(March 26, 1950 - January 17, 1987)
James Maples was born March 26, 1950, to Herman and Doris Maples of Sharps Chapel, Tennessee. He practiced and taught Isshin-Ryu Karate from the young age of 15 until his tragic death at the age of 36.
He began his training under Master Harold Long in 1965 after watching a demonstration at Horace Maynard High School put on by Master Harold Long. He opened the first dojo in Union County in the basement of his home in April of 1973.
Due to the tremendous growth and interest in the area, Sensei Maples rented a building in Maynardville, Tennessee. The school is still going today at a different location taught by Mike Butcher. J.E. Phillips, one of Mr. Maples first students, headed this school up until his medical retirement a few years ago.
Mr. Maples won numerous awards and tournaments but the most spectacular was when he won the State Karate Championship in the summer of 1973 in Kingston, Tennessee. This was a tournament held by Mr. Tommy True, and Mr. Maples won in the Kata, Weapons, and Kumite divisions. The newspaper reporters and photographers were there covering it and many thought it was one of his best performances.
In 1974, Mr. Maples was promoted to San-Dan. He worked five (5) nights a week opening and closing for Mr. Wheeler while being laid off from work. After about six months he got a job driving a tractor trailer. He became known as the "Isshinryu Good-Will Ambassador" because whenever he was on a trip he always made it a point to be laid over near a karate school somewhere in the United States. He was a very friendly, courteous karate-ka who gained respect and made friends throughout the karate world.
In 1976, Mr. Maples went to work for an insurance company. He excelled at his job and went on to be the top agent in the company. He was later promoted to a manager position where he also was very proficient. He always recognized God as being most important in his life. When asked about his success he attributed it to Isshin-Ryu karate which gave him confidence and the ability to handle situations in everyday life. He was described as being a "sharp dresser" but when given a choice between a three-piece business suit or a karate Gi, he chose the karate Gi.
In 1978 Mr. Maples was promoted to Yo-Dan. Later, in 1983, he opened the first Isshin-Ryu dojo in Claiborne County, Tennessee. This school is still in operation today under Sensei Jerry Smith. In 1984, Mr. Maples was promoted to the rank of Go-Dan by Master Long. He operated his school in Claiborne County and taught on Friday nights at Mr. Long's West Knoxville Dojo. He also had a backyard dojo at his parents house in Sharps Chapel, Tennessee for those who thought three nights a week wasn't enough.
In 1986, he was appointed as a Board Member to the International Isshinryu Karate Association. He had the greatest respect for Master Long and the IIKA. Someone asked Mr. Maples once, "If Mr. Long told you to jump off the Highway 33 Bridge over Lake Norris, would you?". He replied, "the only question I would have to ask is which side?"
Through his travels around the United States, James Maples became well known in marital arts circles. He would seek-out karate schools wherever he was and workout. He was well-liked and respected, and left an impact on everyone he taught or worked out with in karate. Master Long referred to him as an "Ambassador for Isshin-Ryu Karate".
IHe told his students not long before he died that if anything ever happened to him not quit karate, but go to Master Long, his instructor and mentor, and to continue the study of Isshinryu karate. He met a tragic death on January 17, 1987 at the age of 36.