Personal Best Karate in Norton Kicking Away for Over 20 Years
Owner Chris Rappold shares his story through the years in the Martial Arts business.
Christopher Rappold started studying martial arts when he was 13, but he always loved watching Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee on the screen kicking and spinning away.
“I was always into the Kung Fu theater, Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, and I was always amazed how they could walk into an adversity and have total calm," Rappold said. "I thought martial arts would be that vehicle to show me that calm.”
Rappold started Personal Best Karate over 20 years ago. He said when he was 13 a friend brought him to a martial arts class and he’s been going ever since.
“Now it’s been 30 years,” he said.
Rappold started in a blended system of Tae Kwon Do, which included boxing and grappling and other styles of fighting.
Rappold said he studied with seven-time world champion Billy Blane.
“It was really cool at the time,” he said. “He was a seven-time world champion, and it was a personal goal I set to see if I could be that good. He mentored me; I even babysat his kids. He was unbelievable.”
Rappold, originally from Easton, went to Bridgewater State and got a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology.
“I had an eye on what I wanted to do, which was open Personal Best,” he said.
Rappold also studied with many different masters and won 1995 and 1997 Martial Artist of the Year Award from the U.S. Martial arts Hall of Fame.
Personal Best now has five locations, and while Rappold attributes much of his success to his hard approach, he said there were some factors of the time that you might not expect.
“In the beginning it was hard work and the Ninja Turtles,” he said. “In 91’ the Turtles were huge. We had good mentors and hard work, followed by the Power Rangers.”
Rappold said he’s since studied many different styles, traditions and influences from all over the globe, including Japan, China, Brazil and the Philippines.
“I’m somebody who’s had the good fortune of studying with a lot of good people,” he said. “I’m constantly studying and training. Because of my experience I get to train with some of the best people in the world.”
Rappold said he got to meet one of his idols during his career, Chuck Norris, during his time in training and competitions.
“I’ve met Chuck Norris probably a dozen times,” he said. “He was very complimentary when he saw me compete, and we’ve also raised money for his organization over the years.”
Rappold said it was a different time for martial arts schools back in the 90s. The schools were, as he put it, more intimidating and less welcoming then they are now, and he said he wanted a school to be inviting and welcoming.
“At the time parents weren’t allowed to watch,” he said. “From my standpoint, I’ve always felt very strongly that parents should be right there and see and hear what we do. In 91’, martial arts schools weren’t very warm and inviting. It wasn’t an atmosphere of service to the students and families. We were one of the first schools in the area that embraced that at a very high level.”
Rappold added that teaching instruction is very important at his school, so that all instructors have also been trained in teaching as well as martial arts.
“A practitioner of martial arts and a teacher of martial arts are two totally different things,” he said.
There are five locations for Personal Best including Norton, Easton, Foxborough, Norwood and Medfield. The Norton location is at 250 E. Main St.