Take a trip back to the 90's and enjoy this performance by a Kung Fu and Sport Karate legend.
This is the first edition of a weekly series that will be featuring old school sport karate videos to keep the history of the sport alive. This week, we take a look at an incredible performance from Team Paul Mitchell's Richard Branden at the 1998 U.S. Open on ESPN2. This performance came at the age of 34, just after recovering from a broken leg that he suffered while filming an episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Branden, originally a Tae Kwon Do black belt, became a Kung Fu expert after training with Yao Li. He started competing on a national level in 1987 and gained early recognition in 1988 for defeating formidable opponents like Ho-Sung and Ho-Young Pak. After just two years of national competition, he earned his spot on Team Paul Mitchell. His performances are remembered for the incredible power that he brought to Wushu routines and the refined cleanliness that he displayed during extremely difficult techniques. You may notice that at the end of his 1998 U.S. Open Performance, Branden appears to look around for a moment before finding the front of the ring and completing the routine with a bow. This is because a childhood accident wounded his eye and severely impacted his vision, making the difficulty of his routines even more impressive. Team Paul Mitchell coaches Steve Babcock and Don Rodrigues would stand behind the judges and cheer loudly at the end of Branden's performances so that he could listen for their voices and know which way to turn.
This icon's legendary career included ten NASKA world championships and six WAKO world championships. His accolades earned him a spot in the Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame in 1992 as the Kung Fu Artist of the Year. Branden's success in the competitive scene also set him up for several opportunities in Hollywood. He was an actor and stuntman for the Power Rangers franchise and played "Yin Yang Man" in WMAC Masters (pictured above). He was also a stunt performer in the world-famous Mortal Kombat series.
Richard Branden passed away at the age of 50 on December 11, 2013 after a battle with stage four pancreatic cancer that began in May of that year. His career continues to inspire many martial artists today and his legacy lives on through his school, Richard Branden's Studio Kicks in Palo Alto, California.