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NINJA: Hero or Master Fake? : Others Kick Holes in Fabled Past of Woodland Hills Martial Arts Teacher

May 01, 1988|JOHN JOHNSON | Times Staff Writer

His military medical file, according to those who saw it, said that on Jan. 22, 1978, he was referred for psychiatric evaluation for expressing "flighty and disconnected ideas." Though a member of the reserves, which meant he was on active duty only a short time, he reportedly insisted that he was working for an intelligence agency.

A follow-up medical evaluation at a military psychiatric clinic in Long Beach on April 18 of that year found him normal, but seemed to scotch any further talk about his intelligence work, saying that his only possible intelligence work was being "cursorily" involved in gathering information about one individual.

Dux said the military ordered his record sabotaged to discredit him. The government did not know how much he knew about other covert operations, he said, so they placed information in his file to destroy his credibility.

Dux received his military decorations, he said, after pressing the military to authenticate his heroics. One day, he said, he received a phone call and went to an address in West Los Angeles, where he was handed a paper bag filled with medals.

Ribbons Out of Sequence

Marine Lt. Col. John Shotwell in Washington said Dux's military file shows there is "no indication in there anywhere" that Dux received any military awards.

After seeing a picture of Dux in uniform with his medals, Marine Lt. Col. David Tomsky in Los Angeles said several ribbons were worn out of sequence. Based on that and other discrepancies, Tomsky said he seriously doubted the medals and ribbons were Dux's.

A former teacher of Dux's at Grant High School in Van Nuys, Joe Feinstein, said Dux returned to his class in recent years and displayed "boxes and boxes" of medals and certificates, including, he believes, a Medal of Honor.

Dux has an explanation for that. "I . . . spoke to that teacher and to that class and made it clear that it doesn't become official until the orders are declassified."

Told about Dux's claim, Tomsky said: "I do not believe there has ever been an instance" of the Medal of Honor being bestowed secretly. He also said the medal Dux wore in the photo was an Army medal, not a Marine medal.

Dux acknowledged that his military record is confusing and blames the government. He said he has not been able to get the military to explain why he was given medals from different branches of the service.

Intense, mercurial, with a personality that can range in a few seconds from humble to bullying, Dux is described again and again as charismatic.

"He must have a good rap because he's gotten away with it," said Benny (The Jet) Urquidez, a world champion kick-boxer who said he once told Dux to knock off the stories about beating him in a fight.

In an interview, Dux can be as quick as a record-breaking punch. At one point, he refused to give his age--he is 32--and claimed that he is known as the "warrior monk" because of his disavowal of marriage. He later acknowledged having been married.

One moment he talks eloquently of his desire to serve the community through his free rape counseling seminars. The next he lurches into freewheeling imagery. For instance, there is his explanation in a Times interview of why he no longer has the ceremonial sword he said he won in the Bahamas.

'Went for Good Cause'

"I sold my sword. I have no regrets for it. It went for a good cause. It went to buy kids out of slavery" who were on pirate ships. "What they do is, these local chiefs, if you would, on Mindanao, and stuff, take these kids who are orphans, and they put them on these ships and go out to the South China Sea."

The ships were crowded and uncomfortable. "I'm talking what we call a normal bunk. They have four or five kids squeezed into that thing. They live out in the open elements. They die. And the Philippine government just turns a blind eye."

So, Dux said he and some friends decided to help out. He said he gave the pirates money from the sale of the sword, but the pirates reneged at the last moment.

"We took arms up and fought boat pirates and we got these kids free."

Many of them are now in the United States. "I'm in touch with some of them, and they love me to death. And, I'll tell you, I've got one kid who's about 15 years old. All I have to do is look cross-eyed at one guy, and he'll kill for me."

Claims Investigated

Dux said the Cannon Film Group, which made the movie, investigated his claims about the tournament exhaustively before paying for the rights to his story. Producer Mark DiSalle, who took the story to Cannon, said that his research "definitely convinced" him that Dux's story is factual and that he is considering a sequel about Dux's military career.

Screenwriter Sheldon Lettich said: "Even we weren't able to verify the facts. We were taking Frank on his word." Lettich saw a huge trophy Dux once displayed at his school, which the article in the Los Angeles Valley College magazine said he brought back from the Bahamas.

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