Frank Dux is a badass martial artist who fought in underground no-holes-barred Kumite tournaments. He was the 1975 heavyweight Kumite champion, except most people don’t know about that because the Kumite is a highly secretive an illegal tournament. Before the days of commercial MMA, he was a heavyweight champion with a 329-0-0 record.
What you might know is the Oscar winning movie Bloodsport, a testosterone epic with Jean-Claude van Damme flexing his pecs and dominating an elite underground fighting circuit. Van Damme was playing Frank Dux and reliving Dux’s true story.
Dux has also established his own Ninjutsu schools and he’s not a guy you want to mess with. Except plenty of people have been refuting his claims and his stories, saying the Frank Dux is little but a fraud who got some “true story” Hollywood acclaim.
So will the real Frank Dux please stand up? In this definitive guide we delve into the fact and fiction, deciphering the life and times of this famous martial artists.
Frank Dux Claims The UFC Was Named After Him
“The first thing is, it was called the Ultimate Fight Challenge,” said O’Sensei Dux. “I was known by Victor Moore as the Ultimate Fighter or the Ultimate Fight Champion. Nobody could beat me – I retired undefeated. I mean truly undefeated.”
“They’re going to call it, to honor me, the way the representative talked to me, they’re going to call it the Ultimate Fight Challenge.”
Frank Dux in Bloodsport
Bloodsport wasn’t Van Damme’s first movie but it’s certainly the one that kicked the muscles from Brussels into world fame. He seriously kicks some ass, revealing his martial arts background and running over a succession of opponents should be bigger, badder, or faster than him. Bloodsport is based on the life of U.S Army Captain Frank Dux. Dux’s exploits were reported in a 1980 article for Black Belt Magazine and became the inspiration for the movie. But ever since the movie’s release, there’s been claims and counterclaims as the world tries to verify Dux’s story.
The Bloodsport Plot
Frank Dux has been trained in Ninjutsu by a Japanese master Senzo Tanaka, who offers him a chance to fight in an illegal single-elimination full-contact martial arts tournament – the Kumite. It’s an underground and often deadly competition that takes place every five years. And there’s no rules. There’s nobody stepping in like the MMA octagon. But Dux’s superiors hear about his invitation and forbid his leave, so the U.S Army Captain goes AWOL and heads to Hong Kong.
Dux makes it through the first two days and breaks the Kumite record for the fastest ever knockout. Which puts him on a collision course with Chong Li, the savage defending champion who has just smashed Dux’s friend Ray Jackson to pieces. Li goes on to violently kill his next opponent. Jackson is in hospital and Dux vows to avenge the defeat. Of course, with all this fighting going on there’s got to be a chick around. Enter Janice Kent, an American journalist who provides a bit of tasty on screen action. She’s obviously dismayed by the violence and tries to talk Dux out of fighting Li. At the same time, the police are closing in on Dux because he’s gone AWOL. But he gets past them both to challenge Li.
In the final, Li blinds Dux with a crushed salt pill. But Dux uses his Ninjutsu training and fights without sight, using other senses to overcome Li and force him to surrender – we told you this Frank Dux guy was badass. In doing so, he becomes the first ever Western winner of the Kumite. Which is pretty sick. But is it actually true?
The Bloodsport Screenplay and Choreography
When Hollywood were interested in his story, Frank Dux ended up writing the original Bloodsport screenplay. This was then adapted by Sheldon Lettich who changed around so much that Dux almost went to court with the producers. Dux stayed on board and did the fight choreography for the $1.5million movie. So Van Damme’s future success had a lot to do with Frank Dux.
12 Things You Didn’t Know About Frank Dux and Bloodsport
With everyone debating the truth of the movie, Frank Dux went on record to explain a few things about Bloodsport. He was trying to separate the Hollywood screenplaying from his own original story. Here are 12 things you didn’t know about Frank Dux in Bloodsport.
- Frank Dux accredits his fighting success to being born handicapped – his feet would point in the opposite direction so he got used to lots of pain and adversity.
- According to Dux, Van Damme is an okay fighter but a great performer.
- Bolo Yeung who plays the savage martial arts killer Chong Li was also Mr Asia.
- How Frank Dux meets his shidoshi by breaking in through a window isn’t true.
- Van Damme’s dodgy cycling shorts were Frank Dux’s idea.
- Bloodsport employed exactly zero stuntmen. Yep, they didn’t have budget for it and didn’t want them anyway.
- Jean-Claude Can Damme is obsessed with dogs and would bring them to filming.
- Anyone can do Ninja. That’s what Frank Dux says.
- That crazy coin trick Dux pulls in the bar really did happen.
- That suicidal punishment stretching thing they do, like they’re being hung, drawn, and almost quartered – that’s for real as well.
- Sanzo Tanaka, Frank’s mentor, was a Ninjitsu spy who was also characterized in the James Bond book and movie You Only Live Twice.
- His last name is pronounced “Dukes.” And definitely not “Ducks” like Victor Lin suggests.
Frank Dux: Beyond Bloodspot
Everyone knows Dux through Van Damme and Bloodsport. But there’s a lot to the man than two hours of kicking ass in an underground fighting tournament. Dux admits that he’s much crazier in real life than he is in the movie:
“Jean-Claude and I went at it for real one day on set, both of us real mad, and I told him to meet me on the roof of the Victoria Hotel, and I’ll show him who’s a champion. We met there, 60 stories up, and I stood on this section that was no wider than 18 inches. I told him we’d fight right there, then did a full-rotation kick and stared him down. You could see his heart fall into his chest and he said, ‘Frank, you’re crazy.’ After that, we went to dinner and he never raised his voice to me again. Not even when I took him to court.”
The Kumite – Fact or Fiction
Because it’s underground and it sounds just too brutal and badass, there’s been much public debate about whether the Kumite actually existed. The problem is that these tournaments existed well before the internet, so most people claim it never existed because there’s no online record. Black Belt Magazine are pretty clear about it in their November 1980 magazine:
“The truth is that a full-contact kumite event is indeed held at a private location once every five years. The event is sponsored by the International Fighting Arts Association (I.F.A.A.) which, although not a publicity seeking organization, is far from secret.”
Frank Dux has since explained that the I.F.A.A has since disbanded which might explain why you can’t find much about them on the internet. Plus, they weren’t ones to seek publicity. It’s not like UFC and pay per view. This was an illegal tournament. Dux also says that the Black Dragon Fighting Society came under the I.F.A.A at the time. But the history of the Kumite isn’t just restricted to Frank Dux and Sanzo Tanaka.
The Mongolian Origins of the Kumite
There’s not many people who can kick ass better than Frank Dux. One that could have done is Ghengis Khan, the Mongolian warrior who conquered the world in the 13th century. Even to this day, Khan’s Mongolian Empire is the largest empire in world history. Bigger than the Romans, Greeks, and any colonial empire. There’s evidence that the Kumite is a direct descendent of the Bandizo, a bare-knuckled tournament of fights to the death by Mongolian nomadic tribes. Khan used these to identify his killer lieutenants just like Sanzo Tanaka would use the Kumite to source an army of enforcers.
Sanzo Tanaka and the Japanese Kumite
The early 20th century record of the Kumite is also portrayed in the movie Fearless. During the movie, Sanzo Tanaka finally ends the reign of Hou Yuanjia at the Kumite, becoming a legend and world champion. Tanaka’s status and the support of the members of the Black Dragon Fighting Society are what give Frank Dux his shot at the Kumite. In Japanese, Kumite literally translates to “free fighting.” Kumite is one of three forms of traditional Japanese karate training, the others being form (kata) and fundamentals (kihon). In Bloodsport, Kumite becomes generalized as the name of the full-contact fighting tournament, although this event is considered to have had many historical names.
The Kumite and Today’s MMA
While the Kumite no longer exists – well, if it does exist then they’re doing exceptionally well at keeping it secretive – these full-contact fights are essentially the precursor of today’s MMA. Those who think the Kumite is just a mad exaggeration only need to watch a night of UFC. Okay, so back then there really wan’t any rules and death was certainly common. Frank Dux even talks about wearing a steel box over his balls because low blows were part of the game. So what used to be underground has now become the world’s fastest growing sport. Instead of just fighting for the acclaim, the best MMA fighters are earning $millions a year. Just check out the net worth of the sport’s champions.
Frank Dux and Bloodsport – Fact and Fiction
Here’s the part that gathers most debate. Did Frank Dux really win the Kumite? And did it happen as portrayed in Bloodsport.
The Kumite does take place ever five years in a secret location. Bloodsport places the tournament in Hong Kong, although the actual 1975 Kumite was held in Nassau, Bahames. This is something that Frank Dux admits. Other characters in the movie are also widely regarded as fictional, notably the two CID officers who are summoned to track down Dux and charge him with desertion. This whole story line of an army captain who goes AWOL is just Hollywood mythology, a neat little tag line that helps sell the movie.
During Bloodsport, Dux befriends American fighter Ray Jackson – the big mean hairy dude who ends up in hospital. This guy is completely fictional and never existed. He’s based on a mix of the Swedish Kumite Champion Kurt Peterson and the Jujitsu Black Belt biker Richard Robinson. In his very first Kumite fight, Frank Dux breaks the record for the fastest knockout. While Dux does hold this world record, it certainly didn’t happen in his first fight.
Frank Dux did serve in the U.S. Marine Corp as an Intelligent Specialist. FOIA documents confirm that Dux served and was essentially a spy working during the Cold War.
The main truth behind Bloodsport is that Frank Dux fought and won the 1975 Kumite, becoming World Heavyweight Full Contact Kumite Champion.
A Ukrainian military spokesperson later let slip that Dux was a commander of a joint military group known as Officer Duchovny’s Group.
“Officer Duchovny” was Frank Dux …Frank Dux was dubbed the Hunter. He was in the Soviet Union for just a few weeks when our intelligence received information about the exceptional talents of the Hunter and his unique ability to investigate extremely dangerous and complicated matters.” – Major General, Anatoly Korneinko, USSR”
However, closer inspection of the military records shows that things like this that appear on the Frank Dux website are little more than romantic fiction. There’s no evidence that even left the US while working for the Marine Corp.
The Kumite – Fact and Fiction
When the curtains close on Bloodsport, Frank Dux’s Kumite records are displayed. You might have already finished the popcorn and charged out to avoid queues getting out of the parking lot. Or fallen asleep because Bloodsport only seems to feature on Cable at 1am in the morning. So if you did, here’s what it says:
“From 1975 to 1980 Frank W. Dux fought 329 matches.
He retired undefeated as the World Heavy Weight Full Contact Kumite Champion.”
It gets better…
“Mr. Dux still holds four world records:
Fastest Knockout – 3.2 seconds
Fastest Punch with a Knockout – .12 seconds
Fastest Kick with a Knockout – 72 mph
Most Consecutive Knockouts in a Single Tournament – 56”
329 fights in five years? The top MMA guys are stepping into the cage just a few times a year, picking up mega-money each time they do. But 329 heavyweight fights undefeated? That’s absolute madness.
Frank Dux’s world records and championship titles weren’t made up by Hollywood. They appear on the Black Dragon Fighting Society website. Even so, it all just seems a little to OTT, especially since UFC has shown that these top fighters might be machines but they’re also human
Frank W. Dux – The Master Fake?
Perhaps if it wasn’t for UFC and televised MMA then there wouldn’t be so much debate over Frank’s record. But he’s been dubbed the Master Fake because the world has seen how difficult it is to completely dominate MMA. Even multiple MMA world champions aren’t coming in and winning 300+ fights in a row. Take Fedor Emelianenko. He went undefeated for nine years until he was famously stopped by Fabricio Werdum in 2010. He had 29 fights. Wanderlei Silva was unbeaten in four years and had 16 fights. Georges St. Pierre won ten championship matches in a row. And here’s Dux with a record of 329-0-0, all in tournament fights, over just five years. It’s these obscene facts that made most martial artists turn their heads and cast their doubts on the whole story. Many were sharing the observations of Curtis Wong, editor of Inside Kung Fu magazine:
“I don’t think anyone in the world can do that.”
Just a Woodland Hills Martial Arts Teacher?
The LA Times have been particularly scathing in what they say about Frank Dux. For them, the Kumite is just another improbably story spat out by the Dux romance machine. The others include a covert mission to Southeast Asia, rescuing orphans from Philippines pirates and various other badass missions that culminate in Bloodsport. It all sounds great, and certainly ensures youngsters keep signing up for this martial arts studios in Woodland Hills and North Hollywood.
“Military records show that Dux never ventured closer to Southeast Asia than San Diego. His only known war injury occurred when he fell off a truck he was painting in the motor pool.” John Johnson in the LA Times, May 01, 1988
The LA Times went into great detail about the gaps in the Frank Dux story. Some are a little slanderous. Like claiming the Kumite didn’t exist because a spokesperson from the Bahames Sports Society claims to have no knowledge of the tournament. The Los Angeles Times also claimed that the organization that staged the Kumite had the same address of Frank Dux.
Controversy Over the Kumite Trophy
Huge controversy has reigned over Frank’s trophy from the 1975 Kumite, as well as the ceremonial sword he won. Reporters were saying 329-0-0-what-the-! – we want to see the trophy. After showing it to the camera snapping press, a San Fernando Valley trophy maker, W.R Moody Co, claimed that the trophy from the Bahames Kumite was partly made in San Fernando.
And let’s remember that San Fernando is where Dux lived when he first moved to the States from Canada. But, let’s also remember, that how many businesses would be able to present receipts from purchases made 12 years earlier. In a court of law, this the trophy receipt was shown to be a fabrication and withdrawn from the evidence for various facts.
Reporters then started asking Dux about the ceremonial sword, which Frank Dux claims he sold because he needed money to buy freedom for the Filipino orphans.
“I sold my sword. I have no regrets for it. It went for a good cause. It went to buy kids out of slavery who were on pirate ships. We took arms up and fought boat pirates and we got these kids free..Many of them are now in the United States. “I’m in touch with some of them, and they love me to death.”
So is this guy just the baddest macho hero of our generation? Or some dude with his head in the clouds making up romanticized nonsense for the world?
Frank Dux on IMDB
It’s clearly a debate that’s going to keep raging on. Take Frank Dux on IMDB. Here’s the very first sentence of his actor profile:
“Frank Dux is a Martial Arts legend surrounded in both fame and controversy.
IMDB also call him a stuntman, which seems a little harsh considering he was the choreographer for Bloodsport.
In His Own Words
In 1996, his s autobiography was published by HarperCollins – The Secret Man: An American Warrior’s Uncensored Story.” It’s a pretty chauvinistic title to choose, but hey, if it was your autobiography you’d probably do the same. In the book Frank Dux responds to much of his criticism and tries to add some factual content to support his story. Unfortunately, the Frank Dux story only ends up getting more convoluted and surreal, filled with many tales of Soviet war missions and Filipino pirates. But there is some benefit to the Frank Dux story here. HarperCollins the publishers had to investigate the story before being able to publish it as fact.
The Early Years
Born in Toronto in 1956, Dux was the eldest son of Holocaust survivors. The family moved to San Fernando Valley, which some of you martial arts fans might know as the “Valley of Champions.” It’s home to the leading martial arts magazine and a huge array of leading martial arts fighters. His family was poor and he couldn’t afford to enroll in a program offered by one of the commercial schools. So Frank Dux focused on mixed martial arts, rather than pursuing one particular style. Bruce Lee referred to this way as the “classical mess.” Bruce Lee has some more pretty awesome quotes about the world.
Learning Martial Arts
Unable to afford formal tuition, Dux would clean the sidewalks and watch training sessions through the window. He was desperate for some recognition and a kick start, and he would watch all he could of martial arts masters like Bob Ozman, Bong Soo Han, John Leone, Bill Ryusaki, and others. Grandmaster Bill Ryusaki says:
”Frank was just a kid, he cleaned the sidewalk and kept the Ryu-Dojo windows clean and I kept my blinds open for him to watch and learn.”
Coming of Age in a Streetfight with Victor Moore
Victor Moore isn’t someone you want to mess with. In the days before formalized MMA, Moore became the first fighter to ever defeat Mike Stone, a man who had 91 straight wins. Moore even beat Bruce Lee in a speed test.
So Dux walks up to Moore and says, “hey, you remember telling me that to be the best you have to fight the best…well I’m asking if I can fight you.” Moore laughs about it and says something Hollywood like take your best shot.
So Frank smashes Moore in the nose and the pair start brawling for 15 minutes, with no officials and a load of fight fans shouting and balling from the side.Here’s what Victor Moore says about it:
“There was no winner, everybody couldn’t believe what took place. Mike Stone had just got beat and there’s Frank Dux, an overgrown awkward looking kid taking me on, matching my speed, power and determination…Not trying to take anything away from Bruce Lee, Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace, Joe Lewis, Chuck Norris, Jim Kelly and Mike Stone are just a few of the great fighters I fought and defeated as a World Champion. But my two most memorable fights I ever had are with the only guy I couldn’t beat, Frank Dux.”
Note he says two fights. In a Nashville hotel lobby, 35 years later, Moore threw a fist into Dux’s nose and the pair fought no-holes-barred for another 15 minutes.
Frank and the Count Dante Black Dragon Fighting Society
After watching the first Moore streetfight, Frank Dux was immediately initiated as the younger ever member of the illustrious Count Dante Black Dragon Fighting Society. Dux had what he was looking for, recognition and an invite to train with the world’s best martial artists. He hitchhiked to Chicago to be mentored by one of Keehan’s instructors, James Lee – AKA Sanzo Tanaka. Here’s multiple time World Karate Champion and Grandmaster Victor Moore once more:
“He’d better me with my same combo… and every combo I used he adapted and made it his own and better… I was fast as they come, but Frank Dux was faster. FASTER THAN ALL OF US BACK THEN, including Bruce Lee. I told everyone this was the up and comer to watch.”
Sanzo Tanaka and Kokuryukai
Sanzo Tanaka was a former member of the Black Dragon Society, also known as Kokuryukai. It’s a Japanese industrial spy ring working in China that sponsored the Kumite and other full contact underground fighting events. Remember, this is decades before UFC and MMA were in the public eye. By organizing the tournaments, the Black Dragons could identify fighters who could be employed as enforcers for the spy ring. This was pre WWII and Japan’s invasion of China. By meeting and training with Sanzo Tanaka, Frank Dux gained an invitation to the Kumite and other Bloodsport style fighting events.
The Famous Frank Dux Black Belt Magazine Article
It seems that the whole Frank Dux story boils down to his famous article in the 1980 Black Belt Magazine. It was this article that alerted the world to the Kumite and was taken as the basis of the Bloodsport movie. Frank Dux operated in a dimly lit world of secrecy and MMA guys pounding each other to death, not just submission. His was a world that none of us can even start to see. It was the precursor to the MMA, but while UFC has taken full-contact fighting into the mainstream, the world of the Kumite is as murky as ever. So does the article provide proof of Frank Dux’s achievements? Or was it just the start of a Frank Dux legendary myth? Here’s both sides…
Kumite: A Learning Experience
The Frank Dux article was titled “Kumite: A Learning Experience.” Through the article, Frank Dux talks about what’s he not allowed to talk about: participating in Kumite. It does sound just like Brad Pitt in Fight Club: “the first rule of Fight Club is that you do not talk about Fight Club.” In the article there’s photos of Frank Dux with his trophy, details about the tournament that takes place in the Bahamas, what happened during the fights, and our hero’s eventual victory. Black Belt Magazine then uses this to focus on an understated aspect of the Kumite; by bringing fighters from various martial arts together, styles can be tested against each other and you can get feedback on new techniques. It’s something that’s very true about MMA today. It is a fascinating read, even if it’s 35 years old, and you can see the original article here. Here’s a quick sample of some juicy favorites:
“For years the rumors have circulated. Those with an ear to the ground have heard fantastic tales of an invisible organization, an organization that sponsors an international, no-holds-barred tournament pitting dedicated martial artists of all arts against each other in bare-knuckle kumite. Fantastic exaggeration? Perhaps. totally impossible? Not at all.”
Evidence for the Story Being True
Black Belt magazine present a disclaimer at the start of their article. They state that they have “a policy of strict verification of all facts pertaining to any article.” They also state that several members of the Black Belt Magazine editorial staff have researched the facts and that the magazine feels confident in publishing the basic facts. The LA Times provided quotes from a couple of ex Black Belt magazine editors who seemed to cast a doubt on the original story. Dux quite correctly argued that if the magazine had changed its mind about the story then they must publish a retraction or correction for their readers. This hasn’t been forthcoming. In addition, here’s a more recent quote from Black Belt:
“Although the details of his story are impossible to check out completely, BLACK BELT has spoken with other I.F.A.A. members from the United States and abroad who have privately confirmed that the basic facts are indeed as Dux says they are.”
Evidence for the Story Being Fictional
Various journalists and martial artists have returned to Black Belt Magazine for verification. If they did the research then where are the facts? However, the foreword to the Dux article already sheds a doubt on the facts:
“Since we are not a liberty to share the corroborating evidence with the public, we acknowledge that each reader may have a different idea of what the facts permit him to believe.”
In Martial Arts Illustrated, Dux was quizzed on why he suddenly wanted to talk about the existence of Kumite. After all, he was the undefeated champion of an underground martial arts movement who weren’t seeking publicity. So why ruin it all. Dux claims that he was acting as a spokesperson for the I.F.A.A who were looking to commercialize the event in the United States. But since the heavyweight champion told the world about Kumite, the I.F.A.A disbanded at the same time a number of organizations successfully brought MMA into the mainstream.
Final Thoughts on Frank Dux
Frank Dux has one of the world’s most revered stories. He was the ultimate heavyweight champion, fighting undefeated in an underground tournament that was the subject of much mystery. He has the kind of story that all martial artists secretly dream of. And that’s the problem. It’s so surreal that it’s hard to know where it starts and where it finishes. You’ll have to make up your own mind on the Frank Dux story and whether it’s fact of fiction. But to help you do that, here’s a video of Frank Dux breaking bulletproof glass with his bare hands at the 1993 International Martial Arts Festival at Bercy Stadium in Paris. By the way, it’s also a world record.
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