Trivia: How High Can You Kick?

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  • Nathan Natas
    Nathan Natas

    Alaska Native athlete upstages tae-bo star for Guinness record

    ONE-FOOT HIGH KICK: World record for highest martial arts kick goes to patsy.

    By Beth Bragg
    Anchorage Daily News

    (Published: December 30, 2001)

    Jesse Frankson of Point Hope demonstrates his leaping ability in a Dimond High School hallway earlier this month. Frankson was invited to compete against a Hollywood fitness guru who was trying to set a world record for the highest martial arts kick. But when the competition ended, it was Frankson who owned the record of 9 feet, 8 inches. (Photo by Erik Hill / Anchorage Daily News)

    A slick Hollywood fitness guru stood poised to claim a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. A television crew was on hand to record the attempt at the highest martial arts kick in history. A patsy nobody had ever heard of was hired to make it all look like a competition.

    Then a funny thing happened.

    The patsy, an Alaska Native from Point Hope, beat the star -- and grabbed the record.

    And he did it the old-fashioned way. While his glamorous competitor used a tae-bo technique seen in popular fitness videos, Jesse Frankson kicked the way his Eskimo ancestors did back when a whale had been taken and the news needed to be signaled to villagers so they could prepare to beach and butcher it.

    Frankson did the one-foot high kick.

    One of the most spectacular events in Native sports, the one-foot high kick is a crowd pleaser at the Arctic Winter Games and World Eskimo Indian Olympics. Heights of 9 feet and more have been reached by kickers who must kick a sealskin ball suspended high above them and then land, perfectly balanced, on the same foot.

    As it turns out, the best Eskimo kick beats the best martial arts kick hands down.

    In a made-for-TV kicking contest filmed a year ago and aired in September by Fox Sports, Frankson beat martial arts expert Michael Blanks, the brother of tae-bo creator Billy Blanks. Both men bettered the previous world record of 8 feet, 9 inches and both hit 9-3. Blanks bowed out at 9-6, and Frankson went on to win the contest and set the world record with a kick of 9-8.

    Frankson's effort puts him in the 2002 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records.

    And it stunned the Hollywood crowd.

    "Once I told them I don't do martial arts, they thought they had me beat," Frankson said.

    But Frankson was thinking just the opposite.

    "As soon as I saw (Blanks) do a practice kick before we started," he said, "I knew I had him beat."

    Producers invited Frankson to the contest after learning about him through WEIO organizers. In 1998, as a high school senior, Frankson tied one of the most respected records at the Native Youth Olympics in Anchorage when he soared 9-2.

    That earned him a spot in the record book alongside Brian Randazzo of Anchorage, the undisputed king of high kicking who still holds world records in the one-foot high kick (9-6) and the two-foot high kick (8-8). Randazzo set both marks at the 1988 Arctic Winter Games.

    Frankson agreed to kick against Blanks. He was flown to Los Angeles, put up in a suite and paid $500.

    "It didn't seem like they wanted me to win," he said.

    He was the Washington Generals to Blanks' Harlem Globetrotters. Even the audience -- people, Frankson said, "paid $50 to clap on command" -- was cheering for the other guy.

    Blanks showed up in a yellow Spandex suit that reminded Frankson of Bruce Lee in the movie "Game of Death." He used a maneuver seen in videotapes made by his brother, who invented the tae-bo exercise program, which combines elements of martial arts and boxing.

    Frankson showed up in shorts and a T-shirt.

    Frankson said that when he succeeded at 9-6, organizers wanted to call it a day. But Frankson insisted they keep going because he wanted to better Randazzo's mark of 9-6 -- even though his effort can't go into the Native sports record book because it didn't happen at a Native sports championship event.

    "They wanted me to stop at 9-6, and I told them no. That's the record back home and I had to try it," Frankson said. "They made me stop at 9-8 for future competitions' sake."

    So far, the record remains intact. Frankson said he has turned down offers to kick against other martial arts experts in places like France, Spain and Germany.

    "It's too far," he said of the travel. "Besides, all I wanted to do was hold the record, and I already did that."

    Though he'll have his name in Guinness, Frankson has long dreamed of putting his name next to Randazzo's. Native sports are popular in Point Hope, which holds contests during the Christmas holidays, Frankson said.

    Frankson loved watching the kickers as he grew up. He said he discovered he had a natural talent for the sport "when I found out I was able to kick 6-3 when I was in sixth grade."

    When Frankson is asked about Randazzo, a smile creeps onto his face and it is clear he admires the man's accomplishments.

    "I was watching on TV when he first made 9-2. I was pretty stoked at that," Frankson said. "I told myself, I want to be able to do that."

    A 1998 Point Hope graduate, Frankson coaches kids in Point Hope's Native Youth Olympics program and was an assistant coach this season for the high school volleyball team. He hopes to compete at the 2002 Arctic Winter Games and WEIO.

    Frankson said he doesn't practice much, though he has taken to videotaping himself and then breaking down his technique. Mostly, he said, he finds it easy to soar in the air.

    He said matter-of-factly that when the kicking contest against Blanks started at 8-9, he wasn't worried: "I can kick that when I first wake up, probably with boots on."

    When asked recently to demonstrate his kicking, Frankson agreed even though circumstances weren't ideal. He was in the lobby in front of the Dimond High gymnasium, and his only shoes were heavy skateboarding boots. There was no real target to aim for, so he kicked for the top of a doorway. With no warmup, he kicked higher than the door three times in a row.

    Frankson's workout regimen doesn't include any Billy Blanks videotapes or 1,000 stomach crunches a day. His calves are strong, he said, because he does a lot of skateboarding. His upper body is strong, he said, because he does "house chores."

    "The elders don't like drinking water from the faucets, so I drag a sledload of ice from the lake into town and they drink that," Frankson said, describing one of his chores. The sled is 8 feet long by 3 feet wide, he said, and a good load weighs 400 or 500 pounds. The lake is six or seven miles away.

    That kind of old-fashioned workout routine probably won't trigger the next Hollywood fitness craze, but like the one-foot high kick, it works for Frankson.

  • nilfun

    Wow. Would be interesting to see some live footage of this.

  • Prisca

    Cool, I like it when the underdog wins.

  • Englishman


    You boy's need to go and watch a football match sometime.


  • Prisca

    Boys? Boys?????

    *swishes her long hair around and taps foot*

  • Englishman


    Relax. We made you an honoury fella weeks ago, it's a great honour.


  • Stephanus

    I spent a night in Prisca's bed, and I can assure you she's a girl!

  • Prisca


    Thanks sweetie oops, I mean... *puts on gruff voice* Thanks mate *shakes hand*


    Shhh, I thought you promised not to tell everyone about that one night!

  • Stephanus

    I'm actually waiting for the stories I'll be able to tell when you've spent the night here!

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