NINJA: THE SHO KOSUGI STORY

Chapter V: New Endeavors (1998-2004)

Sho's next endeavor would be to fulfill one of his lifelong dreams of opening up a school devoted to helping Asians make it in Hollywood films.  Originally supposed to be called HIFA (Hollywood International Film Academy), the name was eventually changed to SKI (Sho Kosugi Institute), with the first branch opening up in Hollywood, California in September 1998 and a second branch opening up in Nagoya, Japan in February 1999.  Subsequent schools were opened in Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka, with plans to eventually expand to Taiwan, Korea, China and Europe unfortunately never coming to fruition.  The school in Hollywood was open to Asians 16 years or older, whereas the schools in Japan were aimed at children 15 years or younger.

 

 

With semesters starting in September and April, Sho Kosugi Institute students were given classes in Gymnastics, Acting, Dance, Singing, Martial Arts, English, and Taiko (Japanese Drums).  Sho was reportedly very hands-on in the running of the schools, even teaching some classes himself.  Sho's son Shane was a supervisor at the school in Nagoya.  The Sho Kosugi Institute would remain in operation until September 2012, when, after 14 years, the last remaining branch in Tokyo closed down due to a lack of qualified instructors.

 






While starting up the Sho Kosugi Institute in 1998, Sho also created NINJA TAIKO, which combined traditional Japanese Taiko (drums) with Martial Arts and Acrobatics.  The Ninja Taiko group, made up of SKI members and students, performed at various public events, including one that caught the eye of a filmmaker in Los Angeles who asked them to do the Taiko drum score for the movie THE SCORPION KING.  Released in 2002, the film starred Duane "The Rock" Johnson, Steven Brand, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Kelly Hu, and was directed by Chuck RussellSho did the Taiko Choreography and also wrote the "Marching-In" theme for the film, which was performed by The Taiko Drummers from the Sho Kosugi Institute Ninja Taiko Team.

 






During this period, Sho also appeared on various Japanese talk/variety programs to promote his SKI schools.  One particularly memorable program that aired on April 7, 1999, featured a funny segment with a female reporter who was searching for Star Trek's Mr. Spock on the streets of Hollywood.  Running into Sho and his SKI students while on a training run, she asks Sho if he knows where she can find Mr. Spock.  Sho gives her the impression he does, asks her to follow them, and takes her to the SKI Hollywood facilities instead.  In the end, Sho gives her a tip on where she might find Mr. Spock and she continues on in her quest.  A couple weeks later on April 22, 1999, Sho appeared on the live Japanese daytime talk/variety program Madamunmun (マダムんむん) on TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System).

 






In 2000, Sho produced and appeared in some promotional videos for the Sho Kosugi Institute.  These 30 minute videos were made up of a number of short documentary style tours of the SKI facilities, showing the different classes that were available, and introducing the instructors for each class.

In one of the segments for the Nagoya branch, Sho was shown teaching martial arts classes to young children and later displaying his fighting skills and choreography in a mock fight against some of his older students and asking viewers if they were ready to take the "SKI Challenge", before giving them a knowing nod and smile. 

 






While Sho was busy running and promoting his SKI schools, his eldest son Kane was making a name for himself in Japan by hosting and/or appearing on the sports, training, and competition TV programs Sports Beat, Muscle Ranking (筋肉番付 Kinniku Banzuke), Muscle Elite (筋肉精鋭 Kinniku Seiei), and Sasuke (Ninja Warrior).  Kane had become a national sensation in Japan after winning 3 consecutive tournaments of the extremely popular Sportsman No. 1 Playoffs Muscular Athlete Championship: Celebrity Survivor Battle (スポーツマンNo.1決定戦芸能人サバイバルバトル Sportsman No.1 Kettei-sen Geinōjin Survivor Battle) from 1997 to 1998.  These special Muscle Ranking events would pit competitors against each other in various tests of strength, agility, and endurance.

 

 

Kane's dominant victories in these "Celebrity Survivor Battle" competitions were so impressive that he was invited to participate in the Sportsman No. 1 Playoffs Muscular Athlete Championship: Pro Sportsman Tournament (スポーツマンNo.1決定戦プロスポーツマン大会 Sportsman No.1 Kettei-sen Pro Sportsman Taikai) which pitted him against professional athletes.  After finishing an impressive 4th in his first attempt in the tournament that aired on January 1, 1999, Kane returned to shock everyone by winning it all exactly one year later.  And after losing by a mere 5 points in the March 1999 edition of the Sportsman No. 1 Playoffs Muscular Athlete Championship: Celebrity Survivor Battle, Kane returned for the next tournament a year later and won, beating the same competitor by more than 200 points.  Airing on TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System) on March 24, 2000, Kane received a special surprise when his proud father Sho walked out to congratulate him on his great victory, which Kane would repeat yet again in the next tournament 7 months later.

 






Sho also appeared on his son Kane's fitness and competition TV program MUSCLE ELITE (筋肉精鋭 Kinniku Seiei) on at least 3 separate occasions in 2000, advising and coaching his Sho Kosugi Institute students Christie Taniguchi (クリスティ谷口) and James Okada (ジェームス岡田) who were competing in the MUSCLE GYM (三色筋肉 Sanshoku Kinniku) segment.  Sho's 3 episodes aired on July 26, August 9, and October 18, 2000.  A carry-over from both the regular Muscle Ranking program and the Muscle Ranking Sportsman No. 1 Playoffs, the exciting Muscle Gym segment featured two competitors doing as many sit-ups, back extensions, and push-ups as they can in 3 minutes.  With Sho's training, his SKI students won all of their Muscle Gym contests, with Christie finishing No. 1 overall among women.

 






On December 23, 2000, Sho and Kane appeared on a TV program entitled SOREDEMO, NIPPON GA SUKI! (それでも,ニッポンが好き! Still, I like Japan!), which had them talking about the hardships they each encountered as young men after moving to a foreign country.  The segment began with Kane recounting how difficult things had been for him after moving to Japan from California at age 18.  In an interview and in humorous reenactments, Kane explained how the language barrier proved extremely problematic, particularly since everyone expected him to speak Japanese, which he was still learning.  On the flip side, Sho recounted and reenacted his own struggles after moving to California from Japan at age 19, working multiple and often humiliating jobs, and being unable to understand English when he arrived, etc...

 






In 2001, using his Ninja Taiko group, Sho created a stage show called THE NINJAS FROM HOLLYWOODSho produced and starred in this extravagant and colorful production along with his youngest son Shane and a number of singers and actors from the Sho Kosugi Institute.  When asked about it in an interview in October 2001, Sho stated that it was based on "West Side Story", but involved 'gangs' of ninja - one from New York and one from Los Angeles.  Sho also explained that because it was a family production he didn't want there to be winners and losers, and that one of his characters in the story, the God of Peace and War gets involved and gets everybody to finish peacefully.  Featuring exciting displays of martial arts and music by Bernard Jackson, the production toured Japan in both 2001 and 2002.

 

 

From all accounts, everything seemed to be going well for Sho and the Kosugi family during this time.  Sho was touring with his stage show and also running and promoting his multiple Sho Kosugi Institute branches in Hollywood and Japan, and his son Kane was continuing to work on numerous athletic-themed Japanese TV programs while at the same time also continuing to pursue his acting career by appearing in movies and TV dramas.  Some of the movies Kane had done over the previous years included Zero Woman II (ゼロ・ウーマンⅡ警視庁0課の女 Zero Woman II Keishichō Zero-Ka no Onna) (1995), Cat's Eye (キャッツ・アイ) (1997), a cameo in his idol and friend Jackie Chan's Who Am I? (1998), and starring as the lead in the action-packed Muscle Heat (マッスルヒート) aka Blood Heat (2002).

 

 

Unfortunately in late 2003 came a report that Sho and his eldest son Kane had had a falling out and were no longer speaking.  Though only Sho and Kane know what truly led to the estrangement, it was reported that in 2002 Kane had decided to leave Sho Kosugi Production Inc. and SKI (Sho Kosugi Institute), taking members of Sho's staff with him in the process to start his own agency.  Sho had hoped his son would help with his Sho Kosugi Institute branches while continuing to pursue his dream of becoming an action star, but Kane wanted to strike out on his own, thus causing a deep and painful rift between them.