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National Shorei Goju Ryu Association

Hanshi Herb Johnson - President 1979 -2015

Hanshi Herb Johnson began his Martial Arts training in 1963 as a high school wrestler. In 1968, he went to Ball State University to pursue a teaching and coaching degree. This is where he met Bill Wallace, who introduced him to Shorin Ryu Karate, and they became roommates for the next three years. When Bill Wallace left Indiana to do his graduate work at Memphis State University, Hanshi Johnson trained with Master Glenn Keeney in Goju Ryu Karate. Upon Bill Wallace’s return in Indiana, December 1973, he opened the Olympic Karate Studio where he was working for Ken Knudson and teaching Chi Do Kwon Tae Kwon Do, which he had learned in Memphis. Hanshi Johnson was again his first pupil. In June of 1974, Bill Wallace returned to Memphis to work for Elvis Presley at the Tennessee Karate Institute. Hanshi Johnson started working for Ken Knudson, owner of OKS, and now learning and teaching Shorei Goju Ryu. In order to research this style further, in 1975 Hanshi Johnson started attending seminars taught by Grand Master Robert Trias, the founder of Shorei Goju Ryu. By 1979, Grand Master Trias had appointed Hanshi Johnson as Style Head of Shorei Goju Ryu.


Hanshi Johnson, who was once the eighth anked fighter in the United States by Karate Illustrated Magazine in 1979, was an active and successful competitor from 1969 to 1986. He is the only person, except for Bill Wallace, to win the Grand Champion Title at the USKA World Championships three times (1984 – 86). Other victories include: 2nd place, Masters Kata USKA Grand Nationals (1982); Grand Champion, Burley Wagner’s Prairie States Open (1978, 1979); 1st place, light/heavyweight, fighting, USKA Grand Nationals, (1976); Grand Champion, Bob Yarnell’s Gateway Open (1978, 1979);l 1st place fighting, and team captain at Battle of Atlanta’s “National Team Championships” (1978, 1979).


Hanshi Johnson appeared in a Martial Arts video, “Escape…with Herb Johnson” (Clark & Black Productions, 1987) and has been featured numerous times in the media. He also starred in the film “Pushed Too Far” with Claude Akins (1988).


Hanshi Johnson was a tournament official since 1974 and judged over 10 world title fights for the PKA, and five world title fights for the PKC. He served as Style Head for the Shorei Goju Ryu system, was a member of the USKA’s Executive Committee, was on the Rules Committee of the PKC, and served as the Business Consultant for the PKC.


Hanshi Johnson’s honors include: AKA “Hall of Fame” Award (1977); Trias International Society “Hall of Fame” (1979); USKA “Instructor of the Year” (1978); and AKA “Coach of the Year (1978). In 1993 the PKC established “The Herb Johnson Most Spirited Fighter Award” to be presented each year at the PKC State Awards Banquet to the competitor who has demonstrated the tenacity and spirit to accomplish lifelong goals.


Herb Johnson attended seminars and clinics to increase his knowledge, and he remained close to his teachers (Bill Wallace, Glenn Keeney, Ken Knudson - deceased and Robert Trias – deceased) who became his lifelong friends as well as role models. Hanshi Johnson was lost to the world and the Martial Arts community in 2015.

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