Dedicated to the preservation and expansion of Isshin-ryu Karate as taught by Sensei Sherman Harrill.

Sensei Sherman J Harrill

Our Mission

Gilbert’s Isshin-ryu Karate School has a simple mission: to offer authentic, traditional training in Isshin-ryu Karate, in the manner and spirit Sensei Sherman Harrill passed on to his students. We are one of the few karate schools in the United States offering this unique approach to traditional karate.

Our History

In 1958, at age 17, Sherman Harrill enlisted in the U.S. Marines. He began the study of Isshin-ryu Karate in 1959 under Tatsuo Shimabuku at his dojo in Agena, Okinawa; training for approximately 14 months. Upon returning to the U.S., Sensei Harrill trained many years, honing and building on the skills he’d developed under the tutelage of his sensei, before taking on his first students. Beginning in 1983, Sensei Harrill began traveling throughout the United States conducting seminars on Isshinryu karate; he also traveled to South Africa to teach karate. Harrill’s seminars focused on basics, kata, and self-defense techniques. In 2002, Sherman Harrill was diagnosed with esophageal and stomach cancer. He died on November 4, 2002, as a result of complications of cancer surgery and was buried with full military honors.

Darren Gilbert left the U.S. Army in July of 1983, and a few months later, wandered into Wheeler’s School of Karate in Powell, Tennessee. The dojo was not open yet, but a man sitting on a couch in the break area told Gilbert that “Allen would be there shortly.” That man was Sherman Harrill. Sensei Harrill taught several classes in the dojo before returning to Carson, Iowa. Gilbert was amazed and impressed, and after receiving his 2nd-degree black belt (Nidan), traveled the country, going to Sensei Harrill’s seminars as often as possible. These seminars had a profound impact, influencing how his karate developed and progressed over the years. He eventually became a student of Sensei Harrill in 2001. Sensei Gilbert received a 4th-degree black belt certificate (Yondan) from Sensei Harrill. He later received his 5th-degree black belt (Godan) from Sensei Eddie Satterfield, a colleague and fellow student of Sherman Harrill.

Darren Gilbert is the karate instructor for the University of Tennessee’s Martial Arts Club which currently meets Monday from 8:00 to 10:00 PM and Wednesday from 7:00 to 9:00 pm at TRECS (Studio 7). This class is open to UTK students, faculty, and staff. Sensei Gilbert also teaches karate on Thursday nights at 7:00 PM at the St. Francis Episcopal Church in Norris, TN. He is a founding member of the American Self-defense Federation, an organization dedicated to preserving and sharing traditional martial arts, and currently serves on the board of directors.

Contact Us

428 Country Oak Cir
Knoxville, TN 37909