Jason David Frank: R.I.P. Farewell to a Ranger – A Tribute

On November 20th, the world awoke to the tragic news of the death of Jason David Frank at the age of 49.

Sensei Frank was beloved by millions around the world for his role as Tommy Oliver in the “Power Rangers” franchise, along with career in mixed martial arts and his tremendous contributions to the martial arts community.

A generation of young people regarded Sensei Frank as a hero, including countless young martial artists across the globe. I know this, because I’m one of them…

While those of us who never had the chance to meet Sensei Frank can only imagine the full extent of the pain of his family and friends, I sincerely feel that the legacy Sensei Frank left gives his many fans a sense of the man and the warrior he was that we shall all cherish forevermore. A man who, by all account, loved his fans and his association with the Power Rangers franchise as a true gift from the heavens.

Through this tribute piece, I hope to express the extent of Sensei Frank’s impact on my life and on millions of others globally.

As a child with an active duty father serving in the Gulf War, my adventurous young mind wasted no time in gravitating towards superheroes. Superman, Batman, the Justice League, Spider-Man – the heroes with abilities and skills surpassing those of normal humans pulled me in with a fascination and adoration that was as potent then as it is now.

Then, not long after my father returned home, everything changed when my family and I moved to Hawaii. It was there, on an island that is a melting pot of every Asian culture with a dojo on practically every street corner, that my young mind found its next great love: martial arts.

Like many martial artists born in the modern age, popular culture like movies, television, and video games were a massive driving force in first inspiring my passion for martial arts.

Even better, I was of the generation that was the first to be introduced to the phenomenon of the “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers”. I don’t think much deep analysis is needed to explain the explosion in popularity Power Rangers achieved among kids around the world.

A TV series teeming with superheroes, monsters, and giant robots is certainly wont to do that. Already pulled in by the superhero and giant monster elements as a buddy fan of Godzilla and Japanese kaiju, Power Rangers got me to stay with the centrality of martial arts to the show.

Then, a few episodes in, along came Jason David Frank as Tommy Oliver.

Upon seeing his rapid-fire jump spinning kicks accompanied by the fierce kiais of a true warrior, in my young mind’s estimation, I had seen the coolest dude on Earth.

Sensei Frank swiftly became an extremely popular member of the Power Rangers cast, and has been a mainstay of the franchise from his entry on the show until his recent passing.

His portrayal of Tommy also solidified my interest in martial arts. As an admittedly somewhat hyperactive kid, I entered several dojos over the years bursting with energy only to become overwhelmed from the dedication needed to truly excel.

As such, I did not truly commit to formal martial arts training until I was 15. From then on, I dedicated myself to numerous disciplines with martial arts remaining a central element of my life ever since.

Even though I might have taken some time to truly give myself to martial arts, what did not change was that Sensei Frank lit the spark within me to travel the path he and many others had to achieve such skill.

Sensei Frank would remain a core part of the Power Rangers cast until departing the series in the “Power Rangers: Turbo” era. He would still return in numerous future iterations of the franchise, such as “Wild Force”, “Dino Thunder”, and “S.P.D.”, and would even cameo alongside Amy Jo Johnston (a.k.a. Kimberly the Pink Power Ranger) in the 2017 “Power Rangers” movie.

Sensei Frank would also remain attached to the Power Rangers franchise with his appearances on the web series “Super Power Beatdown”, with the Green Ranger being pit against Ryu of the “Street Fighter” franchise and the White Ranger battling Scorpion of “Mortal Kombat”. Needless to say, Power Rangers aficionados such as myself relished these as some of the best episodes of the series.

Meanwhile, his career would also take another turn that, crucially, would inspire me in my own training even more as an adult, with Sensei Frank’s entry into the MMA world.

Throughout his many years of study, Sensei Frank blended elements of Karate, Taekwondo, Wing Chun, Jeet Kune Do, Judo, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu into his own art, Toso Kune Do, or “The Way of the Fighting Fist”.

Even outside of his Power Rangers life, Sensei Frank was continuing to teach many of his young fans both directly and from afar of the importance of an eclectic skill set in combat to enable one to adapt to whatever the opponent and set of circumstances might call upon.

This, of course, has become the prevalent mindset in the martial arts world with the legacy of Bruce Lee and the popularity of MMA. Sensei Frank entered the octagon to remind us all of that. As one of his young fans, that message stayed with me and has heavily informed my own philosophy of martial arts perpetually since.

Prior to his passing, Sensei Frank had another project on the way titled “Legend of the White Dragon”. A Power Rangers-inspired re-imaging of the basic concept of the series, Sensei Frank portrays the film’s protagonist, Erik Reed.

Sadly, “Legend of the White Dragon” will now be released posthumously after Sensei Frank’s passing, but I think I speak for all Power Rangers fans as well as those inspired by Sensei Frank’s work and teachings that we greatly look forward to seeing what he and his collaborators assembled in “Legend of the White Dragon”.

In my tenure as a writer for Kung Fu Kingdom, I have long held the dream that I would one day have the chance to interview Sensei Frank and share with him how incalculable an impact his portrayal of Tommy Oliver and his career in MMA has had upon my life.

That dream is one that I sadly will not have the chance to fulfill now. As “Power Rangers” fans and martial artists around the world continue to mourn Sensei Frank’s passing, the legacy he leaves behind will forever be testimony to the impact he had on countless people, whether they had the chance to meet him or not.

To some, he was a Power Ranger defending Earth from Lord Zedd, Rita Repulsa, and their legions of monster minions and Putty Patrollers. For others, he embodied the peak of what one can achieve in the lifelong study of martial arts. Others still shall remember him best for his child-like energy as a fanboy living the dream.

In truth, Sensei Frank was all three and so much more, and we have all gained from what he taught us in his life.

Farewell Sensei Frank. Once a Ranger, always a Ranger…R.I.P. Jason David Frank…

Were you a fan of Sensei Frank’s career on “Power Rangers” and his MMA career? Was Sensei Frank a major influence in your life in martial arts? Let us know in the comments below, join in the conversation / share this on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter & Instagram.

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Brad Curran

From the earliest days of childhood, Brad Curran was utterly fascinated by martial arts, his passion only growing stronger after spending time living in the melting pot of Asian cultures that is Hawaii. His early exposure developed into a lifelong passion and fascination with all forms of martial arts and tremendous passion for action and martial arts films. He would go on to take a number of different martial arts forms, including Shaolin Ch'uan fa, Taekwondo, Shotokan Karate and remains a devoted student, avid and eager to continue his martial arts studies. Brad is also an aspiring writer and deeply desires to share his love for martial arts and martial arts movies with the world!

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