku-dan by Masters Don Nagle and Harold Long. He served on the board of directors of the Isshin-Ryu Hall of Fame for over 18 years.


Master Cooling moved to Gardnerville, NV in 1996 with his wife Diane, where he became active as a constable for East Fork Justice Court and Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. He is currently retired.


(Diane and Toby Cooling)


“I read a quote somewhere that said, “Why, when I was born I could not walk or talk. Someone had to show me.” Everything we know in martial arts was taught to us by others, and it is a fitting tribute to our teachers to pass on what we have learned to the next generation. I thank everyone who has helped me in my martial arts journey.” –Toby Cooling



NOTE: Information for this article was supplied the Order of Isshin-Ryu

Copyright © 1996-2007, Order of Isshin-Ryu

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