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Steven Seagal : Aikido Article

Mar 25, 2011
Steven Seagal : Aikido Article
  • Article submitted by Littledragon

    Steven Seagal, a 7th Dan black belt, began the practice of Aikido in the late 1960's (or early 1970's) at the Orange County Aikikai in California under Harry Ishisaka. Prior to that, he had been studying Karate under Fumio Demura.

    NOTE: Harry Ishisaka (c. 1929-1978) was an early instructor in Orange County California area who contributed greatly to the development of aikido in Southern California. Affiliated with Koichi Tohei through the late 1970s, then became independent. Well known for being first Aikido teacher of Steven Seagal, he was chief instructor of Orange County Aikikai until his death.

    For an interesting review/tribute of Take Sensei by his Sempai and others, buy the video direct from his website.

    Interview for Shambala Sun with screenwriter Stanley Weiser. Also, see Other INFORMATION about Steven Seagal onWorld Tibet News.

    Seagal Sensei studied under Koichi Tohei (another for Orange County, California) in the summer of 1974 before traveling to Japan shortly thereafter. Seagal separated from Tohei's organization and assumed direction of the Aikikai-Hombu-affailiated Tenshin Aikido Dojo in Osaka which was owned by his Japanese wife's parents. He was rapidly promoted to 5th dan in consideration of his position as chief instructor of the dojo and was eventually awarded 6th dan. Steven Seagal operates a dojo in Hollywood, California [it has been stated that Seagal doesn't appear much anymore at his dojo and it is run by one of his black belt instructors, though it professes Seagal's style].

    From Seagal Sensei's website:

    "Seagal was born in Detroit and raised in Southern California. His interest in martial arts began at age seven. After discovering a Japanese dojo in a neighboring town, he began studying Aikido, long considered the most difficult and spiritual of the martial arts disciplines. A decade later Seagal moved to Japan and established a reputation as a master of martial arts. He became the first non-Asian to organize his own dojo in Tokyo, one that, with over 2,000 students, remains in operation today.

    "Seagal serves as CEO of Steamroller Productions, his Los Angeles based production company which is involved in the development, production, financing and marketing of TELEVISION and motion picture product."
    Dojo Address:

    Tenshin Dojo
    8505 Santa Monica Blvd.
    West Hollywood, CA 90029, USA
    [The above is from
    The Aiki News Encyclopedia of Aikido
    (C) 1991 by Stanley A. Pranin.]

    Bits And Pieces:
    Sensei Seagal holds black belts in Karate, Aikido and Kenjutsu and has also studied Judo, Kali, Kendo, Eastern Philosophy, Shinto Religion, and the Holistic Arts (including Acupuncture, Herbology and Calligraphy).

    Seagal is a Shodan in ****oryu Karate and has trained briefly under Master Fumio Demura.

    He received his 1st dan in Aikido from Koichi Toheiin Orange County in the summer of 1974.

    In 1975, Steven Seagal became the first American instructor to open a Aikido Dojo in Japan.

    Seagal began his movie career as a fight and weapons coordinator.

    Take Sensei's daughter is an actress named Ayako Faith Fujitani. There were in The Patriot together. She was listed as Ayako Seagal.

    Shihan Steven Seagal is known as Shigemichi Take(which means: "Warrior who will prosper").

    Steven Seagal's directing debut film was On Deadly Ground.

    There is a rumor that Steven Seagal used to be involved in the CIA. There has been no evidence to warrant or disclaim it. [ Seagal personally states that he may have had a friend while in Japan, who asked him to do a favor, and who just happened to work for the CIA. Whether or not this was a personal favor on a sanctioned mission, an official extension through his friend to perform a service for the CIA, or simply a matter of helping a friend exclusive from the CIA operations division, is up for speculation and only further enhances Seagal's mystique. Whatever that favor was, it was not in his best interest to state openly, and may or may not be classified.]

    Steven Seagal was born on April 10, 1952, in Lansing Michigan. His mother was a medical technician and his father was a high school math teacher. When Steven was 5 the family moved to Fullerton, CA. At age 7, Steven became inerested in the martial arts and discovered a Japanese dojo in nearby Garden Grove, and began studying Aikido. Steven attended Buena Park High School, then Orange Coast College and finally, Fullerton College.

    In 1971, two years after the death of O'Sensei, Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido) Steven left for Japan to study with the Masters in: Zen, Buddhism and Aikido. In 1975 he married and continued to live in Japan where he eventually inherited a dojo from his Japanese father-in-law. In the Aikido world he adopted the name Shigemichi Take (Take being his father-in-law's name). Seagal claims to have lived in Asia for many years and had become close to several CIA agents. He also met powerful people and did special favors for them.

    Seagal returned to the United States in 1987, where he set up a martial-arts school, the Tenshin Dojo, in West Hollywood. With the help of his guardian angel, Mike Ovitz, Seagal made his acting debut with 1988's Above The Law. This was followed by several more successful films, including the successful Under Siegeand Out For Justice(which he also wrote).

    Steven Seagal says about Above the Lawthat, "I was lucky in that I got to play me." Above the Lawwas, to some extent, autobiographical. Seagal claims not only to have been involved in security operations for the deposed Shah of Iran, but to have worked security for Bishop Tutu and the late Anwar Sadat. Accounts of his CIA involvement have been disputed over the years, but that would be standard fair anyway, for the CIA or associated agencies.

    A stern-looking martial arts wizard who studied and later taught his craft in Japan, Seagal got his feet wet in motion pictures as a fight coordinator on John Frankenheimer's The Challenge (1982) and later set up a popular martial arts school in West Hollywood. He caught the attention of Michael Ovitz (then head of Creative Artists Agency) who arranged a martial arts demonstration for Warner Brothers president Terry Semel. Impressed by Seagal, Ovitz arranged a screen test and he was somewhat unexpectedly catapulted to action stardom. His first feature was the low-budget, urban cop drama Above The Law (1988), for which he provided the story, served as producer, and played a CIA operative in Vietnam who later exposes the corruption of Chicago government officials.

    Seagal cemented his popularity as an avenging action hero with the follow-up action/Aikido films Marked For Death, Hard To Kill(both 1990), and Out For Justice (1991), in which his larger-than-life presence alternates between meditative serenity and vigilante violence. His persona represented an odd mix of the mainstreaming of Chinese and trendy New Age philosophizing with the contemporary taste for good guys who seemed sinister and yet satisfied an increasing taste for simplified notions of instant justice in a troubled US, justified heroes who enjoy dispatching their enemies in as dispassionate a manner as possible.

    The canny, pony-tailed actor has enhanced his mystique by creating a public image shrouded in mystery and surrounded by speculation about his possible past links with the CIA. Although critics have carped at Seagal's modest acting abilities, Janet Maslin of The New York Timeshas summed up as the aspects of his star persona:

    "What Mr. Seagal offers is a clever, uncategorizable hybrid of physical prowess, fortune-cookie wisdom, law-and-order politics, street-smart bravado and, above all, the confident insouciant manner of a natural-born star."
    [ Aside from this somewhat offensive way of expressing what Seagal does (i.e., fortune-cookie wisdom), the previous paragraph is indeed a clear picture of Seagal's typical storylines.] Seagal earned mainstream status with Under Siege (1992), a Die Hard-style thriller that grossed over $80 million. Its villains were played with relish by Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey and it possessed welcome moments of deadpan humor. Seagal followed up this success with his directorial debut, On Deadly Ground(1994), a well-intentioned eco-thriller featuring Seagal as Alaska's last hope.

    The inevitable sequel to his earlier smash, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory(1995), followed, with the inscrutable but increasingly accepted star receiving the occasional kudo for some lively action scenes. Indeed, although many critics found Seagal to be unchanged for his "guest star" supporting turn in the Kurt Russell actioner Executive Decision(1995), some found his cool dispatch [near the beginning] to constitute some of the best moments of his career to date.

    "It doesn't work if the bad guys kill his mother's uncle's friend's neighbor's pet dog. You've got to make the stakes high."
    --Steven Seagal, explaining why the hero's woman must get shot.

    Source : Journaled
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