Spotlight: Terrance ‘Tokey’ Hill – The All-American Poster Boy

I know what the martial arts did for my life, and I think that we as champions owe up-and-coming martial artists an opportunity to have access to things we never had.

Tokey Hill

A Shotokan Karate practitioner, Tokey Hill is a traditional martial artist who strongly believes in sport Karate. He is a multiple national champion and the winner of a world title. He is also a successful coach, teaching a new generation of competitors.

Terence Alan Hill was born in the Ohio city of Chillicothe in 1957. He was brought up by his grandmother. In a troubled childhood, he suffered from a learning disability. This led to some bullying at school.

In 1972 Hill began learning Shotokan Karate under Don Madden. Madden was a father-like figure to him. Like most young men Hill preferred kumite, and placed more emphasis on this aspect of Karate. In time kihon and kata became important to him, making him a well-rounded martial artist.

By 1976 Hill had been promoted to 1st Dan by Madden.

1978 Saw Hill really begin to make his mark on the tournament scene. In May of that year, he won the Ohio State Karate Championships. Later that year he took part in the All-Japan Youth Karate Tournament held in Yokohama, Japan. He won the tournament, becoming the first American to do so. The win earned him an entry in the Guinness Book of Records. The win also saw him become the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) National Champion. He retained his title in 1979 and 1980.

1980 was a big year for Hill. He became AAU National Champion for the third strike year. He also became the USKA Light Heavyweight Champion.

At the 5th WUK0 World Championships held in Madrid, Spain in 1980, Hill was part of a 7-man team coached by Chuck Merriman. He took part in the -80 kg event, becoming America’s first-ever gold medalist. He won a total of seven fights to claim the title. Teammate/roommate, Billy Blanks also won medals in the tournament.

For his successes, Hill won the 1980 Trans International Award. He was also named Competitor of the Year.

In 1981 Hill took part in the 1st World Games, hosted in Santa Clara, California between 25 July to 3 August. In the -80 kg kumite event, he won a bronze medal.

Hill’s international tournament success continued in 1983. At the International of France Competition, he won a silver medal. He was named “Outstanding technician of the tournament“.

In 1985 Hill moved to New York. He settled in Port Washington, Long Island. He opened the Tokey Hill Martial Arts Studio with a friend. The following year he became coach of the Budweiser Sport Karate team. The team was the first professional Karate team in the United States.

In 1991 Hill made a feature film appearance in “American Shaolin“, where he was cast as a coach.

Hill coached the US team at the 1999 Pan American Games held in Winnipeg, Canada. In a successful championships, his eleven-member squad won nine medals (5 gold, 1 silver, 3 bronze). For his coaching performance at the games (and other residents events), the US Olympic Committee named him Coach of the Year.

For the next couple of years, Hill’s successes as a coach continued. 2002 Black Belt Magazine named him the “Coach of the Year”.

On 3 August 2016, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that Karate would be included in the 2020 Games to be held in Japan. This was a big victory for Hill, who had been at the forefront of the US effort to have Karate included in the Olympic games.

Hill firmly believes that having Karate as a part of the Olympic Games is a great opportunity for the martial arts. Being part of such a global sporting spectacle will provide Karate with exposure that could lead to increased participation. Also, having an Olympic accreditation will lead to clubs having a higher standard.

Outside of Karate, Hill has become a promoter involved in the world of sports entertainment and promotion. He was also a kickboxing coach of Canadian fighter Michael McDonald, Who fought in the K-1 Kickboxing promotion. McDonald had started his K-1 career with Kyokushin Karate legend, Andy Hug.

It can be argued that Tokey Hill has done a lot to put American Karate on the world map, from his successes as a competitor to becoming a world-class coach. His successes have seen him inducted into the following Halls of Fame:

  • Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame
  • USA-NKF Hall of Fame
  • National Karate Federation Hall of Fame
  • Ohio Karate Hall of Fame

Success has continued to run in the Hill family. His daughter Ashley is also a successful competitor.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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