Another respected and beloved actor – who in this case was also a master of martial arts – has died. Shin’ichi “Sonny” Chiba was 82.
Born Sadaho Maeda in Fukuoka, Japan in 1939, Chiba began his martial arts training at the Nippon Sports Science University in 1957, earning a first-degree black belt in karate in 1965. Further achievements followed, including a fourth-degree black belt in 1984. He also held black belts in ninjutsu, shorinji kempo, judo, kendo and goju-ryu karate.
Chiba’s film and TV career kicked off in 1960, and he adopted the name Shin’ichi Chiba for his work. Early roles came on Japanese superhero shows including Seven Colour Mask and Messenger Of Allah.
On the big screen, he got his start in a series of crime thrillers made by Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku, and sci-fi thriller Invasion Of The Neptune Men. Martial arts movies came a little later, with his first, Karate Kiba, arriving in 1973. He achieved more worldwide fame with 1974’s The Street Fighter, which was handed an X-rating in the US for its violent brawls.
Chiba may be best known to Western audiences for one specific film (or pair of films): Quentin Tarantino‘s Kill Bill , in which he played Hattori Hanzo, a retired swordsman and owner of a sushi restaurant who crafts a blade for Uma Thurman’s vengeful Bride. On that film, as well as many others, he also served as a sword trainer for Thurman and Lucy Liu, working alongside famed action director and choreographer Yuen Woo-ping. Fight co-ordination became a big part of his later career, while Chiba also wrote and directed films.