Master Tim Cunningham’s very first exposure to the martial arts was in kung fu in the spring of 1973 while attending college in Cleveland, TN. He only studied it for about ten weeks because his semester at college ended and he moved back to Mississippi. When he returned to college in the fall of 1975, he was disappointed to learn that the instructor had moved away, so he assumed that his involvement with the martial arts was over.
It was in September 1975 that Master Cunningham learned of karate classes being taught at nearby Cleveland State Community College and enthusiastically jumped at the chance to take up training once again. The style being taught there was Isshin-ryu and the head instructor was J.C. Burris. In April 1976 under Sensei Burris, he was promoted to gold belt, his first color belt. He had completed his two years of college by then and once again moved back home to Mississippi.
Soon after returning to Mississippi, He learned of a Chinese man about fifty miles away who taught Isshin-ryu. His name was Chuck Chau (pronounced “Chow”) He began studying under Sensei Chuck Chau in August 1976. Initially Chau Sensei was associated with Dr. Bill Pogue, from Michigan. After five years of studies with Chau Sensei, in June of 1981, he tested for his Sho Dan and moved to North Carolina the following month. He reluctantly began teaching Isshin-ryu the following year, August, 1982. During his studies with Sensei Chau, he evidently began studying with Master AJ Advincula who promoted him to the ranks of San Dan through Roku Dan.
After five years of studies with Chau Sensei, he tested for his Sho Dan in June of 1981 and moved to North Carolina the following month. He reluctantly began teaching Isshin-ryu the following year, August, 1982.
In the fall of 1984, he met Sensei Dan Glover who invited Master Cunningham to workout at his dojo whenever he was able to make the one hundred twenty-five-mile trip. He decided to make the trip there on a weekly basis in January of 1987 and became a paying student of Glover’s Isshinryu Karate. Sensei Glover’s chief instructors have been legendary Isshinryu practitioners in their own right, namely, Masters Russell Best, Don Bohan and Don Nagle. Under Shihan Glover’s guidance he slowly progressed in knowledge over the years and was promoted by him to Ni Dan in the Spring of 1987 and to the current rank of Nana Dan in the Fall of 2008.
Master Cunningham’s desire is to teach as long as God allows and then hopefully one day pass the torch to someone else. He thanks Him for the opportunity to have touched many lives through Isshinryu and counts many of those people as close friends and comrades.