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Tributes to Past Masters

Sensei Don Nagle
April 5th, 1938 - August 23rd, 199


Don Nagle Sensei

Master Nagle was born on April 5th, 1938.  Master Don Nagle began his study of Isshinryu karate before the close of 1955 in the Kyan (Pronounced Chun) village in Okinawa, Japan with founder Tatsuo Shimabuku.

   I talked with Grand Master Nagle several months before his death and asked him when he began studying he told me he knew it was late 1955 either November or December shortly after he arrived in Okinawa.    According to Master Nagle's DD-214 he served a total of 1 year 2 months and 14 days of foreign service.  During his time in Okinawa Master Nagle won the Okinawan championships as a white belt.  Upon winning this championship Master Shimabuku awarded Master Nagle his personal black belt obi

Don Nagle Sensei

Master Shimabuku often received complaints from the other karate Masters on Okinawa about Sensei Nagle.  They would complain that Master Shimabuku was sending Sensei Nagle to embarrass them and their students since he would go into their dojo and beat their black belts in kumite.   Master Nagle left Okinawa as a 4th Dan.

       When Master Nagle's tour of duty on Okinawa was over he returned to the U.S. and began teaching Isshinryu Karate at Camp Lejeune NC.  It was during this time that he met Captain Ernie Cates a well known Judo practitioner.

       Master's Cates & Nagle opened a Karate/Judo Academy in Jacksonville, NC.  Master Nagle often said that if it were not for Ernie Cates he would never have continued in Karate.  In 1958 Master Nagle formed the 1st Isshinryu Karate Organization called the IKA (Isshando Karate Association).

      After his discharge from the Marines on September 11th, 1959 he returned home to New Jersey and opened his first commercial Karate Dojo at 524 Mercer Street in Jersey City.

       In the early to mid 1960's Master Nagle had a famous karate competition match between Master Peter Urban a student of the late Master Gogen Yamaguchi and himself in the Manhattan Center.  This was certainly an exciting time in Master Nagle's life.

       In 1964 Master Nagle visited his instructor Tatsuo Shimabuku for a short time in Pittsburg PA.  In 1966 Master Shimabuku came to visit with Master Nagle in NJ for 2 weeks.

       During this visit Master Nagle was promoted to 8th Dan by Master Shimabuku.  Around 1967 Master Nagle began to work for the Jersey City Police Department.  During the mid 60's Master Nagle branched out with student Joel Buchholtz and opened a Karate School in Bayonne, NJ on the 2nd Floor of a building on 22nd St. and Broadway.  In 1969 Master Buchholtz & Nagle purchased a building on 19th St. at 412 Broadway in Bayonne, NJ.

      In 1970 Master Nagle was honored for being the Policeman of the Year.   Later in 1973 his dojo was moved to it's present location at 371 Central Avenue in Jersey City.

       In 1977 Master Nagle joined the Narcotics Squad of the Jersey City Police Department.  During his years of service with the police the name "Nagle" became synonymous with fear.  Several times Master Nagle dressed up in female attire to trap an unsuspecting narcotics suspect.  Master Nagle related a story that one time he was in the middle of one of these narcotics groups they had under suspicion and one of them said, "I'm going to get that Nagle" while he was standing not 2 feet away.  Master Nagle was known to go up to a basketball court where the local "tough's" would shoot hoops and hang out while on duty walk under the net and from a dead stand still jump up in the air and kick the net with his foot.  Upon landing he would then say, "Now who wants to fight me?"

       Shihan Mark Wzorek told me of a time at Master Nagle's dojo.  During this time he related that everyone was sparring and Master Nagle walked in and locked the door.   Master Nagle then told everyone that they were not leaving until everyone had blood on them.  At the end only Master Wzorek was without any blood and so he had to spar with Master Nagle.  Needless to say he too had blood by the end of that fight.   This was a time of no pads and full contact matches.  One account I read stated that Master Nagle would apprehend between 8 to 12 men at one time single-handedly.   When backup arrived they were already all laid out. 

     Hanshi Ralph Passero noted that few people practice Isshinryu Karate they way Master Nagle did.  His lightening fast technique overwhelmed his opponents.  Master Nagle was always very thin and I am sure this aided him with his lightening fast speed and technique.   Master Nagle's wild side earned him a reputation in Okinawa and he was quickly tabbed as, "The Laughing Red Devil" because of his fighting attitude and spirit.   A lot of time on the job perps (Perpetrators) see me as a little guy explained the 5 ft 8 Nagle.  To Someone 6'3 or 6'4 I would announce that they are under arrest and they think I am going to have a little problem with that.  But I don't have a problem.  If they decide to use force I just use superior force.  I am proud to say that I never put anyone in the hospital as a result of an apprehension.   

       The Late Shihan Don Bohan related an account of Master Nagle.  He's so thin and light no one can believe he's as fast and as powerful as he is.  I remember an incident some years back I was doing some bartending and Sensei Nagle and another guy came into the bar.  I was a black belt at the time and considered myself pretty fast.   A fight started and nine guys attacked the Sensei.  Before I could come from behind the bar he and the other guy had put them all away.  And it was Sensei who had done most of the work.  In Just seconds!  nine guys!  It was almost unbelievable.

      Hanshi Ed McGrath "The Voice Of Karate",  once said, "His speed was fantastic!  even after we had achieved high ranks and had won championships at the various tournaments Sensei Nagle could still do just about anything he wanted to us.  He could actually call his shots in kumite in the dojo.  He would say, "I'm going to hit you with my left fist on the right side of your face and then he would proceed doing it three times in a row.  He was so fast you just couldn't stop him.

       Master Joel Buchholtz once stated, "Master Nagle was constantly in trouble with Tatsuo Shimabuku because of his desire to learn and learn as much as possible.  He would visit other dojos and fight the best black belts he could find.   Master Shimabuku would receive complaints from the other Sensei's who thought he was sending Mr. Nagle around to make their best men look foolish because this was just what he was doing.  We had a 15 ft ceiling with a ball hanging from it.  Sensei Nagle would throw kicks at the ball maybe 10 ft from the ground and would hit it.  He would do it from a standing position and then he'd have the ball raised and he would keep on throwing kicks untill he couldn't hit it anymore.  The Ball might be right up to the ceiling 15 feet from the ground and he'd keep kicking it until he couldn't raise his feet.  Then he'd be ready to start his class.

       Sensei Nagle never did look for trouble.  One day while on duty he went into a bar to check it out.  He was spotted as a cop and surrounded by 5 guys.  He did not want to make a big scene and have anyone get hurt and he wasn't in a position where he could fight without hurting anyone and he could have gotten hurt himself.  So he screamed and charged and as the startled guys jumped back he headed for the door.  He got about 2 feet outside the door then he turned and waited and he caught them one at a time as they came through the door."

       One Sensei once said, "So how would you like to be the loser who tangles with Nagle?  without knowing who he is.  One of my students was picked up in a narcotics rap in Jersey City by Nagle.  He didn't know who he was up against and said I'm a black belt.  And stated his name.  Nagle didn't tell him anything.  My student made the wrong move and Nagle took him out with a shuto to the forehead and a round house to the chest.  The kid never knew what hit him."   Sensei Nagle explained when reminded of the incident, "I'm issued a gun and can use it.  But I'd rather solve these problems without hurting anyone."

Shihan Don Bohan said, "He was  a fabulous teacher and he not only taught us how he taught us why.

Grand Master Peter Urban said, "He was the toughest fighter I ever fought!  He was one of the Great Pioneers of Karate."

Hanshi Aaron Banks said, "He represents to me what the American karate Ka should be.  He is one of the country's top Karate Ka's and one of it's finest men."

Hanshi Chuck Merriman said, "Karate is in dire need of men of   Mr. Nagle's dignity, integrity and leadership." 

Hanshi George Coffield said, "Sensei Nagle is a credit to karate and karate needs more men like him."

       Master Nagle trained some of the finest karate men around some of his students include; Ed McGrath, Gary Alexander, Ralph Chirico, Joel Buchholtz, Nick Adler, Dennis Hoare, Robert Mansfield, Dale Jenkins, Lou Lizzotte, Dr. Michael Wanko, Don Bohan, Don Nash, Jim Chapman, Guilio Cavallaro, Morgan Torres, Brian Fitzgerald, Vincent Manning, John Castellano, Don Crooks, Carl Clarino, & William Knobloch to name a few.  

       Some people Master Nagle met and had friendships with include; Peter Urban, Bruce Lee, George Coffield, Pete Siringano Sr., Michael DePasquale Sr, George Dillman, Chuck Merriman, Chuck Norris, and Aaron Banks.  Master Nagle chose to stay in the background not in the limelight.  He never had to prove anything to anybody and it wasn't his way to puff himself.  His joy came from making you feel good.

      In the 1987 Master Nagle accepted 10th Dan at the request of the present day senior ranking leaders of Isshinryu.  He really did not want to do this but did it for Isshinryu.  Master Nagle said several times before he died that he often thought he would go back to 8th dan so as to stem the tide of so many wanting to be 10th dan.   In the Late 80's Master Nagle teamed up with Master Harold Long in an attempt to unite Isshinryu karate.

       For a time Master Nagle tried to unite Isshinryu with a new karate organization the UIKF (United Isshinryu Karate Federation).  In November of 1990 a banquet was held in honor of Master Nagle.  In 1990 Master Nagle received Letters of commendation from the General Comandant of the US Marine Corps, The US Congress, and the Govenor of NJ.   In 1992 Master Nagle tried a run for sheriff in Hudson County.   In 1992 Master Nagle also did a seminar in Florida for Master Joe Murphy.  In 1995 Master Nagle did a seminar with Master A.J. Avincula in New Jersey for Masters Nash, Kim and Marriner.

       In late 1995 Master Nagle revived his portion of the AOKA.  In 1997 Master Nagle hosted his 1st Hall Of Hall awards banquet with over 650 people present.  It was a huge success.  Master Nagle had then celebrated his 41st year in Isshinryu Karate.

     In 1998 Master Nagle called a meeting of his senior students and followers to discuss his wishes should he pass away.  Master Nagle's love was always for his students and Isshinryu.  Master Nagle was about being on the deck with his students that is where his true love was.  Several months before he died he had a slight stroke.  I can remember visiting him in Bayonne Hospital and he was up and around the next day.   Months later he had a heart attack a week or so before he died.  While in the hospital I was told he would throw a flurry of punches to set off the heart monitors.   The nurses would come running in and yell at him and he would say to them, "What are you going to do throw me out I don't wanna be here anyway."  He told one of his senior students that he was going to get out of bed, do a few laps around the hospital and then beat him up.  Right to the end he was as fast as he ever was.   During the last few years before he died he worked as a deputy US Marshall working in the courts as a security officer.

       Master Nagle's philosophy was this, "It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deeds.  Master Don Nagle passed away on August 23rd, 1999 at the age of 61.  Master Nagle will be sorely missed by all we love you Sensei Oss!

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