Happy New Year from Nishime Martial Arts!
As we reflect on the past year, we are filled with gratefulness for everyone who has ever walked through our doors.
August 2023 started our 35th continuous year as a family business! But really, it all started in 1973 when Shihan Nishime moved to the United States from Okinawa to take over his friend’s martial arts school. The dojo was located in Hartwell and the sign said, Okinawan Shorin-ryu. Unfortunately, that school closed after a few years for several reasons.
Next, Shihan moved to Indiana where he opened Okinawan Shorin-ryu – Nishime Dojo in Batesville. It was a small school where he taught after working all day as a machinist at Cincinnati Milacron. He taught there until he moved back to Cincinnati in the early 80’s.
One of Shihan’s students opened a martial arts school in North College Hill, also called Okinawan Shorin-ryu – Nishime Dojo. That’s where he met Mary Beth. Like Batesville, it was a small school. There were never more than 10 students at a time. Before long, Jason was born and it was too difficult to keep it open.
Karate instruction was Shihan’s passion, however, and he couldn’t stop teaching for long. He and Mary Beth started looking for another place. He ended up back in Hartwell at the Hartwell Community Center. The community center was a big room next to the pool that the city rented out for parties and used for summer camp. It was a good place to get started but after a couple of years of last minute schedule conflicts and random people walking around the classes, Shihan wanted a place to call his own.
After much searching, Shihan found a storefront in Silverton. To say he and Mary Beth didn’t know anything about running a business would be an understatement. They put up a bunch of plywood – plywood floors, plywood walls, plywood in front of the windows – and somehow escaped the attention of the building department and fire marshall. They hung a Nishime Karate sign out front and waited for the students to come in.
It was a long wait. There were never more than 4 students that first year. They almost gave up and planned to close at the end of the 12th month. Then they met Soke Doug Adamson from Indianapolis, who walked in one day to meet an Okinawan martial artists, realized they were in trouble, and decided to help. He taught them how to answer the phone, teach introductory lessons and advertise. They went from 4 students to over 120. They incorporated and became Nishime Karate Dojo, Inc.
The school was booming, and Shihan and Mary Beth were exhausted. Shihan taught 5 classes per night on top of working a full-time job with overtime. Mary Beth took care of toddler Jason and worked a part time job on the weekends. The school was maxed out on enrollment, but it wasn’t big enough for Shihan to quit his job. They needed more room.
In 1994 the Monfort Heights dojo opened at double the space and 5 times the rent with a 5 year lease. At the same time, Cincinnati Milacron closed its Oakley location and they wanted Shihan to go to a location an hour and a half away. There was no way he would be able to work there and be back in time to teach every day. He took a leap of faith and quit his job.
Luckily, about a third of the students in Silverton already lived on the west side and the new school was closer to them. The Silverton school stayed open and one of Shihan’s long time black belts took it over.
The new school had two training rooms and by then there were some black belts to help teach. It was the first martial arts school in the area to teach ages 4-6 and one of the first in the country. Back then, there wasn’t much for kids that age to do besides dance, and the Mighty Mite program grew quickly. With students of all ages coming, the dba was changed to Nishime Family Karate.
Even though Shihan and Mary Beth could focus on the dojo, the rent was high and got higher every year. They started looking for a new location again and found the current location on Harrison Ave. Not long after, Sensei Jason opened a school in Florence, KY and his brother opened one in Bright, IN. The Florence dojo remains open under Sensei Drew Canfield.
In the 2010’s, Sensei Jason started a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu program and calling it a karate school no longer fit. The new name became Nishime Martial Arts to reflect that it was a school for mixed martial arts.
Long past the age where most people retire, Shihan Nishime continues to teach and share his martial arts knowledge, working alongside his son, Sensei Jason.
We feel truly blessed to have been able to work as a family with so many wonderful families in our community for all of these years. Thank you for being a part of it.
Note: In honor of this session’s Kata requirement, we posted the video from 1988 of Shihan Nishime demonstrating Fuktyugata Ni at the Hartwell Community Center.