UK sensei Frank Perry chops nine huge ice blocks with a single hand-strike in “Ice Break” (1979)

By on May 15, 2019

In the late ’70s, experimental independent filmmaker Mike Wallington, intrigued by the ever-growing popularity of martial arts, trained his camera on masterful South West London sensei Frank Perry, who demonstrated his tameshiwari skills by chopping nine huge ice blocks in half with a single hand-strike.

Wallington’s 28-minute short film, Ice Break — featuring music by the Rolling Stones, the Bar-Kays and Captain Beefheart — is streaming in our Oddball Obscurities & Vintage Weirdos section on Night Flight Plus.

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Before it became a skill associated with Japanese karate, tameshiwari — “breaking” planks of wood, concrete bricks, ice blocks or other solid objects — was a sidewalk performance skill displayed at a “power circus” or “power magic show.”

It isn’t always demonstrated during kyokushin-kai (full-contact) karate tournaments, and practitioners of tameshiwari are usually thought to be a little loco.

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Truthfully, the karateka who’ve honed their mind-over-matter mental focus (kokryu) on the feat at hand (literally) are some of the most impressive, skilled martial artists you’re ever going to witness in action.

Read more here and here, or use your Google finger.

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Wallington filmed Perry and some of his students from the Richmond Judo & Karate Centre — along with members of the International Budo Council, Sekai Butoko Kai (a Dutch branch established by Peter Beljaars) — at UKSKO, or United Kingdom Seiki-Juku Karate Organisation, the largest full-time karate dojo in England, located in Isleworth, in West London.

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Perry began training at age five or six under sensei Kaoru Mishiku, who pioneered martial arts teaching in England at the Anglo-Japanese & Seiki Juku Association headquarters (Honbu).

By age fourteen, he was a black belt in judo, and by sixteen, he had his first black belt in karate too. At age twenty — following the death of his sensei — Perry began studying abroad under several Japanese masters, becoming the first British karate student to compete in full-contact and non-contact competitions, usually taking top honors.

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Perry eventually became a shihan (“chief instructor”) as well as the head of the UKSKO. He’s also overseen several other organizations and schools, including Bu’sen (Kyoto Budo Senmon Gakkou) Martial Arts School in Twickenham, Middlesex, England.

He holds a eighth Dan in karate (his ranking may actually be higher) and also high Dan rankings in judo, akido, kendo, kobi-jutsu, ju-jutsu and kendo-jutsu.

Read more about the popularity of martial arts below.

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Back in the early-to-mid ’80s, “Night Flight,” which aired on the USA network on Friday and Saturday nights, and Kung Fu Theater — USA’s Saturday afternoon martial arts movie matinee show — likely shared a few crossover between fans, which is one reason why we added our Wu Tang Collection of hand-picked martial arts fllcks to Night Flight Plus.

Today, we thought we’d mention a handful of our favorite movies and TV shows (from the late ’60s and early ’70s, mostly).

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In 1966, Bruce Lee was already a major star in the martial arts world but he was largely unknown to American audiences. Then, he appeared as “Kato” on ABC’s new Friday night show “The Green Hornet,” playing the title character’s sidekick valet/driver, a master of kung fu.

“The Green Hornet” lasted just one season (1966-1967), but Lee was a huge hit with American audiences, and by the Spring of 1973, he was appearing in the major motion picture Five Fingers of Death, which further continued kick-starting the kung fu craze.

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By then, actor/director Tom Laughlin had made a huge impact as “Billy Jack,” the halfbreed former Vietnam vet and practitioner of hapkido karate, taking out his enemies with insane karate chops and flying spread-eagle barefoot kicks.

Laughlin kept Billy Jack character alive — he’d first appeared in the biker flick Born Losers (1967) — by starting production on a Billy Jack sequel in Prescott, Arizona, in 1969, although the movie wasn’t screened theatrically until ’71.

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Laughlin spent months working out the action-packed fight sequences with hapkidoist Bong Soo Han (who sometimes served as Laughlin’s stunt double).

The low-budget film (made for $800,000) earned more than $32 million at the box office, and turned Laughlin into a kickass cult hero.

In October 1972, David Carradine began starring in the ABC primetime series “Kung Fu,” playing “Kwai Chang Caine,” a Shaolin monk who wandered around the Old West, defending the helpless and beating down bad guys with his mad kung fu skills.

Each episode featured flashbacks to Caine’s early life in a monastery, where his “Young Caine” character (played by Radames Pera) was taught and trained by “Master Chen Ming Kan” (Philip Ahn) and blind “Master Po” (Keye Luke), who called him “Grasshopper.”

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On July 20, 1973, just six days before the release of Enter the Dragon — co-starring black martial arts film co-star Jim Kelly, who owned a karate studio in downtown Los Angeles — Bruce Lee died from a cerebral edema.

Lee’s death didn’t curtail interest in martial arts, however, and by the next fall, Carl Douglas had a major hit with “Kung Fu Fighting,” and Hanna-Barbera’s short-lived “Hong Kong Phooey” Saturday morning cartoon was debuting on ABC.

We can’t mention every martial arts-related movie & TV we’ve enjoyed, but we simply have to mention John G. Avildsen’s hugely-successful blockbuster movie The Karate Kid (1984) — based on a screenplay by Robert Mark Kamen, whose first karate lessons had been in 1965 — which probably helped martial arts schools reach their peak in popularity.

The sequel, The Karate Kid, Part II (1986), even featured an “ice breaking” scene by newly-crowed karate champ “Daniel LaRusso” (Ralph Maccio).

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Watch Ice Break — the first ever karate film to be shown theatrically throughout Europe — on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.