Shihan Ritchie Noblett 8th Dan (1946 – 2009)

Shihan Noblett

Shihan Ritchie Noblett 8th Dan, Chief Instructor of the Welsh Bushi-Kai, is widely acknowledged as one of Britain’s’ finest Karate exponents. He is one of the pioneers of British karate, and was among the first generation of Karate-ka who were taught the art in the early 1960’s.

Ritchie first became aware of karate after seeing “The Manchurian Candidate” – A 1962 film starring Frank Sinatra. As a 16yr old living in Waterford, Ritchie started trying to learn karate from books that he bought or borrowed, as karate did not exist in Ireland at that time.
It was at this time that Ritchie was seriously hurt in a fall from a roof, resulting in a steel pin being inserted into his hip and a long spell on crutches. Undaunted, Ritchie was determined to learn more about karate and a move to England was the only answer. The crutches were left behind but the steel pin remains to this day!

Shihan Noblett 9th Kyu

In 1963 Ritchie left his home in Ireland to move to London. It was in London that Ritchie first experienced karate when he began a brief training stint with Steve Arniel (Kyokushinkai). Later when work took him to Cardiff in Wales, he had a short spell at a local Shotokan School which was based in an old cinema. However the club closed its doors after only a few months.

Ritchie then discovered the Cardiff University Wado Ryu Karate Club (founded by Tatsuo Suzuki) and turned up on the doorstep of the Club Instructor and university student, David Mitchell, who found a way to get Ritchie membership of the club.  Ritchie soon began to excel at Karate whilst training with the University Club and he owes a great deal to his friend and mentor – David Mitchell. During this period, Ritchie would travel all over the country to attend courses and lessons held by the top instructors of the day. –karate-ka such as, Tatsuo Suzuki, Peter (Shizuo) Suzuki, Toru Takamizawa, Kuniaki Sakagami, John Smith and of course, Peter Spanton.

Dan Grade, 1969

1969 saw the British Karate Association hold a course and grading at Dale in Pembrokeshire. This now legendary course, presided over by Sensei Spanton, was to be held in the true spirit of Budo. Some 46 students began the course – just over 20 were there at the end, and after a gruelling week long training schedule Ritchie successfully passed his 1st Dan Grading.

In early 1970, Ritchie moved from Cardiff to the Steel town of Port Talbot where he opened the first karate club in the area at the Walnut Tree Hotel. When the Walnut Tree was demolished for the redevelopment of the town centre, Ritchie moved his Karate Club to its new home at the Afan Lido Sports Centre.

Ritchie and his Afan Lido Karate Club then began to dominate the Welsh Karate scene.  Some of the first students  were Karate-ka such as  Unel and Steven Wellington, Andy Morgan, Aldon Mills and the late, and great, Roberto (Swede) Mastrangeli. The Lido has since produced an incredible number of top class kumite competitors – a tradition which continues to this day.

Also in 1970, in collaboration with Mike O’Brien (Shotokan) and Howard Collins (Kyokushinkai), Ritchie co-founded the Welsh Karate Board of Control (WKBC) to the benefit of all those involved in Welsh Karate. This lead to the first “Welsh All Styles Karate Team”, which competed in a European Championships in Crystal Palace. Team members were, Ritchie Noblett, Howard Collins, Mike O’Brien, Lee Costa, Selwyn Gould, Unel Wellington and Alwyn Heath. Prior to the formation of Welsh Karate team, Ritchie found himself a member of an English team! alongside the likes of Brian Fitkin, Tyrone Whyte, Lee Costa and Ticky Donovan.

In 1974, Ritchie graded to 2nd Dan under Sensei Peter Suzuki, before returning to Sensei Spantons’ Forest Gate Dojo in London in 1977 to grade for his 3rd Dan.  This was the first 3rd Dan grading to be held under the auspices of the B.K.A which Ritchie successfully passed.

Ritchie’s’ competition career had many highlights, which included Captaining the B.K.A Squad, representing Great Britain at an International event in Germany alongside Tyrone Whyte, Ticky Donovan and John Smith, and representing as Captain, his adopted Country – Wales. As well as his kumite skills, Ritchie was also a top Kata competitor winning back to back British titles in the early 70’s ,he  was Higashi Champion for many years and won numerous titles and championships all over Britain.

When he retired from the tournament circuit, Ritchie poured his energies into his Afan Lido Karate Club in Port Talbot which soon became one of the countries finest. He coached the Welsh National Squad for 15 highly successful years. (12yrs as Senior coach and 3yrs as Junior coach). In 1980 he further developed the Afan Lido Club into the Welsh Bushi-Kai Karate Association.

Ritchie with Kevin Bowring

In recognition of his dedication to karate and his abilities as a coach, Ritchie was honoured by the Sports Council for Wales in 1997, who voted him “Local Sports Coach of the Year”. A year later in 1998, the Sports Council for Wales honoured Ritchie by awarding him “National Sports Coach of the Year”. This is a magnificent achievement when you consider that Karate is still a minority sport compared to the likes of Rugby, Football, and Cricket. Furthermore, In 2000 Ritchie was inducted into the Millennium Hall of Fame alongside Welsh sporting legends Gareth Edwards (Rugby) and Tony Lewis (Cricket).

At the Welsh Bushi-Kai Open Karate Championships in April 2005 in front of 1500 competitors and spectators, Ritchie was awarded the rank of 8th Dan. To mark the occasion, Ritchie was presented with a certificate by the Senior Instructors of the Welsh Bushi-Kai on the behalf of the association and all genuine Karate-Ka in Wales.

In addition a certificate was presented by Shihan Billy Doak, 8th Dan Jujitsu, on behalf of the British Budo Federation. After 40 plus years, Ritchies enthusiasm and dedication to karate is as strong as ever and he continues to be an inspiration to all of the students and instructors of the Welsh Bushi-Kai.