History of Koroshi School of Defense
Sensei Tom Benich, founder of Koroshi, was a member of USKA and received training under Masters Robert Trias and Phillip Koepple. Sensei Benich was a recipient of the coveted Trias Award and Double Axe Award.
Master Russell was privileged to have trained under some of the country's best instructors: Master Al Gene Caraulia, founder of Karate Institute, Master Victor Moore, Master Robert Moore, founder of American Martial Arts Academy, and Sensei Tom Benich.
The Beginning of Koroshi
In the winter of 1970, Sensei Tom Benich solicited two students to join him and help make his dream of opening his own school a reality. Vic Claycomb, a purple belt with good business ability and Melvin Russell, a brown belt with good teaching and technical ability joined Sensei Benich. After inspecting several facilities in different cities, the trio of investors agreed on a location on North State Street in Painesville, Ohio.
Koroshi School of Defense was established and incorporated in the summer of 1971. Master Russell still holds the original letter of incorporation for Koroshi. The doors opened and the people of Painesville and the surrounding area were introduced to the tough and traditional Martial Arts training that were the norm from Sensei Benich and Melvin Russell.
The Growth of Koroshi
In September of 1971, Master Melvin Russell earned his coveted Black Belt degree and was the first for Koroshi School of Defense. In that same year, two other students joined the ranks of Koroshi; a new student named Charles Brown and a red belt named Craig Clinton.
Another promising student joined Koroshi also that year. His name was Chuck Chirdon. Vic Claycomb earned his Brown belt that same year. In August of 1973, Master Craig Clinton and Sensei Chuck Chirdon obtained their Black Belt Degrees. A year later, Vic Claycomb obtained his Black Belt. In 1973 Master Russell and Sensei Benich were named in the top ten martial artists in the country in both Kumite and Kata.
Master Russell earned his second degree Black Belt Degree during this year. Koroshi also hired a Judo Master to help diversify the training of its students. Master Moo Hwan Kim did a superb job in opening the Judo portion of the school. The school remodeled the garage of the building for the Judo classes in order to broaden the floor space and class scheduling.
The school also obtained an Aikido instructor to add even more diversity. Unfortunately, Master Kim and the Aikido instructor left Koroshi in 1975 to pursue their own endeavors and those classes were dropped from the schedule. Sensei Russell also left to open his own school in Cleveland, Inner City Karate.
Another setback was from the owner of the building needing more floor space. He had Koroshi vacate the original side of the building and placed all of the training in the Judo side. In 1978, Master Brown received his Black Belt Degree. He and Master Clinton left and started Morse Street Karate School and Chi Karate schools in Painesville.
The Future of Koroshi
Grand Master Russell retired from competition in 1987 and closed the school in Cleveland. To this day, Master Craig Clinton, Master Charles Brown, and Master Chuck Chirdon have kept the Koroshi name and traditions going strong by producing students that Master Russell, Vic Claycomb, and the late Sensei Benich would be proud of.
All three of these Koroshi masters continue to teach and develop students in their respective locations, Clinton and Brown in the Cleveland area and Chirdon near Columbus, Ohio. The early influence on these three by Melvin and the devotion and respect they have for Master Russell continue to be echoed in the classes they teach in their home locations. They frequently share with students their first classes taught at Koroshi, usually taught by Melvin Russell, and how these classes shaped their basic foundation for their martial arts careers.
These three went on to achieve many national awards in both Kata and Kumite over the years, under the direction of Tom Benich and Melvin Russell. Melvin Russell can be considered one of the elite martial artists for his life time commitment to the art. He co-founded one of the country's highest standard martial arts schools, Koroshi School of Defense. He influenced the lives of many martial artists through his high standard of quality for his art. His teaching ability is second to none and this is evident in the quality students who have connection with him for the rest of their lives through the martial arts. Melvin Russell is truly a Koroshi Master.