Grandmaster Best has not only kept the spriti of
Isshin-Ryu Karate and the Martial Arts in his teachings, he has also brought this knowledge and wisdom into his personal family.
Grandmaster Best has accomplished many achievements in his life, but the most valuable is, in his own words, "Is when I introducted Isshinryu Karate into the Island of Puerto Rico".
Eagle, Globe and Anchor; another sign of a warrior that has helped guide the Grandmasters path through life.
Grandmaster Russell Peter Francis Best, Sr. was born July 24, 1937, in Long Branch, New Jersey. On January 11, 1957, at age 19, he joined the United States Marine Corps via Parris Island. In 1964, Grandmaster Best was assigned duties as the Legal Chief of Camp Smedely D. Butler in Okinawa. Special Services directed Grandmaster Best to Agena, the headquarters of Isshin-Ryu Karate and his Sensei, Founder of Isshin-Ryu Karate, Grandmaster Soke Tatsuo Shimabuku.
From this time, Grandmaster Best began living this system called Isshin-Ryu, the “One Heart Method” with all his heart and soul. Having a number of legal clerks under his command permitted Grandmaster Best to devide his time between the Marine Corps and the Isshinryu Dojo in Agena, Okinawa. Grandmaster Best was able to at times devote 8 to 10 hours a day at the Agena Dojo. When the AOKA Isshin-Ryu Karate Secretary, John Bartusevics, was being reassigned to the United States, he suggested to Soke Shimabuku that Grandmaster Best assume the duties of AOKA Isshin-Ryu Karate Secretary, which he did until his reassignment to the United States after his 14 month tour and his attaining the rank of Sho-Dan (1st Degree Black Belt).
Grandmaster Best and Soke Shimabuku became friends on a personal basis. As Master Bartusevics will confirm, when a Karate-Ka attains that personal friendship, Soke Shimabuku would allow those students to go to “special places”, those other Karate students did not experience. One of Grandmaster Best’s greatest achievements was his promotion to Sho-Dan by Soke Tatsuo Shimabuku, himself.
Upon Grandmaster Best’s return to the United States, he was stationed at Quantico, Va. As part of a karate team, Grandmaster Best, along with well known karate-ka "Skipper" Mullins, he competed in a Jhon Rhee Karate Tournament at the National Guard Armory, in Washington, D.C.. Grandmaster Best's first match was with the World Champion, Joe Lewis. During his tour of duty, Grandmaster Best taught karate classes at the Larson Gym, aboard the Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Va. While stationed there, he attended numerous karate tournaments, achieveing awards and inlighting the different martial art styles to the Isshin-Ryu System. Grandmaster Best and his faimly was transfered to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he introduced the Isshin-Ryu Systems to Puerto Rico. The first Isshin-Ryu karate school, headed by Grandmaster Best was located at Ft. Buchanan, the military annex to the San Jaun Naval Base. This introduction of Isshin-Ryu Karate into Puerto Rico was so special to Grandmaster Best that his words could not express his feelings. This special event is only second to his marriage to Catherine and the family they created together. Grandmaster Best had correspondence with Master Steve Armstrong while serving as AOKA Secretary, and this continued while stateside and while stationed in Puerto Rico. While performing his duties in Puerto Rico, Grandmaster Best kept Master Armstrong advised of the introduction of Isshin-Ryu to Puerto Rico and his school which received high honors in local tournaments. This information was relayed to Soke Shimabuku, who instructed Master Armstrong to promote Grandmaster Best to Ni-Dan on December 4, 1968.
In November 1969, Grandmaster Best received change of station orders to Cecil Field, FL. Grandmaster Best requested to go to Vietnam instead, and this change was granted. While stationed in Vietnam, Grandmaster Best was promoted to Staff Sergeant in the Marine Corps. While practicing his katas, several marines observed him and requested that he instruct them in the Isshin-Ryu karate system, which he did. While serving in Vietnam, Grandmaster Best took his R & R vacation in Okinawa and continued his karate studies under Soke Shimabuku and his son Kichiro. On February 3, 1971, Soke Shimabuku promoted Grandmaster Best to San Dan (3rd Degree) and he returned to duty in Vietnam.
While still in Vietnam, a close martial arts friend and brother in Isshin-Ryu, Dennis E. Bootle, corresponded weekly with him and kept him informed of the Isshin-Ryu world. Sensei Bootle submitted Grandmaster Best’s name to the Official Karate Magazine as “Karate-Ka of the Month” which appeared in the April 1972 issue, volume 4, no. 18.
Upon Grandmaster Best’s return to the United States he was stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC, where he did not hesitate in opening Isshin-Ryu Dojos both on base for Marine personnel, and in the city of Jacksonville for civilian students. Grandmaster Best was assigned to the Staff Judge Advocate’s Office, Base Legal, for military duty and was promoted to his Marine Corps rank of Gunnery Sergeant (E7), at which he retired.
It was during this time that he became close friends with Grandmaster Donald “Papa-San” Bohan, Grandmaster Danny Glover and Grandmaster Karl Hovey. Grandmaster Glover and Grandmaster Hovey are like members of his immediate family. Also during this period of time, Grandmaster Best met his close friend, Sensei Robert Jenkins, Go-Dan in Isshin-Ryu karate. All of these men have had a great influence on Grandmaster Best’s history in Isshin-Ryu Karate and his way of life, and that influence continues to this present day.
In June 1977, Grandmaster Best and his family were reassigned to the Memphis, TN area for duty. In addition to his duties as legal Chief of Marine Air Traffic Support Group-90, he continued to perform special duties as a military police officer and the MATSG-90, boxing coach. Grandmaster Best was also able to attend the Shelby County Sheriff Department Police Academy to become a Deputy Sheriff, and still teach karate class.
On April 18, 1979, Grandmaster Best and his family retired from the United States Marine Corps, after 22 years of honorable service. Grandmaster Best moved to the Washington, DC area and started a second career in Law Enforcement, with the Maryland Prince George’s County, Park Police. He held positions of Police Officer, Homicide Detective, Evidence Supervisor and Motorcycle Officer. During this time Grandmaster Best attended college and earned a degree in Law Enforcement.
During Grandmaster Best’s continued training, practice and instruction in Isshin-Ryu Karate, he connected with Master Frank VanLenten. On May 23, 1973, Master Van Lenten promoted Grandmaster Best to Yon Dan (4th Degree).
Grandmaster Best stayed involved in karate through teaching classes in the Fire Station in Bladensburg, MD, as well as the basement of his Upper Marlboro, MD home and his judging at various karate tournaments and events especially those of Grandmaster Dan Glover of Burlington, NC and Grandmaster Karl Hovey in King George’s County, VA.
Grandmaster Best continued his correspondence and long distance telephone talks with Master Steve Armstrong over the years. On 10Mar76, Master Steve Armstrong promoted Grandmaster Best to Go Dan (5th Degree). On 4Jun81, Master Steve Armstrong promoted Grandmaster Best to Roku-Dan (6th Degree). On 21Sept96, Grandmaster Best was promoted to Shichi Dan (7th Degree) by Grandmaster Karl Hovey as directed by Grandmaster Angi Uezu. On 26Aug97, Grandmaster Best was inducted into Grandmaster Don Nagle’s AOKA Hall of Fame in Bayonne, NJ for, (1) Silver Life Achievement of the Year and (2) Master Instructor. On 20Sept97, Grandmaster Best was promoted to Hachi Dan (8th Degree) by Grandmaster Angi Uezu. On 15Jun99, Grandmaster Karl Hovey was directed by Grandmaster Angi Uezu to promote Grandmaster Best to Ku Dan (9th Degree).
On 27May06, Grandmaster Phil Little nominated Grandmaster Best for induction into the World Head of Family Sokeship Council-INTERNATIONAL HALL OF FAME for Grandmaster Instructor of the Year Award in Isshin-Ryu.
On July 29, 2011, Grandmaster Best was inducted into the INTERNATIONAL ISSHIN-RYU KARATE HALL OF FAME (Group 32).....