This is an original article written by me, Ryan Brown for TapOut magazine, purchased by Beckett Media, but never reached digital publication, only print. I traveled the country with several UFC Fighters interviewing them about their Tattoos and what meanings they had to them. What sucks about writing for a large publication is the editors take away some of the things that as a writer you think makes the story stand out. The editor chose to chop out a lot of the not so big fighters and focus on the names that would sell the issue. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.
The Art of Fighting
Merriam-Webster defines art as an adjective that produces an artistic effort for decorative purposes. Fighting is defined as a transitive verb contending against in or as if in battle or physical combat. When one hears the phrase, “The Art of Fighting”, they are inclined to assume a traditional martial art form such as Kosho Shorei Ryu, Kempo, Kung-Fu, or Hapkido. In today’s world of mixed martial arts, the art of fighting is truly an expression of the martial artist’s character. Tattoos are dated back to the fifth century and come with a variety of meanings. From Maori moko face tattoos to Samurai warriors battling to the death, the significance is kindred with being a warrior. Strikeforce veteran and current Shark Fights competitor, Artenas “Machine Gun” Young says, “It’s a reminder of the pain of getting the tattoo while training.” It teaches you to train through the pain. One thing is for certain, tattoos are painful and permanent especially in the world of mixed martial arts.
Jason David Frank, a World Karate Union Hall of Famer and professional MMA freshman who trained with Melvin “TheYoung Assasin” Guillard is better known as Tommy Oliver, the White Ranger from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. His tattoos denote a life of meaning and loyalty. Jason travels nearly 500 miles, roundtrip from his Rising Sun Karate Academy to meet with nationally acclaimed tattoo artist, James Clements of Fortune and Glory Tattoos in Bossier City, LA. Clements is credited for doing most of Frank’s work especially the more extravagant ones. James Clements can be described as the mastermind of interpreting the explanation of Jason David Frank. They both explained separately their chemistry when it comes to creating a design. Frank expresses the meaning and a distinct idea of what he desires and Clements crafts the visual masterpiece. A quick search of Clement’s work online reveals art that is vivid, vibrant and surgically precise with staggering detail. The dominant style of Frank’s tattoos are clearly inspired by Japanese irezumi art with Kanji characters. Clements declares some of his favorite pieces on Jason are that of the Japanese style, Thai boxer on Frank’s right ribcage and his most recent art of a crocodile on his left shin. Frank describes this particular reptilian tattoo as representing the Crocodile Tail Thrash or Spinning Heel Kick taught to him under his training of Master Toddy, an internationally respected Muay Thai instructor. He goes on to explain a supplemental significance to the Book of Job in the Christian bible that describes the crocodile as being one of the fiercest animals on the earth. The croc was unambiguously fierce, but embodied a picturesque detail in strikingly green colors. No detail was spared all the way to ridges on the crocs teeth. Frank also sports a sorrowful looking Virgin Mary tattoo with angelic wings and strikingly realistic red roses beneath her on his inner left arm reciprocated with a fiery Jesus Didn’t Tap phrase on his outer left arm. Clements explained having to fix Frank’s art after he had surgery on his arm where the incision went straight through the cross and compromised the integrity of the finished tattoo. He described it as, “The surgery after the surgery.”The Jesus Didn’t Tap phrase is the brainchild of Jason David Frank’s mma-centric clothing brand which reflects his religious beliefs. Thiago Alves donned himself in a “Jesus Didn’t Tap” logoed shirt after his tko finish of Matt Hughes in UFC 85. When asked if he would consider himself a religious person, Jason David Frank retorted with, “I’m not religious, I have a personal relationship with God” and he feels that, “You’re empty if you don’t believe in anything.” He makes it very clear that he does not, “...mix religion and relationships with training…” to his students.
ne thing that Frank believes in is the ability of Anderson “The Spider” Silva, which is evident in several of his tattoos. His left foot is graced with the fighting bee logo from Anderson Silva’s UFC 126 walkout tee and his right elbow has a downward facing black widow centered in a web. This humble instructor chuckled and pointed out, “Look I’m even wearing a Silver Star shirt.” He describes it as being indicative of the age old aphorism, “Don’t get caught in the web.” He says that it relates to life in general and his training in Brazilian jiu jitsu which he is a purple belt under Professor Charles Dos Anjos of the Royce Gracie lineage. Another piece that grants reverence to Muay Thai is the one opposite to that of the croc. The right shin has a massive flaring cobra that is immensely coiled at his ankle and goes up to the bottom of his knee. The cobra’s exposed underbelly bears a solar red color. With its forked tongue hyper extended and fangs exposed, this art definitely screams threatening. The explanation for this one is yet again a reminder of training with Master Toddy who he recalled constantly drilling, “Don’t forget the Cobra Punch.” The Cobra Punch also known as the Superman Punch is used frequently by George St. Pierre and other fighters in the UFC.
I was more enamored with a cryptic collage of what appeared to be the product of someone infatuated with outlaws of the old west or someone exhibiting an addiction to gambling. An explanation was definitely warranted to decipher this puzzle. Under Franks left arm is a very west coast tattoo of a 9mm pointing upward to shape an “L” and an “A”. LA is where Jason David Frank moved from when he was 31. To represent this, he has a straight draw of a Jack of Diamonds, Queen of Clubs, King of Hearts, and an Ace of Spades which equals 31 in a game of Blackjack. The color and detail on the cards are so realistic; they appear to have the same gloss coating from a freshly opened deck of cards. Obverse to the deck of cards is a bandit’s covered face in front of a roulette table. All the numbers exposed on the roulette table represent important dates such as parent’s & daughter’s birthday, anniversary etc. Beneath the bandit is a slot machine etched with the words, “One Arm Bandit”. Although slots machines are referred to as one armed bandits, this tattoo details a story of survival and triumph. One of Jason’s best friends, Sensei Mike Casamass was in an automobile accident that took his right arm, but he still trains and competes to this day.
This Muay Thai gold medalist’s body is decorated with radiantly, colorful tattoos. Half of his back is covered with a Japanese tiger. There is a portrait of his daughter on his right chest. His right triceps bear a Japanese grave stone in celebration of his late brother, Eric Ray Frank, in Kanji Characters, and a plethora of other illustrious pieces that express emotional and spiritual meaning. Frank discloses “I was an individual that was never really in to tattoos.” He goes on to say, “Tattoos are an expression, a phase of life.” If anyone looks to judge him on his body art, you may hear the clever response, “Don’t judge me on the color of my skin!” He serves to be a role model to his 400+ plus students by “…building champions outside of the ring.” and teaching that “There is life after [being] a fighter.” There has been a lot of talk in the online mma community stating that Jason David Frank isn’t a “real” fighter. He explains that he teaches his students to focus more on themselves and less of what others think and he eloquently quoted, “When you’re a warrior in life, you always have to sharpen your sword.”
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