Grandmaster Johnson began his martial-arts studies in 1968 with shorin-ryu karate and later bushidokan karate. He began his taekwondo training in 1972 under Grandmaster Bobby Kim in Aurora, Colorado, while an Air Force officer teaching at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
In 2018 he was promoted to 9th Dan by Grandmaster Kim, and his certificate was co-signed by five other prominent Grandmasters: Woojin Jung, Jin Suk Yang, Chang S. Lee, Myung-Soo Son, and Eung-Gil Choi.
At age 73 Russ remains an active tournament competitor. In 2014 and 2015 he was gold medalist at the USA Taekwondo National Championships. As a member of the 2014 National Team, he represented the U.S. at the World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships, where he captured a bronze medal. He is a six-time USAT state champion: New Jersey 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2018; Maryland in 2015; and Pennsylvania in 2019. In 2017 he was named to the Taekwondo Times Magazine Hall of Fame.
During the past year he has been a gold medalist at the New England Open Taekwondo Championship (50 and over), the N.J. President's Cup (18 and over), and Garden State Championship (35 and over). He also earned a bronze medal at the 2019 U.S. Open Taekwondo Championship, one of the world's most prestigious events.