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O’SENSEI FRANK RUIZ
Founder of Nisei Goju Ryu
Shihan Frank Ruiz was born on July 2, 1934 and grew up on the streets of New York City. He served in the U.S.
Marine Corps from 1951 to 1954, during the Korean War. He was highly decorated, earning the Purple Heart,
Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V, United Nations Ribbon, Jump Wings, and the American Presidential Unit
A student of Master Peter Urban, a pioneer of American karate on the East Coast, Ruiz competed successfully
in the first wave of tournaments promoted in his region. His credits as a fighter included the Gheez
Championships, the 1961 Tri-State Championships, the 1962 New Jersey Championships, the 1963 U.S.
International in Florida and the 1964 Staten Island Championships. He retired from competition in 1965,
undefeated after 186 fights, but then briefly came out of retirement in 1969 for the Pan-American
Championships in Puerto Rico, winning first place in the kata competition.
That same year, Shihan Ruiz, along with Harry Rosenstein, founded the Nisei Goju Organization, as a
springboard to promote his personal style of karate. The association has enjoyed widespread appeal and has
maintained branches in New York, Florida, Colorado, New Jersey, Texas, California, the Virgin Islands, and the
Bahamas. Shihan Ruiz is noted particularly for having trained some of the best-known fighters of the seventies.
The veteran coach fostered the careers of former National Champion Louis Delgado and quite a number of
other notables including: Ron Van Cleef (a.k.a. The Black Dragon), Malachi Lee, Owen Watson, Earl Monroe,
Herbie Thompson, Wilfredo Roldan, kata champion Gaynor Cote, and Bill Wendell.
Shihan’s other activities included doing benefit demonstrations for the Boy’s Club, the Boy Scouts and
Madison House Settlement, teaching at Adelphia College, and acting as Chief Instructor of the University of
the Streets. Shihan also worked undercover for the Virgin Island Police Department and set up a karate
program at the Police Academy of New York.
In July of 1970, while changing a tire on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, he was struck by a car that was
traveling an estimated 80 m.p.h. Based on his multiple and critical injuries, experts predicted he would not live,
and that if he did, he would never be able to walk again without the aid of crutches. Even though he spent one
week in a coma, eight months in the hospital and had several operations performed, after his release in 1971,
he immediately returned to teaching karate as well as giving demonstrations—on crutches! While
demonstrating in Florida, he snapped the pins in his leg and had to endure another operation. Then in 1974, he
discarded his crutches and walked normally once again.
Between 1974 and 1977, Shihan Ruiz worked on films in a variety of capacities. He served as a fight
choreographer for Force Four (1974) and Devil’s Express (1977), as a technical advisor for Super Weapon
(1974), and as an actor in Velvet Smooth (1975) and Prince of Central Park (1977).
Shihan relocated to South Florida in the late seventies, working as Chief of Security at a number of hotels in
Miami from 1979 through 1983. He taught classes at these venues while offering advice and support to the
various Nisei Goju schools in the South Florida area, including Kyoshi Wendell’s Bushido Karate Club. Shihan
Ruiz was promoted to 10th degree Grand Master in 1982, becoming one of the youngest masters ever to achieve
this distinguished honor. From 1983 to 1987, he taught martial arts with Master Moses Powell in Sunrise,
while maintaining a school of his own in North Miami Beach. During this time, he also offered classes at
Master Rex Lee’s school and continued to be active in the Florida Black Belt Association. From May 1987 to
April 1991, Shihan Ruiz instructed with Master Mike Romero at the Hialeah City Hall.
From May of 1991 until his untimely death on June 20, 1995, Shihan lived in Palm Beach County.
Despite a number of health problems mainly due to diabetes, he taught at the Children’s Gym in Jupiter and the
Jewish Community Center in West Palm Beach.
His death marked the passing of an American martial arts legend. His legacy continues in the hearts of Mushin
Goju Ryu instructors and through our rough and tough training regiments—characteristic of Shihan’s no-
nonsense, “do-it-‘til-it-hurts” philosophy of practice.