On August 19, actor Shinichi Chiba passed away due to pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus.
Mr. Chiba was one of Japan’s leading action actors, and was also very popular in Hollywood, appearing in many movies under the name JJ Sunny Chiba, and sometimes as an action director.
When you think of action actors, the names of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger may immediately come to mind, but the action movies in which they appear tend to feature more shooting scenes than bare-knuckle fighting scenes.
They also boast muscular bodies that look like Greek sculptures, but few of them actually have any experience in martial arts. Therefore, I would like to focus on action actors who have a martial arts background. Mr. Chiba is one of them.
Nowadays, many Hollywood actors such as Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Keanu Reeves have become action actors and star in action movies, but until the early 1990s, there were not many actors playing fighting or action roles. However, until the early 1990s, there were not many regular actors playing fighting and action roles. Many of them are actually experienced martial arts practitioners or athletes, and they all have very high physical abilities.
Examples include Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme, as well as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li from the Hong Kong “Kung Fu” films.
Seagal studied karate and aikido in Japan and later opened a dojo in Los Angeles. He is a 7th dan in Aikido.
Van Damme once won the middleweight title of the All Europe Pro Karate Championship. Jet Li has been learning Chinese martial arts since he was a child, and won the first Chinese National Martial Arts Tournament in 1974, followed by five consecutive victories. That record has yet to be broken. They are actors, but they are also real fighters.
And the question that often arises among action movie fans is.
“Are the action actors really strong?
“Who would be the strongest in a real fight?
The question is, “Are the action actors really strong?
On the screen, the main character uses his brilliant skills to knock down his enemies. Seagal, for example, throws his opponents away with aikido techniques without letting them touch him with even a finger.
Since this is a movie, it is only natural that the main character is strong. Some of his moves are staged to look flashy and not suitable for actual combat. However, the fact that he can pull off such a huge move, even though it is an act, indicates that he has extraordinary physical abilities.
A film industry insider who had Seagal try out some of his moves said, “If you grab his hand, he’s going to do it.
“When I grabbed his hand, he threw me off in an instant, and I didn’t know what happened.
Dolph Lundgren, who plays Stallone’s antagonist Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, is a fourth-degree Kyokushin Karate master who has won several European competitions. The story is well known that during a rehearsal, Stallone asked Lundgren to punch him, saying, “Hit me real hard,” and Lundgren injured his ribs and lungs.
Mr. Chiba was a gymnast aiming for the Olympics, but gave up due to injury. He joined Toei as an actor, but in fact he had been attending Oyama Dojo, the predecessor of Kyokushinkai, before joining the company.
Nowadays, it is smartly called “full contact karate,” but it is nothing of the sort; it is actually direct combat karate where people hit and kick each other with their bare hands. That is what Kyokushin is.
That is why Kyokushin was called “Kenka Karate” in those days. At the time of Oyama Dojo, the training was so rough that it is hard to imagine now.
Mr. Chiba was granted a 4th dan in Kyokushin. In martial arts, there is a type of rank called honorary rank, which is given based on one’s age and contribution to the organization, regardless of one’s ability. However, Mr. Chiba received his black belt through the same dan promotion examination as other students.
In addition to the individual techniques, there are also kata, written examinations, and physical tests such as walking on your head and kicking a ball from a high position. Finally, there is the Kumite test.
The kumite test is extremely tough, as any full-contact karate dan knows, but according to the Kyokushin rules, the first dan has to fight 10 opponents, and as you move up the ranks, you have to fight 10 opponents of each rank.
Mr. Chiba has also participated in tournaments to show his abilities.
In 1977, he participated in a tournament held in Hawaii between the Japanese and Hawaiian teams of Kyokushinkai. The other members of the Japanese team were Daigo Oishi, Hikaru Nimiyagi, Takashi Azuma, Makoto Nakamura, and other super fighters of Kyokushin who are known to all karate fans.
His opponent was a black fighter over 6 feet tall who had once been the “East Coast Champion” of the United States. Mr. Chiba won the match by Ippon, or K.O., with a two-stage kick in the second round.
Mr. Chiba used a variety of techniques in the match, but the one that really caught his opponent off guard was a forward somersault and kick with his heel. This is a special technique used by many karate practitioners, from children to adults, and is called the “toro-maki kaiten-kiri,” which is one of the most advanced and flashy karate techniques. It is said that Mr. Chiba was the first karate practitioner in the world to use this technique.
When I first entered Kyokushinkai, I asked the late Mr. Ikki Kajiwara, the supreme advisor of Kyokushinkai, and the late Mr. Hisao Maki (founder of Maki Dojo), who was the chief instructor of Kyokushinkai at the time and also my teacher, about Mr. Chiba’s ability.
“He is really strong. He is really strong. He is definitely a black belt in Kyokushin karate.
As “Burning Dragon” starring Bruce Lee became a big hit and Hong Kong-made “Kung Fu movies” became popular in the early 70’s, Japanese karate movies starring Mr. Chiba also attracted attention in the West and created a boom. It is said that the match in Hawaii had a big impact on the movie. The real karate practitioners overseas, who had thought that Chiba-san’s karate was just an action movie, found out that Chiba-san was so strong that he could even compete and win by Ippon.
“When they found out that Mr. Chiba had competed and was strong enough to win by Ippon, they started to say, “Sonny Chiba is a real karate fighter.
It is said that they started to say, “Sonny Chiba is a real karate master.
The most likely successor to Mr. Chiba would be Hiroyuki Sanada, a former JAC student who is already active in Hollywood.
However, he does not have any martial arts experience as mentioned above, and he is about to turn 60. I wonder if Japan will ever produce an action actor who can surpass Mr. Chiba.
The most famous Japanese actors who have experience in martial arts, especially full contact karate like Mr. Chiba, are Houka Kinoshita and Ryusei Yokohama. Kinoshita is unlikely to become an action actor in the future, so Yokohama, who is a dan in Kyokushin Karate and won the International Youth Karate Championship for 13-14 year old boys in the -55kg category, would be a perfect fit. Many people were taken aback by his spectacular “backward kick” in the drama “It’s Your Turn” (Nippon Television Network Corporation).
Speaking of Yokohama, he first came to prominence as Tokyu No. 4 in the sentai (military) series “Ritsuryo Sentai Tokyuuger” (TV Asahi), and then made his breakthrough as the lead opposite Kyoko Fukada in the drama series “Hatsukoi wo Shitashi ni Yomiga” (TBS). He is known not only for his action, but also for his acting ability in romantic dramas, and is sure to become an increasingly popular figure in the future–.
Reporting and writing： Hiroyuki Sasaki (Entertainment Journalist)
Born in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, Sasaki became a reporter for FRIDAY at the age of 31, reporting on a number of scoops during his time with FRIDAY, and has been active in weekly magazines ever since. He is currently appearing on TV and radio as a commentator.