Norbert Donnelly was born in Pontiac, Michigan on January 26, 1946. His training in Isshin-Ryu Karate began at Seven Mile Dojo in Detroit on June 6, 1966 under the tutelage of Ken Pittaway and Doug Noxon.
He received his Sho Dan on September 15, 1967, and opened his first dojo at the Community Activities Building in Waterford, MI, in October of 1967. Mr. Donnelly ran this school for 10 years and then passed it on to one of his students, Louis Grinnell. The Waterford dojo has been in continuous operation for over thirty years, and has had thousands of Isshin-Ryu Karate-Ka pass through it's doors.
In 1970, Mr. Donnelly opened a 3000 square foot dojo in Keego Harbor, Michigan.
This was a full time dojo, open from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. six days a week with an average enrollment of 250 to 300 students at any one time. In 1971, he opened a 2500 square foot dojo in Inkster, Michigan with Sensei Doug Noxon. Tragically, Sensei Noxon died a year and a half later.
In 1972, he wrote the first book published on Isshin-Ryu Karate titled, "The Isshin-Ryu System", which sold 10,000 copies between 1972 and 1976. During this time, Sensei Donnelly was certified by the State of Michigan to teach at police academies. He taught at the Wayne County Police Academy for three years, from 1973 to 1975.
During his competition years, Sensei Donnelly won over 125 tournaments, including the first three Michigan State Karate Championships in Black Belt Kumite and Kata. He defeated Top Ten Nationally ranked men like Johnny Lee, Flym Evans, Ken Knudson and Glen Keeney, and had monumental battles with Evertt Eddy and Bill Wallace.
Sensei Donnelly taught Isshin-Ryu Karate programs at Walled Lake Central High School, Bloomfield Lasher High School, Bloomfield Andover High School, Cranbrook Institute. He also taught at the Oakland Community College, Madona College and The University of Detroit. After taking a few years off, Sensei Donnelly returned to teaching again in l995. He currently teaches three nights a week in Rochester, MI. In addition, he holds seminars quarterly in the Detroit area and around the country.
In 1996, he published a book titled "Dojo". This was an effort to pass on observations that he has made throughout the years on what made some people successful in karate while others struggled. During the same year, he completed two videos, "Free Spar" and "Isshin-Ryu’s Basic Exercises." He is currently working on a book and video series on all the Isshin-Ryu katas as well as doing a rewrite of his original book.
In February of 1998, Sensei Donnelly brought a large web site on line. This web site is the newest addition in his continuing series of educational material for Isshin-Ryu practitioners. The site will illustrate all of Isshin-Ryu katas, but is unique in that it also features animated bunkai for each of the katas.