I was a dreamer when I was growing up. I lived in my world of imagination where I was a superhero, a star cricketer, footballer and tennis player, a lover with many girlfriends, a Mafia don, or a vagabond. Whatever suited me, and whoever I wanted to be at that time. Living inside my world of dreams meant at times the imaginations became pretences, and pretences became lies. Almost reminiscent of a remarkable film featuring Audrey Tautou, À la folie, pas du tout. I was a cricketer, and I had to be wounded by a bouncer from Patrick Patterson, and I had to throw the ball ricochet off the wall to hit my jaw. I was a dedicated pretender. I was true to myself.
But I never was obsessed with it, so the lies didn’t have to spiral out of proportion. For some people, it did. To an extent that is beyond imagination. Take the example of Frank W. Dux.
So you don’t know about Frank W. Dux? A surname that sounds like Dukes, not ducks? So you probably don’t know anything about dim mak? Yeah, you are right, it’s a Gen X thing, continuous wallow in nostalgia about the eighties. Frank W. Dux was the inspiration behind one of the most remarkable martial art films in the eighties, Bloodsport. Jean-Claude Van Damme portrayed the role of Frank Dux, who goes to Hong Kong to take part in the fabled Kumite championship, to honour his master, Shidoshi Tanaka. When Frank went to Kumite registration, declaration of the fact that he belonged to Shidoshi school of martial art, that raised a few eyebrows. “If you’re a Shidoshi, show us Dim Mak”. The death touch. And then the pin-drop silence when the judge asked “The bottom one”, a task to break the last of a block of five bricks, without breaking the top four. Then the film follows a typical storyline, with Van Damme defeating the vile Chong Li. I know the story and perhaps could retell the film frame by frame. But what was different the last time I watched it, was a statement in the end, that the film was based on the real-life story of Lt. Frank W. Dux.
The difference between the nineties and the present is that we have passed the years of naïveté, we have seen the world change, and we became so cynical that we probably don’t even trust ourselves. So, in 1992-93 Frank W. Dux would have become a legend in my imaginary world. Last week, I went straight to Wikipedia. And I could see that the pieces of evidence point to that fact that Frank W. Dux wasn’t the Kumite champion, in fact, no such tournament existed in HK. The address he gave where the Kumite took place was actually the place he lived. And the trophy he claimed to have won was bought from a local shop. The account Frank Dux gave was blatant lies.
Why did Frank make the story up? We can only speculate. Because he became a successful martial art trainer, a fascinating story of an American winning a martial art trophy in a faraway land must have bolstered claims of his capabilities. With his book, he became a celebrity, published books, and success of Bloodsport must have made his name known in wider spheres. He went on selling other stories that also ended in films. So there is an obvious motive, of spreading his name, his brand, and thereby spreading the reach of his martial art school. And there’s no doubt whether he won a trophy or not, he had the skills of a black belt.
But was it all for money and fame? Looking through the sources, military records of Dux mentioned that he’s been flighty and over-imaginative at times. Was he a pathological liar? Who knows? But sharing similar instances where I’d have a fight with probably a boy of my age and then that story getting many makeovers as though I fought three super-muscular blokes in their twenties, it lends me another perspective to the claims made by Frank Dux. Was he a pretender? Did he just start telling his pupils that he won this trophy as a kind of braggadocio which then became part of his life? The more famous his stories grew, he had to offer more evidence, and more cracks started to appear. And he had to keep inventing his web of lies so the entire house of cards that he made up so far didn’t come crashing down? And more importantly, did Frank Dux tell the story how he wanted to be, rather than how his life actually was? What if he just did that? There are many theories, most questioning the truth of his evidence, but of late some highlighting the credibility of Frank’s stories, but we’ll never know the truth. Unless at a ripe old age, conscience drives Fran Dux to provide a true account of his claims, with most of the minute details faded away into oblivion by then.
It’s been nearly thirty years since Bloodsport was released. The story of Frank Dux reached the peak of its popularity and was soon forgotten. Apart from some now middle-aged Gen X nostalgics who reminisce the name to their teenage years and how things have suddenly changed. The myths of their early years are broken, the legends turn out to be mere mortals…the facts keep on surfacing. There’s nowhere to hide. Ultimately, Frank Dux lied about all his army decorations and martial art conquests. It cannot be condoned, especially when he earned a lot of favours on the back of these claims. But in a time when we hear many more lies every day from the people we trust, I’d raise a glass to Frank W. Dux and say, “Your story may well be a lie, but it helped many to believe in themselves, that they can do impossible things, if only they persevere”. Perhaps the Frank Dux in real life is an imposter, but his persona on the screen will remain as a legend for a generation of viewers. After all, he will always be remembered as the master of the Dim Mak!