Grandmaster Walter ‘Toby’ Cooling – In Memoriam

Our hearts are heavy as we announce the passing of a great man and Isshin-Ryu legend, Grandmaster Walter E. ‘Toby’ Cooling.  Master Cooling was a judan (10th degree black belt) and head of the Order of Isshin-Ryu Martial Arts organization.  Master Cooling founded the Order of Isshin-Ryu on January 15, 1971 in an effort to keep his word to Master Tatsuo Shimabuku, who asked him to “. . .go back to the States and teach good Isshin-Ryu for me, make happy family.” The Order of Isshin-Ryu Martial Arts family (OIMA) celebrated 50 years of martial arts training and friendship in 2021, and with Master Cooling’s passing will continue to carry on his legacy by continuing to train and pass down his teaching.

Master Cooling began his martial arts training at the age of 16 and continued training for the past 62 years.  He dedicated his life to the study of the martial arts and passing on what he learned.  His Sensei’s included Master Tom Lewis, Master Don Nagle, and Soke Tatsuo Shimabuku.  His martial arts studies included Judo, Isshin-Ryu karate, Chin-na, and Kyusho.  Master Cooling was inducted into the international Isshin-Ryu Karate Hall of Fame (IHOF) in 1988. He was selected to receive the Spirit of Isshin-Ryu award from the same organization in 1991.

In addition to his successful martial arts career, Master Cooling was successful in his personal life as well.  He started his own real estate firm in 1969, and owned and operated a successful retail business, Jayco Liquors, from 1975 until 1989.  The OIMA Hombu Dojo (home dojo) still exists in back of Jayco Liquors, which is now owned and operated by Master Bud Ewing, a student and lifelong friend of Master Cooling.  In December, 1969, Master Cooling received his Bachelor’s Degree in Personnel/Labor Relations from the University of Baltimore.  It was at this time that he travelled to Okinawa to train with Master Tatsuo Shimabuku. 

Master Cooling 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 is a former police officer from Cecil County, Maryland, served as a reserve deputy for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department in Nevada, and was a deputy constable for East Fork Township, Douglas County, Nevada.

Master Cooling was a pioneer in the Isshin-Ryu community.  He continuously trained, learned, evolved, and taught tirelessly over 62 years.  He started his own organization, the Order of Isshin-Ryu, at the young age of 26.  He dedicated himself to providing one of the best self-defense and traditional martial arts training programs available. He developed the OIMA system, which at its core is Isshin-Ryu, but includes other martial arts to add to our ‘toolbox’.  As Master Cooling quotes Soke Tatsuo Shimabuku: “Isshin-ryu is a living thing.  Constantly changing, always improving.”

Master Cooling was a great leader and mentor.  He was also a friend, a father, a husband, a confidant, and a teacher.

He will be greatly missed.

Domo arigato gozaimasu, Cooling Sensei.