Army Veteran Continues to Support Soldiers, Community

By Amy PhillipsFebruary 24, 2023

Karl Carlysle
Karl Carlysle teaches martial arts classes at the Waikea Recreation Center, Hilo, Hawai’i. He manages the U.S. Army Garrison Pōhakuloa Training Area gym manager and an Army veteran. Courtesy photo. (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL


U.S. Army Garrison Pōhakuloa Training Area (PTA) celebrates Army Civilian Karl Carlysle, the installation’s gym manager, and an Army and Air Force veteran. He is a certified Army Master Trainer and has more than 40 years of experience in martial arts.

Carlysle hails from Flint, Michigan, and moved to Big Island in 2012, when he completed college. He trained at PTA as an active-duty (1981-1988) and National Guard Soldier, and fell in love with Hawai’i. “I’m a sand, palm tree, warm-weather kind of person,” said Carlysle. He laughs and adds, “I dealt better with six months in the Sinai Desert than the three months I spent in Alaska.”

He has been working at PTA as an Army Civilian since 2016. “I love working with Soldiers because I remember being a young Soldier,” said Carlysle. One of his early inspiration was a Vietnam War Veteran who ran the gym at US Batt, South Base, Egypt. Carlysle recalls being inspired by Herb Brav, who mentored and trained service members to form an elite life guard team.

Some highlights during Carlysle’s active-duty enlistment include the Russian-missile shooting of Korean Airlines Flight 007 in 1983 - he was stationed in South Korea and his unit was placed on alert; he was part of Operation Fury for the invasion of Grenada in 1983. He trained in five military occupational skills as a Soldier, and was assigned for a year with the Air Force Special Operations.

“There was a lot of history being made during the time I was active duty,” said Carlysle. “I had to do a lot of learning and grow up quickly.”

One constant in Carlysle’s life is his martial arts passion which began at age of 12. He learned Shaolin and Wing Chun styles of kung fu, and Jeet Kune Do when he was stationed in South Korea. His father was his first teacher, and then trained with many martial art experts such as Guro Dan Inosanto. Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali are his heroes.

Carlysle has been teaching Jeet Kune Do classes at Waikea Recreation Center, Hilo, since 2013. He provides martial arts lessons to the military at PTA, when possible.

Carlysle is also a volunteer swim instructor at University of Hilo, and has been with the Keiki Summer Swim since 2013. He says swimming was always a challenge for him as child, and he took lessons to improve. “I like to teach kids and having them learn the skill early,” said Carlysle. “My dad always taught me stuff, and I like to do the same for others.”

“I’m living the life I’ve always prayed for here on the Big Island,” said Carlysle.