Profile: Ray Dalke

Ray Dalke is a true pioneer of American Shotokan Karate. He began training in the 1960s and has trained with a who’s who of American and Japanese Shotokan Karate. A noted competitor, at one time he was one of the most feared fighters on the tournament scene. Sometimes seen as a rebel, he has helped with the development and growth of Shotokan Karate in the United States.

Ray Dalke was born in Vancouver, Canada in 1941. By 1960 he had moved to the United States and had begun  training under legendary American Karate pioneer Dan Ivan. He soon opened his first dojo.

Hidetaka Nishiyama had arrived in the United States in 1961 from Japan and had settled in Los Angeles. To promote Shotokan he gave a number of demonstrations. A great technician, Nishiyama impressed Dalke, and he switched to training with him in 1961.

Dalke took to his training in a big way and was soon a member of Nishiyama’s US Karate team. By 1963 he had been promoted to 1st Dan by Nishiyama.

In 1965 Dalke took part in the American Karate Federation (AAKF) Championships. He won the kumite event, becoming National kumite champion. Following the event that took place in Los Angeles, the 1st United States versus Japan Goodwill Games, organised by Nishiyama, took place. The American team consisted of Frank Smith, Harry Kresse, Takashi Aoki, Ray Dalke, Jake Webb and Jean Takahashi. They faced an All Japan Collegiate Karate team. Japan won 4-1. Dalke had the only US victory, defeating Masaru Tokai in their bout.

At the 1st AAKF World Championships in 1967, Dalke won the kumite title. He was also a member of the US team that defeated Japan 3-2 at the 2nd Goodwill Games held in Tokyo.

In 1967 Dalke began his association with the University of California, Riverside. He worked part time as an instructor in the Physical Education Department. He was also coach to the UC Riverside Shotokan Karate team.

Dalke completed the USA JKA Instructor Training Course in 1967. The course was modelled on the JKA’s intensive Instructors Training course, on which Nishiyama had been an instructor. Like the Japanese course, the intent of the US course was to produce high-quality instructors.

Like his US team mate Frank Smith, Dalke was proving to be a very difficult man to beat in the competitive arena. There were complaints that both men were winning too much. In a decision that both men found to be politically motivated, they were forced to retire from competitive Karate at the height of their dominance. This had a knock-on effect on the national team. Both men did not compete at the 1970 world Championships where Japan defeated the US team by half a point.

Dalke was hired as a full-time lecturer at the University of California, Riverside in 1972. He was given the role of Director of Martial Arts. The following year he established the Riverside National Karate Championships. He also established the West Coast Karate Association, based in Riverside, in 1974.

In 1979 there was a split in Nishiyama’s association, the AAKF, that saw several prominent instructors led by Teruyuki Okazaki  leave to form the International Shotokan Karate Federation (ISKF). The instructors had complained about Nishiyama’s unilateral approach to making decisions. Dalke left the AAFK and joined the ISKF.

On 21 November 1984 Dalke and several other senior American instructors formed the American JKA Karate Association (AJKA). They resigned from the ISKF. They were unhappy that instructors who had over twenty years experience were not allowed to have a say in the direction of American Karate. It was ironic that this was the reason why the ISKF had split from the AAKF several years earlier.

In January 1985 Dalke was appointed the Adjunct Professor of Health Science at Long Island University, New York. At the University he instituted an Instructor Training Course based on the JKA’s Instructor Course.

Dalke was featured on the May 1985 cover of Black Belt Magazine. Two years later he was named Black Belt Magazine’s co-instructor of the year.

On 15 May 1993 Dalke announced that the 20th Riverside National Karate Championships would be his last event as he will be taking early retirement. The championships continue to be one of the Premier tournaments in the country. In 2013 the Championships celebrated its 40th anniversary.

Dalke took early retirement from the University of California, Riverside on 31 October 1993, although he continued to help out, long after this date. As coach he oversaw one of the most successful collegiate Karate programs in the United States. During his tenure the Karate team won five National Collegiate Championships and had eight individual National Collegiate Karate Champions.

Dalke also retired from the AJKA. His top student, Edmund Otis, a phenomenal martial artist in his own right, succeeded him as the AJKA and at the University of California, Riverside.

On 15 May 2011 Dalke was elected to the University of California, Riverside Athletics Hall of Fame. This was in recognition of his successful coaching career at the University.

Ray Dalke has had a massive influence on the development of Shotokan Karate in America. He had a great teacher in Hidetaka Nishiyama. As a technician he was one of the most feared competitors on the tournament scene. However, it is as an instructor and coach that he’s had he’s had the greatest influence. Many of his students, Like Edmund Otis, have gone on to be successful martial artists in their own right. As an administrator he showed that American Karate was mature enough to stand on its own feet.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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