This morning I had the opportunity to visit a traditional Uechi-Ryu dojo in Knoxville run by Sensei Bob Noel. I was invited by a former student who started training with him when I moved to Raleigh, NC.
Lucas and I discussed Sensei Noel while I was still living in Raleigh. And he stated that he felt comfortable with Sensei Noel because of his teaching style. Likewise, Lucas thought that what he had learned from me about body mechanics and technique allowed him to understand what kind of an instructor Sensei Noel was. And I will say that Lucas chose well.
I have often stated that Okinawan karate systems have more in common than they do have differences. Although, of course, the early karate pioneers on Okinawa had “favorite” techniques and preferred training methods that created differences. However, you must remember that Okinawa is a tiny island and many of the early masters knew and, at times, trained together. In fact, Kanbun Uechi (the founder of Uechi-Ryu) and Tatsuo Shimabuku (Isshin-Ryu) were good friends and often trained together. Add to that the fact that good technique is determined more by body mechanics than anything else, and you should see the logic in my statement.
Adding to this visit’s enjoyment, I learned that Sensei Noel grew up in Williamstown, MA, which borders North Adams, MA. I studied Uechi-Ryu for a brief time while still in high school in North Adams with an instructor, Bruce Witherell, who was one of Sensei Frank Gorman’s students, and it turns out that Sensei Noel trained with Sensei Witherell as well.
Then I discovered that Sensei Noel was in Boy Scout Troop 70 in Williamstown. I had a good friend, Camden Pierce, who was in Troop 70. Don Gilbert (no relation) was the scoutmaster of Troop 70. I was a member of Troop 88 in North Adams, and Douglas Filkens was our scoutmaster. Camden and I did a lot of backpacking and canoeing together over the years. And we had an annual New Year’s Eve campout on the top of Mt. Greylock, the tallest mountain in Massachusetts. It was cold, and the snow might be up to your armpits, but it was a blast. I guess we did that three or four years in a row.
Sensei Noel has an efficient and straightforward approach to teaching and a deep understanding of his art. Lucas did a great job of choosing him as an instructor.
It really is a small world when dealing with those who practice traditional Okinawan karate.