In 1977 Ricky and his twin brother, Randy, from China Grove, North Carolina, were named The Gold Dust Twins by Karate Illustrated Magazine. In 1978 Ricky was ranked 3rd in the United States and 10th in the World in Professional Kickboxing by The World Journal Martial Arts. The highlight of Ricky and Randy's exciting kickboxing career came in 1978 when the duo won the Double Pro-Team (Tag Team) Kickboxing Championship of the World, sanctioned by the National Karate Association. This fight is still considered by many as one of the most action-packed bouts in the history of Full-Contact Karate.
The twins also fought as super-lightweights for the world famous undefeated five-man kickboxing team, The Charlotte Warhawks, alongside Danny McCall, Jimmy Horseley, and the late Keith Haflick. Randy had an extremely powerful straight right hand punch and was properly named The Bullet. Ricky had lightning fast hand and feet combinations and was nicknamed Flash after knocking out his first opponent in a record setting seventeen seconds. The Gold Dust Twins were two of the most colorful and popular fighters of their era.
(Pictured is Randy performing a roundhouse kick on Ricky in 1977)
Ricky and Randy had the honor of studying and ranking under some of the best karate teachers and competitors in the history of martial arts, including Jerry C. Piddington, the late Ridgely Abele, Troy Price, Vitus Bilking of Denmark, the late legendary Joe Lewis, David A. Adams, and the late Gary Basinger.
In 1974 the twins' father took them to Concord, N.C. to visit Gary Basinger's Chang Mu School of Tae Kwon Do. Gary became Ricky and Randy's first karate teacher, along with his assistant, Ronnie Gregory. The Smith Brothers traveled the sport karate circuit for years under Gary's tutorship racking up wins all over the Southeast. “Gary was one of the best sport karate competitors with more grand championship trophies than anyone I know,” said Randy. In 1975 the brothers followed Mr. Basinger, changing styles to Kyokushinkai of Oyama under Darrell Wilson, who was personally promoted to 6th Dan by Grandmaster Mas Oyama, founder of Kyokushin.
In 1976 the twins received their first black belt in American Jee Do Kwan from David A. Adams, a pioneer of karate in the Southeast. The same year, Ricky and Randy opened their first karate school, Smith Brothers Karate, in China Grove and began their teaching career under the tutelage of Mr. Adams. The brothers also began their full-contact karate profession under Dave's leadership. In the next few years, he coached the twins to a top ranking kickboxing career as they fought some of the best kickboxers of their era, including world champions Tony Lopez, Richard Jackson, and Vernon Mason. Ricky is currently 8th Degree Black Belt in American Jee Do Kwan under Mr. Adam’s American Jee Do Kwan Association. In 2005 the twins also starred in one of Dave Adams’ films, Angel with a Kick, along with the late martial arts legend Thomas C. LaPuppet.
In 1977 the Smith Brothers began training American Open Style Karate under Grandmaster Jerry C. Piddington and developed a student-teacher relationship that has lasted to this day. The same year Ricky and Randy received their 2nd Degree Black Belts in American Open Style Karate from Hanshi Piddington under the United States Karate Association, signed by O'Sensei Robert Trias (Father of American Karate), along with Cecil Patterson (Father of Tennessee Karate). Ricky is now Hanshi Piddington’s highest ranking students of 9th Degree Black Belt in American Open Style Karate and Randy is a 8th Degree Black Belt. In 1990 Ricky and Randy began teaching American Open Style Karate in their schools and became a lifelong chartered member of Grandmaster Piddington’s American Karate Academies National Association. “Hanshi Piddington taught me how to love, teach, and play karate,” said Ricky.
In 1995 Ricky and Randy earned their 5th Degree Black Belts from Joe Lewis (Father of American Kickboxing) in his American Karate Systems. “Joe was 52 years old when we had to spar him three rounds for our 5th Degrees,” said Randy. “My dad paid for the promotions for our 36th birthday so he could watch us get knocked around,” added Ricky with a laugh.
In 1997, Ricky and Randy founded a system of study incorporating their disciplines of karate, jiu-jitsu, and kobudo, called American Open Karate System.
In 1999 Ricky began training with Hanshi Ridgely Abele (student of Grandmaster John Pachivas) in Shuri-ryu and Kyoshi Troy Price (student of Hanshi Ridgely Abele) in Shintoyoshin-ryu Jiu-Jitsu/Shuri-te Bujutsu, and Kyoshi Vitus Bilking (student of Hanshi Ridgely Abele) in Shuri-ryu and Kobudo, going back to the roots of Grandmaster Jerry Piddington's American Open Style incorporating it into their American Open Karate System.
In 2000 Ricky and Randy also received 5th Degree Black Belts through the United States Karate Association in Okinawan Shuri-ryu Karatedo signed by the late John A. Pachivas, Grandmaster of Shuri-ryu, (Father of Florida Karate), Hanshi Ridgely Abele, and Grandmaster Jerry Pidddington. These were the last certificates that Grandmaster Pachivas signed before he passed away.
In 2001 Randy was certified as a Kickbox Fitness Instructor, with permanent status, under world renowned karate/kickboxing champion Joe Lewis.
In 2005 Ricky earned his 1st Degree Black Belt in Shintoyoshin-ryu Jiu-jitsu from Hanshi Ridgely Abele and Kyoshi Troy Price and in the same year, received a 7th Degree Black Belt from Ridgely Abele's International Shurite Yudansha-kai. In 2013 Ricky received his 2nd Degree Black Belt in Shuri-te Bujutsu from Kyoshi Vitus Bilking and Kyoshi Troy Price.
In 2010 Grandmaster Jerry Piddington promoted Ricky to 8th Degree Black Belt in American Open Style Karate and 8th Degree Black Belt in American Shorei/Shorin Karatedo.
In 2012 Ricky was proclaimed Headmaster of the American Open Karate System by Grandmaster Jerry Piddington's American Karate Academies National Association giving him authority to promote black belts with his blessing.
In 2015 Ricky and Randy received their black belts in American Open Mixed Martial Arts signed by Madison Hobbs and Joe Hurst.
In 2017 Grandmaster Jerry Piddington proclaimed Ricky and Randy as Headmaster of American Open Karate System through the Legends of Carolina Martial Arts Class of 2017: Larry Bullard, Charles Burris, Sam Chapman, Carl Clary, Bill Daniels, Jerome Johnson, Marty Knight, Danny McCall, Lawrence McSwain, Maurice Moore, Ricky Taylor, and James White.
In 2018 Ricky was awarded the title of Kyoshi from the Shuri-te Bujutsu-kai by Grandmaster Robert Bowles (Chief Instructor of O'Sensei Robert Trias), Hanshi Doug Perry, and Kyoshi Troy Price. Also, in 2018 Ricky was also awarded the title of Kyoshi (Headmaster Teacher) and Randy was awarded the title of Shihan (Master Teacher) from the American Karate Academies National Association by Grandmaster Jerry Piddington and endorsed by some of the most notable pioneers in American karate history: Grandmaster Robert Bowles, Grandmaster J. Pat Burleson (Father of all karate champions), Grandmaster Roy Kurban, Grandmaster Jim Butin, Tony Lopez (world kickboxing champion), Hanshi Bruce Juchnik (Chief Instructor of James Mitose), Hanshi Doug Perry and Grandmaster John Natividad.
In 2019 Grandmaster Jerry Piddington (American Karate Academies National Association) promoted Ricky to 9th Degree Black Belt in American Open Style Karate and 9th Degree Black Belt in American Open Karate System. Randy was promoted to 8th Degree Black Belt in American Open Karate System.
(Pictured is Randy and Ricky with their first teacher, Gary Basinger, in the center - 1975
The twins are also founders of SideKick Karate Dojo, SideKick Gym, SideKick MMA, and SideKick Karate, with past schools in Lexington, Concord, and China Grove, and current schools in Concord, Myrtle Beach, and Salisbury, producing over 150 black belts.
Ricky and Randy's black belts who have owned and operated schools in the past are Ronnie Fite (China Grove), Ronnie Linker (Salisbury), Jody Shoaf and Albert Styers (Lexington), Warren and Tyrone Stewart (Kannapolis), Josh and Brad Mason (Lexington), and Dale Jordan (Concord). Their black belts who are currently operating schools include Ronnie Isenhour (Salisbury), Craig and Brandon Eagle (Lexington), Madison Hobbs (Concord), and Robert Taylor (China Grove). Presently, Jeff Dixon (Concord) is the only affiliated school of SideKick Karate.
Ricky and Randy's first school, established in 1976, called Smith Brothers Karate, was handed over to Ronnie Fite in 1985 and eventually became Fites School of Karate remaining in business until 1995. In 1990 Randy opened SideKick Gym in Lexington, N.C. and remained there until 1997. In 1993 Ricky and his father purchased a building, a block from their old school, and re-established their roots in downtown China Grove, called SideKick Karate Dojo. In 2007 Robert Taylor took the helm of SideKick Karate of China Grove and ten years later changed the name to Traditional Martial Arts of China Grove. In 1999 Randy re-established his roots and opened SideKick Gym at Gold's Gym in Lexington. In 2002 he purchased a building in downtown Lexington and founded SideKick MMA which remained in operation until 2012.
In 1998 Ricky and his wife, Edie, opened SideKick Karate of Concord N.C. In 2002 Dale Jordan took the helm of this location and remained in operation until 2010. In 2012 Ricky and Edie opened SideKick Karate of Salisbury on 119 W. Innes Street and in 2018 relocated to 520 S. Main Street due to the expansion of their after-school program. Ricky is currently teaching at this location, along with his head instructor Lukas Miller.
(Pictured is Randy performing a side kick and Ricky performing a flying side kick)
The Gold Dust Twins’ accomplishments have not only been in competition, but teaching. In 1994 the twins were inducted into the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame as Instructors of the Year and Ricky also won the Kata Grand Championship in the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame Tournament that year. “We feel that we received our passion for teaching from our mother, who was a 12th grade English teacher for 34 years,” said Ricky.
In 2003 Ricky and Randy were also inducted into the National Sport Karate Museum as Living Legends of Sport Karate. Ricky received the Superior Leadership Award in 2003 and 2004 and the Professional Martial Arts Award in 2005 from Hanshi Abele's International Shurite Yudansha-kai. In 2011 the twins were inducted into The Battle of Atlanta Hall of Fame by Joe Corley, Jeff Smith, and Don "The Dragon" Wilson. In 2017 Ricky and Randy joined the first Class of 2017 Legends of the Carolina Martial Arts in Columbia, South Carolina, along with their teacher Jerry Piddington. They were also published in Who's Who in the Martial Arts, 2017 Edition.
One of the highlights of their career came the following year when the Gold Dust Twins were nominated for the Joe Lewis Eternal Warrior Award, the highest award of the Professional Karate Association (PKA), at the 2018 Battle of Atlanta. Only 50 world changers in the 50-year history of sport karate were selected by BOA founder Joe Corley, Bill "Superfoot" Wallace and Jeff "The DC Bomber" Smith. "This secured our history," said Ricky. "We were alongside the greatest fighters in history, fighters we read about in karate magazines growing up."
Also, in 2018 Ricky and Randy received The History General Award and The Joe Lewis Dragon Image Fighting Award presented by Gary Lee of The National Sport Karate Museum.
(Pictured from the left - Bill "Superfoot" Wallace, Randy, Christina Lewis, Ricky, and Jeff "DC Bomber" Smith)
Ricky and Randy have been promoters at heart for most of their adult life. The twins, along with Ricky's wife Edie, have promoted everything from karate tournaments, kickboxing tournaments, karate seminars, karate demonstrations, 5K road races, bodybuilding contests. motorcycle charity rides, to Living Legends VII, one of the premier events of the martial arts.
In 1981-1983 Ricky and Randy promoted locally televised kickboxing tournaments called The China Grove Superfights. These kickboxing productions included some of the best fighters in history of the sport, such as Bill “Gentleman” Morrison, Johnnie “Superfoot” Davis, Curtis "The Thin Man" Bush, and the infamous Joe Lewis. In 1993 they promoted The Lexington Superfights, which determined the N.C. State Kickboxing Champions of five different weight divisions, sactioned by the World Karate Association (WKA).
In 1989 Ricky and Randy gave their hearts to Jesus and began to serve God. Ricky traveled with a well-known youth evangelist, Eastman Curtis, out of Lakeland, Florida and Randy served as a youth pastor in Tallahassee, Florida. In 1991 Ricky and Randy founded Double Impact Ministry Team, using their martial arts demonstrations as a tool to reach the youth of America.
In 1998 Ricky and Edie founded one of the premier 5K road races, The China Grove 5K Challenge. The Smith’s decided to raise the bar in the size of trophies given in 5K runs, giving out 6-foot trophies to overall winners along with substantial cash. This attracted world class runners to their hometown event. Edie, Ricky’s wife, an elite runner herself, explained, “I wanted to give back to my passion of running and this race was a good mix with the martial arts community.” The First Annual China Grove 5K Challenge hosted over 540 runners the first year and remains a huge success to this day. The race is now hosted by the local YMCA and proceeds go to underprivileged kids to attend camp.
In 2003 Ricky and his wife decided to give back to the martial arts community by honoring some of the great legends of sport karate. They promoted Living Legends of Sport Karate VII, under the tutelage of Professor Gary Lee, held in Charlotte, North Carolina, honoring the world’s greatest fighters of all-time, including Jeff Smith, Jerry Piddington, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Bob Wall, Joe Lewis, and Howard Jackson. In the same event, Ricky and Randy’s father, Gene, was honored with the Living Legends Pioneer Award.
In 2004-2014 Ricky and his wife, Edie, founded and promoted The Bushido Warrior Sparring Tournament with special guest, such as Bob Wall (Enter the Dragon) and Howard Jackson. The event raised over $100,000 for Godstock, a local organization that helps families with critically ill children.
Ricky and Edie have promoted an annual SideKick Karate Tournament, Tomoe Warrior Test, and Sun and Moon Karate Test for the last 20 years.
(Pictured from the left - Randy, Gene - Ricky and Randy's father, Bob Wall, and Ricky)
Ricky and Randy also have a love for film making and a vision for martial arts films made for family entertainment with a Godly message of hope. Their film resume includes:
(Pictured is Randy and Ricky standing with Thomas LaPuppet, star of Angel with a Kick - 2005)
Ricky and Randy are the authors of a Volume I, II, and III series of karate books. The first hardback edition, American Open Karate System Illustrated Training Manual, consist of 650 pages with over 6,500 drawings illustrating every technique in American Open Karate. “I own a couple of O’Sensei Robert Trias’ publications called, The Pinnacle of Karate, along with Ridgely Abele’s, Karatedo, Art-Sport-Science, and Troy Prices’ Combative Kyusho-Jutsu Training Guide, and the drawings in their books inspired me to draw the techniques for our book,” says Ricky. “Drawings are traditional and timeless.” Ricky and Randy have worked on this project since 1979. “This book is our legacy to American Open Karate and a gift to my teacher Hanshi Jerry Piddington,” adds Ricky. “This will be the most complete book on martial arts ever written,” says Mr. Piddington. “And it will record our history forever.”
Ricky and Randy have produced several martial art training videos. Their first instructional video, Get Started in Karate, was endorsed by world famous kickboxing champion Joe Lewis, who made an appearance in the introduction. In 2003 their production company, SideKick Productions, produced an instructional video titled, Living Legends Sport Karate and Kickboxing Seminar, featuring four of the greatest legends in karate and kickboxing history: Joe Lewis, Don Wilson, Jeff Smith, and Howard Jackson. They have also produced and directed several television commercials.
Ricky and Randy are currently working on a christian publication, titled Self-Defense against the Devil:Fight for the Victory, which will include some of their life experiences along with their personal testimony.
(Pictured is Ricky on the left and Randy on the right)
Ricky, and his wife, Edie, currently operate SideKick Karate of Salisbury, North Carolina. Randy is currently operating a school in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Their black belts who presently own schools are Robert Taylor with Traditional Martial Arts of China Grove, Jeff Dixon with SideKick Karate of Concord, and Madison Hobbs with Hobbs MMA. Ricky is Headmaster of American Open Karate System and Chief Instructor of the American Karate Academies National Association chartered by Hanshi Jerry Piddington.
In 2017 Ricky and Edie implemented the first martial arts after-school program in Rowan County busing students from fifteen schools to their dojo. In 2018 they were the first to teach a program for At Risk Kids in the Salisbury/Rowan School System, which boasted a 50% reduction in behavior problems the first year. The program also includes a karate tournament held at the end of the school year.
In 2018 Ricky and Edie relocated SideKick Karate of Salisbury to a new 12,000 square foot location to accommodate the expansion of their new programs. They are also busy promoting several events a year including their annual SideKick Karate Tournament, Tomoe Warrior Test, and Sun and Moon Karate Test, all sanctioned under AKANA.
Ricky and Randy grew up at their Dad’s 43 acre recreational park, Happy Lake, where they learned to lifeguard. Randy still has life-guarding in his blood. He currently works for Lack’s Beach Service and manages ocean rescue and water safety in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He received the 1997 Rookie of the Year Award and was honored with the 2009 Carl D. Righter, Jr. Horry County Beach Front Veteran Meritorious Service Award.
(Pictured is Edie and Ricky at one of their Sun and Moon Tests - 2017)
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(Pictured is Randy, father - Gene Smith, Ricky)