John Neil Atkinson; Karate Instructor

Ventura resident John Neil Atkinson died Wednesday at Community Memorial Hospital following a brief illness. He was 47.

Atkinson was born May 17, 1951, in Boston. His family moved to the San Fernando Valley when Atkinson was an infant.

Atkinson started studying karate at age 13 and had a lifetime career in the sport.

“He was a little kid and people would pick on him. He was on Van Nuys Boulevard one day and saw a karate studio and he stood there for a long time before walking in,” said Atkinson’s wife, Shirley Atkinson.


By age 16, Atkinson had earned a black belt in karate and was one of the youngest black belts in the state at the time, according to his wife. In 1969, he graduated from Van Nuys High School.

Atkinson competed in regional and national karate competitions for more than a dozen years, winning several titles and awards, his wife said.

He was a co-owner of karate schools in Van Nuys and Tarzana. Atkinson also worked as a stuntman. His biggest role was being a stunt double for actor Ralph Macchio in the 1984 movie “Karate Kid.”

In the past few years, Atkinson worked as a self-employed business consultant.


In 1997, Atkinson and his wife moved from their home in Van Nuys to Ventura.

Atkinson enjoyed watching football, basketball and baseball. For several years, he worked part time as an usher at Dodger Stadium.

“He had several longtime friends--people he knew since grade school. It’s just amazing, the closeness of his family and all these people” in his life, Shirley Atkinson said.

In addition to his wife, Atkinson is survived by a stepson, Brian Doane of Ventura; two brothers, Paul Atkinson of Culver City and Thomas Atkinson of Canyon Country; and two sisters, Patti Healy of Venice and Jeanne Greco of Saugus.


There will be a memorial service at 11 a.m. Saturday at Ted Mayr Funeral Home in Ventura, which is handling the arrangements. Burial will be private.