Previous Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame Visit
Last night after work, I drove up to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for the 2022 Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame banquet. I’ve been to this event three or four times in my life. The last time I went to the Hall of Fame Banquet and Tournament was several years ago, in the late 90s, if my memory serves me correctly, when Sensei Sherman Harrill presented at the Friday evening pre-banquet seminar. My brother, Dan, a very accomplished aikido instructor, drove down from Gastonia, NC, and attended with me. We had a great time and even got to sit at a table and drink a couple of beers with Sensei Harrill and Sensei Harold Mitchum. Sensei Eddie Satterfield was there as well. So, it had been a while, but I attended last night’s banquet for a very particular reason.
Sensei Louie Grinnell
I first met Sensei Grinnell in the 1980s at Wheeler’s School of Karate in Powell, Tennessee. He was this older, quiet black belt who stayed on the dojo’s sidelines. He would teach Arnis and self-defense, but I noticed he never taught kata. I also noticed from his self-defense “lessons” that he was very good, and when you asked a question about a technique, you understood clearly why and how it worked.
When I was a green belt in Isshin-ryu and decided I knew some stuff, I developed a “theory” about using the front kick. At one point, I took my theory to Sensei Grinnell, and while I was younger and quicker, Sensei Grinnell beat me to the kick every time. Scratch one theory!
I grew to have a lot of respect for Sensei Grinnell, and over time he began to open up. At one time, I asked him why he never taught kata in the dojo. He paused as if determining what to say, and then he told me that Sensei Wheeler was not his instructor and did kata differently. So, out of respect for Sensei Wheeler, he refrained from teaching kata in the dojo. That statement really stuck with me, and many questions popped into my head, but Louie wouldn’t say anything else. However, I also learned that his instructor was Sensei Sherman Harrill, whom I met when I first joined the dojo.
Years later, when I opened my dojo in Clinton, Tennessee, Sensei Grinnell would often stop by and work kata with us. He was also quite good with knives and would do knife defense classes for us. Sensei Grinnell prompted me to go to the Don Bohan Benefit Seminar given by Sensei Sherman Harrill and Sensei AJ Advincula in White Lake, Michigan, which turned out to be a life-changing event for me. Once, we drove together to Sensei Harrill’s seminar in Carson, Iowa. Unfortunately, Louie could not leave until Thursday night, so I drove all night and pulled up in front of the dojo at about 5:00 am. That entire seminar was a complete blank for me because I pretty much “sleep-walked” through the whole thing. After that, I always flew. Sensei Grinnell was also the one who prompted me to start bringing Sensei Harrill into Clinton for what became our annual March seminar.
2022 Hall of Fame Banquet and Induction
So, I went to this year’s Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame banquet because Sensei Grinnell was being inducted, and I wanted to be there. I attended the event with Mike Allen, Eddie Satterfield, Danny Satterfield, and Darrell Rhines. Sensei Grinnell’s induction award was accepted on his behalf by his daughter. Unfortunately, Sensei Grinnell passed away on August 3rd, 2019, at 84 years of age. This was one Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame award that was most certainly deserved, if maybe a little late in coming.