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Jason David Frank: More than Just a Power Ranger

Sadly, martial artists and former Power Ranger Jason David Frank took his own life a couple of days ago. There is currently a lot being written about him on-line and spoken about on place like TMZ and entertainment television. In September of 2005 I was asked to write the cover story about the man for MA Success Magazine. I thought I would post it here for those of you with an interest about who he was and what he thought at that point in his life.

Jason David Frank: More than Just a Power Ranger

Scott Shaw

     In the early 1990’s the Power Rangers Television Series burst onto the television screens and kids across the Western World watched as super hero adolescents used their martial art skills to overcome the most dastardly of bad guys.  Mimicking what had occurred with the Green Hornet in the 1960’s, Kung Fu in the 1970’s, and the Karate Kid films of the 1980’s the martial art business owner was instantly supplied with a plethora of new students. Young students flocked to martial art studios hoping to emulate their Power Ranger heroes and learn the ancient systems of self-defense.
     The Power Rangers television series was a great boon to martial art business owners around the globe.  At the heart of the series was a group of young actors who not only brought the characters to life but also were martial art practitioners.  The seemingly ironic fact of this was, one of the most advanced practitioners to bring his skill to the set of the Power Rangers, was Jason David Frank.  Frank a lifelong student of the martial arts, was already a martial art school owner by the time he became a Power Ranger. Not only did Frank help to reinvigorate the martial art student body of the world, with his character on the Power Rangers, but he additionally guided new students through his own studio doors, as well.
Growing Up a Black Belt
     Born in Los Angeles, California, Jason David Frank was the son of a Kenpo Karate black belt.  Frank began his own study of the martial arts at the ripe old age of four. “My father never forced me to get involved with the martial arts,” Frank insists. “I just always knew it was something I wanted to do.”
     Frank’s childhood study of the martial arts began one day when he and his mother walked past a martial art studio and he told his mother he wanted to join. With this decision to begin his study of the martial arts, the rest of Jason David Frank’s future was set in motion.
Red Dragon Karate
     Frank began his studies at Red Dragon Karate. American martial arts pioneer, Louis D. Casamassa is the founder of Red Dragon Karate.  To this day, Red Dragon Karate is a very successful system of martial arts, with numerous schools under its umbrella organization. In fact, many of the Red Dragon schools are still operated by members of the Casamassa family, most notably Chris Casamassa, who is an established, stunt man, stunt coordinator and actor in his own right.
Two Forms of Discipline
     Whereas many children are lured into the glamour associated with the martial arts, few maintain their interest to the level that was held by Jason David Frank. Frank truly took to his study of the martial arts. “Really, I just fell in love with it. I trained hard. I trained six or seven days a week.”  From his focus on training came a long list of martial art tournament wins in virtually all of the arenas of tournament competition: forms, breaking, and sparring. 

As any martial art business owner understands, however, it is hard to maintain the interest of young students in their ongoing study of the martial arts. Frank explains, “As a school owner we all wonder how we can keep students interested in continuing their martial art education. I believe there are two forms of disciple. You have, ‘Thought’ and you have ‘Completion.’  I was always a kid that liked to complete things.  There are a lot of kids who walk through the doors of a martial art studio and have ‘the thought’ that martial arts are glamorous and cool and it is something they many want to study. But, if they don’t have the discipline to follow through with ‘the completion,’ then not only do they lose out from what they could have learned but the studio owner loses a student, as well.  I was really lucky to be trained by some great motivators, like the Casamassa family. They really helped me develop discipline and really defined what I wanted to become.  This is what I believe we as school owners must give our students, the ability to frame their desires and develop the discipline to achieve them.”

Fight For Your Shoes
     Jason David Frank believes that studying the strategies of successful people is an essential element to ongoing life achievement. From this philosophy he has turned to several mentors throughout his life. They have each guided him to ongoing success as a martial arts competitor, actor, and business owner. 
As a student, Frank continually references the training and support that he received from the Casamassa family. But, it was his training from other people, like renowned martial arts competitor Steve Fisher that also helped him shape his martial arts mindset. “I remember when I was about thirteen and was competing in point sparring. Steve Fisher came by our studio and began making fun of us for point sparring. He told us that point sparring would not help us on the street. He asked me, ‘How many pairs of shoes do you have?’ The question threw me off but I answered, ‘I don’t know maybe four or five.’ Fisher exclaimed, ‘That’s the difference between you people here in Covina and my people in Inglewood!  My people, they fight for their shoes!  Do you ever have to fight for your shoes?’” Frank took this question to heart and began to expand his training. With this he began to travel to Fisher’s Inglewood studio where he began to embrace some of the more intense and realistic forms of hand-to-hand combat.  The training he received from Fisher and other mentors would ultimately guide him to many wins on the martial art tournament circuit during his teenage years.
The First Studio
     At the age of seventeen, when he had just graduated high school, Frank purchased his first martial art studio. “I bought the same karate school that I belonged to as a kid,” exclaims Frank. “I had a real business sense even in high school and I wanted to own my own business. I wanted to lead people down that right road. So, I scraped up everything that I had. I sold my comic book collection, an old boat that I owned; I even sold my car.  In fact, I risked everything to buy into the franchise.”  This turned out to be a very good move for the young, highly motivated, high school graduate.  From that point forward, through his teaching of the martial art, he began to follow a path that was to be a positive influence on the lives of thousands.
Here Come the Power Rangers
     The acting bug had bit Jason David Frank early in his life.  He modeled and appeared in commercials long before the Power Rangers ever hit the airwaves. But acting and teaching the martial arts weren’t always an easy pairing explains Frank, “There was a lot of auditions that I had to miss. I had responsibilities to my students, so there was a lot of meetings I just couldn’t attend.”
     There was one audition that he did make, however.  And, this audition was to change the rest of his life.  That was the audition for the Power Rangers. 
Only one year and a half after purchasing his martial art studio, Frank was cast in the role of the Green Ranger on the Power Rangers television series.
Power Ranger: Good and Bad
     Though many people may view winning a role on the Power Rangers as the culminating element of their life. That was not the case of Frank.  He exclaims, “Becoming a Power Ranger ruined my reputation as a martial artist!  And, I am saying this to all the readers of your magazine. I was a fighter. I didn’t care about getting cuts or bruises on my face or anything like that. I mean I trained with some of the best fighters -- full contact.  But, once I became a Power Ranger everything changed. I would walk into Benny the Jet’s gym and all anybody would says is, ‘Awh there’s the Power Ranger. That guy doesn’t know Karate, he doesn’t know how to fight.’ Ever since I became a Power Ranger I have had to fight hard to regain my reputation.”
     Though becoming a Power Ranger did have its drawbacks, it also provided benefits in that it has made Jason David Franks name and face recognizable around the world. He acknowledges the benefits of his fame, especially when he opened his second school in Texas.  “In L.A. everybody is used to celebrities.  You see them everyday.  But, here in Houston, it has helped to bring in students, especially the young ones.”
The Training Continues
     Throughout his career as a student, competitor, instructor, and business owner Frank has turned to other successful people in the industry for ongoing training and guidance. Currently, he works closely with the highly successful martial art business owner Steve Lavalle. Lavalle owns and operated ten schools, five in Florida and five in New York. “I consult a lot with him,” explains Frank, “He has helped me with a plan of attack to how to help my business grow and have ten schools of my own in the next seven years.”
New Schools
     With the addition of new schools there is always the question of where does the business owner find qualified instructors to teach the students.  For Frank he has been lucky in that due to his years of teaching the martial arts he has been able to recruit many of his assistant instructors from within his own ranks.  But, more than simply providing students with black belt instructors, Frank understands that there must be a cohesive program being taught.  For this reason, he uses a very defined process of formalizing his instructor program.
     Frank explains, “The way I develop my team is the way people like Lavalle and Bill Clark develops their teams.  I have staff meetings every Tuesdays and Thursdays from nine to eleven. Reading the articles about Bill Clark in your magazine really inspired me. You know, I cut and paste essential information from every issue.  So, when I read about Bill Clark doing a staff meeting with one person or with eighty people in the room, it inspired me to continue in that tradition. What I do is that I give back to my staff twice a week -- one hour training and one hour business.”
     At the point Frank moved to Texas, he appointed Randy Word as the team leader for his long-standing California school. “He is a really great martial artist. He has worked with people like Dawn Barnes and he is a great instructor,” exclaims Frank, “And that is essential when you expand your business. You must have really good people representing your name and your style.” Frank continues, “I believe the reason why all of my schools are successful is because every team leader I have has one thing -- they have that ‘one-passion.’  They want to change someone and make their life better! No matter who walks through the door, they want to make a positive impact on their life for the rest of their life!”
     In association with his other two schools of the martial arts, Frank is currently in the process of opening his third Training Center. This center will be a very large fully equipped, 5,500 square foot training facility in a suburb of Houston, Texas. With this new center Frank will be able to bring his lifetime of experience in the martial arts to even more students that will have their lives positively changed forever.
     Jason David Frank is still in his early thirties yet he has already had a long and illustrious career in the martial art.  One thing he attributed his longevity to is his teachers and his mentors who have helped guide him to new levels of excellence. “Martial arts is the never ending accomplishment,” he exclaims,  “You can be there forever and your learning is never going to stop.”  With this philosophy as a base Jason David Frank has moved forward from being a fierce competitor on the tournament, onto a Power Ranger, culminating in becoming a very successful martial art business entrepreneur.
TEASER - Power Ranger’s Forever
     The Power Rangers have become synonyms with a crew of highly skilled youthful martial art warriors who travel through time and space to defeat villains who have unleashed havoc upon the masses. Since its inception there have been a number of advanced martial artists who have honed their acting skills and initially made their mark on the television viewing audience by wearing the costume of a Power Ranger.  Though many have come and gone, Jason David Frank has worn the garb longer than any other Power Ranger in history.
     Jason David Frank broke onto the Power Ranger scene while the first crew of Rangers was hot on the trail of dastardly monsters. He began as the Green Ranger and has since gone through several incarnations of the television series and the Power Ranger movies to wear many Ranger costumes and play several characters.  His most recent appearance was in the 2004 feature film, "Power Rangers Dino Thunder.”
     More than simply an actor, Jason David Frank is a highly advanced martial arts practitioner with an extensive career in martial art tournament competition.  And, more than that, he is the owner of two, soon to be three, highly successful schools of the martial arts in California and Texas.  There’s a lot that can be learned from a Power Ranger...
SIDEBAR ONE - What MAIA Has Meant to Me.
Jason David Frank, “No matter how big your schools gets you can always get new ideas from the MAIA kit and MA Success Magazine.  I always find inspiration from them. There are always little things that I pick up. There is always something new that MAIA has to offer if you keep your mind open.” 
“The people who have closed minds are the people that will stay where they are forever! Even if you don’t use anything from the kit, if you just see what other people are doing to help make them successful, it is a big help.  For example, you look at the piece you did on the White Tiger School in North Carolina, the guy built a twenty-four thousand square foot facility. It inspired me. In fact, after reading that article it gave me new ideas on how to add elements to my upcoming National Training Center.  I believe you can always learn something if you open your mind!”
“Many martial artists will look at things in your kit and magazine and say, ‘Awh, that will never work for me.’  But, you just said what you are never suppose to say in the martial arts, ‘Never.’ In the martial arts you must never say, ‘Never.’  You never say, ‘you can’t.’ You just have to work towards it.”
SIDEBAR TWO - Goal Orientated
     “When I was kid, I was very goal orientated.” Explains Frank,  “So, whenever I accomplished a goal, I needed to set my sights onto something else. My mother would always tell me, ‘You’re never satisfied with where you are.  That attitude is going to get you in trouble in life.’ But, I disagree with that.  When I reach a goal I see past that goal.  I see the hill behind it.  When I achieve one goal, I see the next hill that I must conquer. This mindset has nothing to do with greed or being selfish. It is the discipline of the martial arts that drives me to become better and more.” 
SIDEBAR THREE - Jason David Frank Fast Facts:
Name and locations of your schools? Rising Sun Karate in Covina, California and Houston, Texas.
Number of years in business? 10 years.
Number of schools you operate? 2. Opening a 3rd school in November 2005.
Size of your schools in square footage? California, 2,600 square feet. Texas, 1,600 square feet. The National Training Center, 5,500 square feet will open in November 2005.
Number of employees? 7.
Number of active students? California: 360 . Texas: 77.
Are your children and adult classes separate or mixed? Separate.
Are you a MAIA member? Yes.
Name of your billing company? EFC.
How much do you charge for the first family member per month? 159.
Do you offer a family discount and, if so, how much? Yes, the first student pays the full price, 25% discount for the 2nd member, then 50% off for the 3rd or more members.
Amount of yearly tuition? 1,908.
Monthly gross? California: $48,000. Texas will be $30,000.
Monthly pro-shop gross? $3,000.
Do you charge testing fees and, if so, how much? No.
Do you have an after-school pick-up program? No.
SIDEBAR FOUR - Who is Kyoshi Jason David Frank?
1. Jason David Frank is a 6th degree Black Belt.
2. He is the Founder of Toso Kune Do Karate combining 11 different styles of Martial Arts including: Shoto-kan, Aikido, American Karate, Boxing, Kickboxing, Judo, Gunting, Wado-ryu, Jeet Kune Do, Combat-Karate, and Kobudo.
3. He was a NASKA rated competitor between 1988-1990.
4. In 1990 he won the Grand Champion title in the Las Vegas Winter Nationals.
5. He has been the longest running member of the Power Rangers, with a career that has latest over a decade and has included several different roles.
Kyoshi Jason David Frank Hall of Fame Awards include:
1990- Grand Champion Las Vegas Winter Nationals
1994- Hall of Fame Award by the American Karate Kung Fu Federation
2000 - Fasted Growing Karate School “Fast Track Award”
2000 Rising Sun Karate Program Director Award by the E.F.C.
2000 to the present - One of American’s Top 10 Karate Schools as designated by the Educational Funding Company.
2001 - Centurion Club Award. The youngest martial artist to ever be nominated by the Battle of Atlanta.
2003 Master of the Year Award by the World Karate Federation.
2004 - Master of the Year for freestyle Martial Arts Award Hall of Fame.
2004 - Cover of Black Belt Magazine
2005 - Arnold Schwarzanegger Classics Master Appreciation Award
About the Author
Scott Shaw, Ph.D. is a Hapkido and Taekwondo Master Instructor, an author and journalist.