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John Frankl is a martial artist with a background in several different styles including Karate, Kuk Sool Won, Serrada Eskrima and Thai boxing (Muay Thai). Frankl is also a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt under Roberto Maia and a pioneer in bringing the sport of BJJ to South Korea having opened possibly the very first legitimate Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy in the country (in 1999).

John Frankl Jiu Jitsu

Full Name: John Mark Frankl

Lineage: Mitsuyo Maeda > Carlos Gracie Sr.Carlos Gracie Junior > Roberto Maia > John Frankl

Main Achievements (BJJ): n/a

Weight Division: n/a

Team/Association: Straight Blast Gym

John Frankl Biography

John Frankl was born on April 29, 1967 in Los Angeles, California. The desire to train martial arts was strong in John even at the early stages of his childhood. When he was only 6 years old he demanded from his parents that they should sign him up at a local martial arts academy. His parents conceded to the young Frankl and a one-week introductory course began, this week long workshop was designed to get people to sign up to a very long contract which suppressed both John and his family’s desire to proceed.

Martial Arts stayed dormant in John Frankl’s blood stream, but the desire to train reappeared when he was 12 years old, he started training Karate and took it very seriously for a number of years. His primary instructor, Ron Williams, gave a lot more emphasis to sparring then he did to Kata, something that John appreciated. With Ron Williams as his instructor, Frankl achieved the rank of brown belt by the time he was 18 years old.

After John Frankl graduated from high school and entered college, Karate was left behind as the opportunity to train Kuk Sool Won arose. At the time John was studying in Berkeley and the Kuk Sool Won world head quarters were held in San Francisco, so making the most of this proximity John started learning the martial art through Mr Byung-in Lee in SF. Due to Frankl’s discipline and his previous contact with Karate and other sports (John was a swimmer and a water polo player throughout high school) he progressed very quickly within this martial art. Though in a very stylized format, this was Frankl’s first contact with grappling and Byung-in Lee was an incredible presence in John’s life, this close contact would come to an end as Lee left the US and moved to Korea, not before graduating John Frankl with a second degree black belt in Kuk Sool Won.

When Master Lee left California, John Frankl took the time to add other martial arts to his resume, training in styles such as Serrada Eskrima with Jeff Finder and in Muay Thai with Morgan Lim. He also trained Thai Boxing years later with Antonio “Tatang” Illustrisimo and Tony Diego while he spent time in Asia, competing then in Muay Thai under amateur rules.

On June of 1989 a good friend of John’s from Berkeley named Glenn Uesugi who was living in Hawaii invited Frankl to visit. John was finishing up a year abroad in Korea and decided to stop by Honolulu on his way back to CA. Glenn started going on about Gracie Jiu Jitsu a style that Mr Uesugi had started practicing with Relson Gracie. Frankl did not believe his friend’s hype and asked for a test which his friend accepted. A little grappling demonstration took place and it is safe to say that all of Frankl’s Kuk Sool Won grappling experience did not test well against his friend’s BJJ knowledge. John was now sold on Gracie Jiu Jitsu. He bought the first set of tapes and was practicing with a group of friends in Seoul from 1990. One of the friends that joined Frankl’s little garage grappling gang was Robert Brown, who would later join John at Rickson Gracie’s academy and become a black belt himself having an academy in Japan.

In 1994 when John Frankl returned to the States, he immediately moved to L.A. and signed up at the Inosanto Academy with Rickson Gracie. At Rickson’s academy he stayed for a long time earning his blue belt from the Gracie legend. Frankl would later move to Boston where he started learning BJJ under Roberto Maia, from their on he earned all his belts from Maia including his black belt in 2002.

The first John Frankl BJJ gym opened doors in 1999, John was a brown belt at the time and was conducting research for his doctoral dissertation. Being almost addicted to Jiu Jitsu at the time and due to the lack of Jiu Jitsu gyms in the area he felt he really only had one choice: to start teaching in order to have training partners. The first class only had one student, Steven Capener who was also a good friend of Frankl, he would later become John’s first black belt.

When John returned to the States, he had 3 blue belts who kept the club going. He then finished his Ph.D. and by 2003 he started running a gym in CA (which lasted for approximately a year). It was then that Frankl affiliated with the Straight Blast Gym. John was already a black belt at the time, but he and Matt Thornton (leader of Straight Blast) became close friends had a similar approach to teaching, learning, and martial arts in general.

John went back to Korea in 2004 and taught in one of his student’s schools for a while, he would open his own academy in 2006 which later branched out to two academies under the Frankl name. He also runs several other affiliate schools in the country.

In 2009 John Frankl challenged a “fighter” named Mickey Choi who claimed to be a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and a world champion. Choi was foolish enough to accept the challenge but never showed up at the venue.


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