One of the most dynamic Kyokushin Karate practitioners of his generation, William Oliver was known for his lightning-fast Kicks. At 5ft 4in, he always had to fight much larger opponents, but always held his own.
William Oliver was born in Alabama in 1952. At some point, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he grew up.
At high school, Oliver was an athletic child. He practised wrestling, gymnastics, and boxing.
On 5 April 1966, Tadashi Nakamura arrived in the United States. Mas Oyama, the founder of Kyokushin Karate, selected him to go to the US to spread Kyokushin Karate. Nakamura was the first Kyokushin instructor in the mainland US. Another of Oyama’s students, Bobby Lowe, had been teaching in Hawaii. Nakamura established a dojo in Brooklyn, New York.
In 1968 Oliver began training with Nakamura. He was aged 15 at the time.
By 1971 Oliver was promoted to 1st Dan.
S Henry Cho’s All-American Karate Open was one of the biggest tournaments in the United States. The tournament was normally held at Madison Square Garden, in front of large crowds.
Oliver loved competing. In 1971 he competed at S Henry Chow’s All-American Karate Open, in front of a crowd of 5000. In a lightweight kumite bout, he faced Luis Delgado. During their bout, he broke Delgado’s nose with a lightning-fast round kick. After some deliberation among the judges, he was disqualified for excessive contact with his opponent’s head. However, he did finish in second place in the black belt kata event.
The following year, Oliver competed at the same tournament, in front of a crowd of 4500. This time he finished in second place in the kumite final, behind Mike Warren. He also finished in second place in the black belt Kata event behind Hee Il Cho.
Between 1-2 November 1975, the 1st World Open Karate Tournament was held in Tokyo, Japan. 168 competitors from 32 countries were represented at the tournament. Each country sent a team of four competitors and one coach. As Japan was the host they were allowed to have six competitors.
Oliver was selected to represent the United States alongside Frank Clark, and Willie Williams who were trained by Shigeru Oyama, and Charles Martin, who was trained by Tadashi Nakamura.
Prior to the beginning of the tournament, Oliver and Charles Martin were selected to give a demonstration that explained the rules of the tournament to the assembled crowd and competitors.
In the first round of the tournament, Oliver faced a competitor from Israel. He used his speed to defeat the much bigger man. In his next bout, he faced a competitor from Holland, who was 9 inches taller than him. Although he lost the bout, he won the hearts of the Japanese crowd, who love his spirited effort.
Katsuaki Sato of Japan, defeated, teammate, Hatsuo Royama to become the first Kyokushin World Champion. The Japanese competitors finished in the top six positions, with Americans, Charles Martin and Frank Clark, finishing in seventh and eighth positions.
On 15 October 1976, Tadashi Nakamura established the World Seido Karate Organisation. He broke ties with his teacher, Mas Oyama and Kyokushin Karate. Oliver followed his teacher to the new organisation.
In 1978 the documentary, “Fighting Black Kings”, was released. The documentary featured Oliver, Charles Martin, and Willie Williams, three black men from New York, competing in the 1st All-World Kyokushin Tournament. Mas Oyama, Tadashi Nakamura, Shigeru Oyama, Katsuaki Sato, Hatsuo Royama, Frank Clark, and Howard Collins also appeared in the documentary.
By the mid-1980s, Oliver had become an established instructor in Seido Karate.
On 12 March 1985, Oliver opened his first Seido dojo in New York.
By 1990 Seido Karate have become established around the world. That year Oliver travelled to Japan for the World Seido Karate Championships. He and several instructors gave a Karate demonstration at the Meiji Shrine. They also had the opportunity to meet the Governor of Tokyo.
Similar to Nakamura leaving the IKO (International Karate Organisation) in 1976, Oliver, alongside Monte Allen, Leighton Barker, and Paul Sookdar, decided to part ways with the World Seido Karate Organisation. They formed the Kenshikai Association.
On 20 November 2004, William Oliver died in his dojo. He was survived by his wife and son, who both practised Karate.
On 26 November 2004, a wake was held for Oliver. The following day a funeral service was held at the Memorial Baptist Church, in New York.
Oliver’s student, Matthew Fremon took over the running of his dojo.
At the time of his death, Oliver was a 7th Dan. His students have organised an annual Karate tournament, held in his honour.
Oliver featured in many magazines and documentaries. However, he did not seek fame. He had the spirit of a martial artist and was more interested in developing his students.