CHAPTER I: Growing Up in Japan (1948-1968)

Born in Shiba, a suburb of Tokyo, Japan on June 17, 1948, Shōichi Kosugi, better known to ninja movie fans all over the world as Sho Kosugi, first began his martial arts training at the age of 5. Sho was the youngest child and only son of a fisherman. His father Fusataro along with his mother and 2 older sisters urged him to learn some form of martial art because although tall for his age, he was rather weak, due to a hole in his lungs. To become stronger, Sho began studying Shindo Jinen Ryu Karate, a style which draws heavily from both Shotokan (from which it originated) and Shito Ryu Karate but also extensively utilizes Aikido, Jiu-Jitsu and Kendo principles and techniques, with Master and originator of the style Yasuhiro Konishi, at a dojo about a block away from his home. A year or so later, when Sho was 6, he attended acting school in Tokyo for about six months, but the hyperactive boy was thrown out by the teacher who told Sho he had no patience and that he'd never be an actor. Shortly thereafter, when Sho was 7 years old, he met Mr. Yamamoto, a mysterious neighbor. Uncle Yamamoto as Sho called him was a quiet 70-year-old man who kept to himself and whom the other neighbors regarded as being strange. Against his family's wishes, Sho would visit the old hermit everyday after school and they would have long talks about Ninjutsu, the art of the ninja. For the next 5 years, the old man would teach the young Kosugi Ninjutsu techniques and weaponry in an informal manner. Then suddenly one day when Sho was 12 years old, he came home to find that Uncle Yamamoto had disappeared, never to be heard from again.

In the subsequent years, while continuing his Karate training, Sho studied Kendo and Judo while in Junior High School and then began his studies in Iaido and Kobudo while attending High School, where he also played Baseball for a year. By the time Sho was 18, his martial arts studies had helped him to become All-Japan Karate Champion. Shortly thereafter in 1968 at age 19, after a battle with depression and thoughts of suicide due to his failing College entrance exams in Japan, Sho made the decision to relocate to the United States to attend College in California.


CHAPTER II: Early Life in America (1968-1980)

Intent on becoming an International Trader, Sho arrived at the Los Angeles International Airport and boarded a bus he hoped would take him to his new home in "Little Tokyo". However, Sho's inability to read or speak English inadvertently led him to take the wrong bus. A few hours later, the bus dropped him off in a seedy part of L.A. littered with vagrants and gangs. As Sho made his way through the streets, 3 men suddenly jumped out at him, with one of them holding a knife. Although unable to understand what the thugs were saying, the blade transcended all language barriers. As the 2 other men grabbed Sho from behind, Sho delivered a powerful kick to the armed man's chest sending him crashing to the ground. The other 2 assailants, seeing their friend moaning in pain on the bloody sidewalk, decided to flee. Shortly thereafter, as an ambulance brought the would-be robber to the hospital, Sho went to a Los Angeles Police Station where he spent the rest of the day. Fortunately, Sho's subsequent days in America would not be as traumatic.

After months of studying English, Sho began taking classes at Pasadena City College and then transferred to California State University, where he would eventually receive a Bachelors degree in Economics. Working a variety of odd jobs to pay for his studies, Sho continued his martial arts training by studying with renowned Shito Ryu Karateka and Kobudo master Fumio Demura, and Gosoku-ryu Karate, Judo, Aikido, Kendo, and Iaido master Takayuki "Tak" Kubota. Sho also reunited with Shindo Jinen Ryu Karate, Kobudo, and Iaido master Kiyoshi Yamazaki, who had been his Senpai while he was studying with Master Konishi in Japan. For several years, Sho also participated in Demura's popular martial arts demos at the Japanese village and Deer Park, an amusement park in Southern California. These demonstrations, which incorporated a wide variety of martial arts including Karate, Kobudo and Kendo, were famous for their use of theatrical lighting, music and costumes to show the audience the power and excitement of the martial arts. Noted fellow martial arts masters such as Kiyoshi Yamazaki and Dan Ivan also regularly participated in these popular events. Sometime during this period Sho also appeared as a contestant on the popular Television program TED MACK AND THE ORIGINAL AMATEUR HOUR where he won the top prize. Sho also competed in various martial arts tournaments all over the U.S., Canada and Mexico during this time, and by 1974 he had won an astonishing 663 trophies and cups, which included winning the L.A. Open in 1972, 1973 and 1974. Sho also taught the martial arts during this time and he became particularly close to a young Chinese woman named Shook, who he had originally met at English Language School. After graduating from California State University, Sho and Shook were married. Sho taught Shook the martial arts for 4 years, until she began to raise their children: Kane who was born in 1974, Shane who was born in 1976 and Ayeesha who was born in 1983.

During these early years in America, Sho also tried his hand at acting and appeared as an extra in various movies over an eight year period, including the 1974 movie THE GODFATHER PART II, where he played a passerby dressed in a large coat with a cap pulled down over his eyes. Sho also appeared in a couple of low budget martial arts films during this time. One was a Taiwanese film shot in Taiwan reportedly released under the title SIX KILLERS and the other was a South Korean film shot in Los Angeles called AMERICA BANGMUNGAEG (English Titles: The Stranger From Korea, The Stranger. Literal Translation: America Visitor). The latter was subsequently dubbed into English and a new ultra-cheesy opening scene featuring a man (supposedly Bruce Lee) bursting out of a grave marked with Bruce Lee's name was tacked on and the film was re-titled BRUCE LEE FIGHTS BACK FROM THE GRAVE. The film, which has absolutely nothing to do with Bruce Lee, is not great by any stretch of the imagination, but it is interesting if you're a Sho Kosugi fan for a number of reasons. First off, not only does Sho play a martial arts fighter, but he basically plays a modern day Samurai fighting not only hand to hand, but he also wields a Samurai sword and a pair of Sai during the fast paced and frenzied battle with the movie's star. Another interesting element in the movie is that Sho's real-life business card, which at the time read "Sho's Karate Dojo", is shown in a scene where the film's star picks it up and looks at it before making his way to said dojo where he engages in a fight against a number of students all wearing white Karate gis with "Sho's Karate Dojo" printed on the backs. Pretty cool. Another interesting thing concerns the film's star who's credited as Bruce K. L. Lea in the English dubbed version known as BRUCE LEE FIGHTS BACK FROM THE GRAVE. His real name is Jun Chong and he's a well known and well respected Korean-born Tae Kwon Do instructor with a number of schools in California. Interestingly enough, a decade or so after the film's release director Doo-Yong Lee and star Jun Chong teamed up again to make a modern-day ninja movie called SILENT ASSASSINS co-starring Sam J. Jones, Linda Blair, Phillip Rhee, his brother Simon Rhee, and the great character actor Mako. Another film on Sho's early resume is THE BAD NEWS BEARS GO TO JAPAN starring Tony Curtis, Jackie Earle Haley, Tomisaburo Wakayama, Antonio Inoki, and Hatsune Ishihara, released in the summer of 1978. Don't blink or you'll miss his appearance in this film though. His on-screen time is just a few seconds as he's merely one of a group of Karateka doing a Kata demonstration. Sometime during this period Sho also appeared on the children's program, ROMPER ROOM. While these small film roles and TV appearances did allow Sho to spread his wings and try new things, they did not do much to pay the bills, and so he continued to teach the martial arts at his dojo in San Gabriel, California.

Sho was also involved in promoting and fostering cultural exchanges through the martial arts by organizing trips to the Asian countries where the styles originated. In June 1978, Sho headed a group called the Martial Arts Promotion Union which included martial artists from the 3 major styles of the martial arts, Karate, Kung Fu, and Tae Kwon Do, and organized a 3 week martial arts tour that began in Los Angeles and went to Tokyo, then Seoul, and finally Taipei. In Japan the tour members worked out at the famed Mt. Fuji Dojo, and competed in a "good will" tournament against some of that school's top competitors. While in Korea, they worked out and competed against the best fighters in the country at the famed Tae Kwon Do Dojo in Seoul, and then engaged in some Kung Fu practice in Taipei before competing against Taiwanese fighters. The tour, which was open to highly motivated black belts and exceptionally gifted brown belts, was so successful that another tour was organized the following year. During this time, Sho also continued participating in martial arts demonstrations at various events and also organized tournaments such as the "Hollywood Open Karate Championships". In conjunction with this he also hosted what was billed as the "Hollywood Martial Art Action Contest" where martial artists of all ages were called upon to stage the most entertaining act they could devise for a panel of judges which included various agents, actors, and martial arts celebrities. One of the participants who wowed the crowd was Sho's 5-year-old son Kane, dressed in traditional samurai garb, and wielding a samurai sword in a self defense routine against four or five slightly older warriors.


CHAPTER III: The Ninja Years (1981-1987)

Sho would finally get his big movie break when famed Karate competitor Mike Stone successfully pitched a story he wrote called "Dance of Death" to Cannon Films. Stone assembled a group of martial artists to play ninja warriors and to work as stuntmen in the film and Sho was one of the people chosen. "Dance of Death", re-titled ENTER THE NINJA, was filmed on location in the Philippines from January 1981 to February 1981. During the production, Mike Stone, who was to have been the film's lead, had some sort of falling out with the producer or director and was replaced with actor Franco Nero. Despite this falling out, Stone stayed on as the film's principal fight choreographer and double for Franco Nero's character. As filming progressed, director Menahem Golan and producers Judd Bernard and Yoram Globus noticed Sho's amazing martial arts skills and natural acting ability and kept adding things for him to do, until finally Sho was a full fledged co-star in the film. Also co-starring in the film were Susan George, Christopher George, Alex Courtney, and Dale Ishimoto. Interestingly enough, Susan George would follow-up her appearance in ENTER THE NINJA by co-starring in the supernatural samurai haunted house film THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS co-starring Edward Albert and Doug McClure. Along with playing the ninja assassin Hasegawa, Sho also doubled for many of the maroon ninja warriors in the film's opening alongside fellow martial artists Alan Amiel and Doug Ivan, and also doubled for the white ninja (Franco Nero's character) in some scenes. When ENTER THE NINJA was released in the fall of 1981, it sparked a martial arts craze not seen since the emergence of Bruce Lee nearly a decade earlier. Sho's scene stealing performance, which included an exciting final duel between Sho's character and the white ninja (doubled by Mike Stone), immediately earned Sho a loyal fan following, eagerly awaiting this great martial artist's next project. As the saying goes, "a star was born", and so was the "ninja craze" of the 1980s.

A short time later, the Cannon Group's second Ninja film REVENGE OF THE NINJA went into production. Filmed on location in Salt Lake City, Utah from September 1982 to November 1982, REVENGE OF THE NINJA put Sho firmly in the lead role of a reluctant Iga ninja master escaping the brutal killing of his family by a group of Koga ninja in his native Japan. Moving to the U.S., Sho's character eventually realizes that a ninja can't escape his destiny. Released by MGM/UA in the Summer of 1983, REVENGE OF THE NINJA was a huge success and established Sho as one of the world's most popular action stars. The film also introduced movie audience's to Sho's real-life sons. His eldest son Kane, who was only 8 years old at the time, played Sho's son in the film and his performance is quite impressive with Kane displaying some truly incredible fighting. Sho's youngest son Shane also appears briefly in the film's opening as the young boy killed by the shuriken. Rounding out the solid cast for the film were Keith Vitali, Virgil Frye, Arthur Roberts, Mario Gallo, Grace Oshita, and Ashley Ferrare. Along with playing the reluctant ninja master Cho Osaki, Sho also doubled for the evil masked ninja in many sequences. REVENGE OF THE NINJA, written by James R. Silke and directed by Sam Firstenberg, is considered by many to be the best modern-day ninja movie ever made. This is no doubt due in large part to the non-stop action scenes, which feature Sho at the top of his game. Adding to the smoothness of the fight scenes, which were choreographed by Sho, was the use of some of Sho's real-life students, including black belts Alan Amiel, who played the red sash ninja leader, and Eddie Tse, who doubled for the masked ninja (Arthur Roberts' role) in the film's climactic final duel. Also delivering in the martial arts department was Karate champion Keith Vitali playing police Karate instructor and Cho's friend, Dave Hatcher. REVENGE OF THE NINJA was truly a ground-breaking film, not only in terms of cementing the ninja movie as a viable and popular genre with fans worldwide, but more importantly from a historical standpoint because it was very likely the first Hollywood film in which an Asian-born performer was given the lone lead credit. Even the legendary Bruce Lee shared top billing with his American counterpart John Saxon in his first (and sadly last) Hollywood starring vehicle ENTER THE DRAGON. For The Cannon Group to give Sho the lone starring credit in just his 2nd Hollywood film is quite impressive and bold on their part, especially considering the fact that the next big Asian martial arts movie stars to make it in Hollywood, Jackie Chan and Jet Li, wouldn't do so until more than a decade later.

Riding the wave of success from their first 2 ninja films, the Cannon Group next began production on the 3rd and final installment in their "Ninja Trilogy". Once again, Sho would be the star and, just like in REVENGE OF THE NINJA, director Sam Firstenberg would be working from a script written by James R. Silke. Filmed on location in Phoenix, Arizona from October 1983 to December 1983, NINJA III: THE DOMINATION co-starring Lucinda Dickey, Jordan Bennett, David Chung, Dale Ishimoto, and James Hong, followed the basic formula established in ENTER THE NINJA and REVENGE OF THE NINJA while adding an element of the supernatural to the mix. In the film, Sho's character Yamada, a mysterious ninja who wears a tsuba (sword guard) over his left eye (an homage to the legendary 17th Century Samurai/Ninja Jubei Yagyu) comes to the U.S. from Japan to do battle with an old enemy. In death, Yamada's enemy had possessed the body of a young woman (played by Lucinda Dickey) forcing her to take revenge on the policemen responsible for his death. As in his previous ninja epics, Sho also did double duty on the film acting as star and fight choreographer and once again bringing in Alan Amiel to double for the evil ninja. Released by MGM/UA in the Fall of 1984, NINJA III: THE DOMINATION was another box office smash for Sho, establishing him as the most visible and sought after ninja actor in the world. The film also marked an end to the mutually profitable partnership between Sho and the Cannon Group. Sho would go on to make films for other companies, while the Cannon Group would continue making ninja movies without Sho, namely the AMERICAN NINJA series, the first 2 of which would be directed by Sam Firstenberg and see the return of Mike Stone as fight choreographer. And in what was likely an attempt to fill the void left by the departure of their ninja superstar Sho, Cannon hired Martial Arts master Tadashi Yamashita, who, much like he did in the 3rd modern-day ninja movie THE OCTAGON starring Chuck Norris, played the enemy ninja in the first film, while Mike Stone filled that role in the sequel. And John Fujioka, another alum from THE OCTAGON and certainly no stranger to the ninja genre having played a ninja in an episode of the 1970s TV series BARETTA entitled "The Ninja", played the American Ninja's adoptive father and ninja teacher.

Much in demand, Sho's next project was the American Television series THE MASTER co-starring Lee Van Cleef as Ninja Master John Peter McAllister and Timothy Van Patten as his sidekick Max who together travel the U.S. in search of the master's long-lost daughter, while Sho as the Ninja Assassin Okasa pursues them and tries to end his former master's life. Shot on location in Los Angeles, California from December 1983 to May 1984, forcing Sho to fly back and forth from Phoenix, Arizona where he was completing NINJA III: THE DOMINATION, the TV series, a co-production between Michael Sloan Productions and Viacom Productions, aired on NBC from January 20, 1984 to August 31, 1984. Despite Sho's involvement as co-star, fight choreographer, ninja technical advisor and double for Lee Van Cleef's character, the show did not return after its initial 13 episode run. No doubt contributing to the series' cancellation was its Friday night timeslot up against the huge hit DALLAS. Also working against it was the show's writing, which for the most part was not very good. When asked about this in an interview, Sho stated that he'd hoped the series and storylines would be more serious in tone, more along the lines of the classic KUNG FU TV series starring David Carradine, but it was not to be. Interestingly enough a year earlier ABC had commissioned a pilot for a TV series called THE LAST NINJA written by Ed Spielman, who had written the pilot for the original KUNG FU series, which was very much in that spirit and tone. Sadly, the excellent 2-hour pilot starring Michael Beck, Nancy Kwan, and Mako, and featuring ENTER THE NINJA alumni's Mike Stone and Doug Ivan, appearing as members of the terrorist group and also serving as Martial Arts Consultant and Last Ninja double respectively, did not make it to series like THE MASTER did. Ironically enough a 3rd ninja TV series called RAVEN, this time from rival American network CBS, would make it to series in 1992 and run for 2 short seasons for a total of 20 episodes (7 in season 1 and 13 in season 2). Starring Jeffrey Meek as Ninja Jonathan Raven and Lee Majors as his sidekick Herman "Ski" Jablonski, the series borrowed more than a little from THE MASTER by featuring a ninja who left his sect (the Black Dragons) and is now searching for his long-lost child (a son this time around), while being pursued by members of the Black Dragons who are constantly trying to kill him. And just like THE MASTER's John Peter McAllister and Max, RAVEN's Jonathan Raven and Ski were a mismatched duo featuring an older man and a younger man who help out people in trouble. The series didn't really have a character equivalent to Okasa, but noted martial artists James Lew, Jeff Imada (who also appeared on THE MASTER), Philip Tan, and character actor John Fujioka did portray Black Dragons in a few episodes. Another element that misfired for THE MASTER was Lee Van Cleef. Although a fine actor probably best known for his many Spaghetti Westerns and no stranger to the ninja genre having appeared in the aforementioned movie THE OCTAGON, Van Cleef was nevertheless suffering from a bad back and bad knees and thus was horribly miscast in the role of the spry ninja master. Nevertheless, the show did have some fantastic fight sequences. Sho appeared in all 13 episodes, doubling for Lee Van Cleef's character. Sho's character Okasa was also featured prominently in 5 of the series' best episodes. Another high point was the guest appearance of Sho's son Kane in the show's final episode. The series also featured guest appearances from a lot of beautiful young actresses, many of whom would go on to successful acting careers in movies and TV series, including Demi Moore ("Ghost","A Few Good Men"), Shanna Reed ("Major Dad"), Crystal Bernard ("Wings"), Jennifer Runyon ("Charles in Charge"), Terri Treas ("Alien Nation"), Tara Buckman ("The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo"), Janine Turner ("Northern Exposure"), Rebecca Holden ("Knight Rider"), Mary Stewart Masterson ("Fried Green Tomatoes"), and Ashley Ferrare (Cathy in "Revenge of the Ninja"). Other noteworthy guest stars included Doug McClure from the aforementioned THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL DWELLS, George Lazenby in a role that was clearly meant to mirror James Bond, which he had played in ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, Brian Tochi, yet another alum from THE OCTAGON (having played the younger version of Tadashi Yamashita's character), and Soon-Teck Oh, who along with actress Kelly Harmon (sister of actor Mark Harmon), played one the few other ninja characters to appear on the show. THE MASTER also marked the first time that Sho's real voice was heard on screen, having been dubbed by voice actors with similar tones in his Cannon films because the producers felt his accent was too thick. A year or so after it went off the air, THE MASTER found new life and gained new fans when TWE (Trans World Entertainment) released it on Home Video as "THE MASTER NINJA".

For his next project, Sho returned to the Philippines where he shot the film 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA from May 1984 to June 1984. 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA, filmed ironically enough under the working title "American Ninja", co-starred Brent Huff and Emilia Lesniak and was Sho's first ninja film not produced by the Cannon Group and the end result was quite disappointing. After filming was completed and Sho had returned to the U.S., the film was badly edited together and his voice was poorly dubbed into a ridiculously deep English/American sounding voice. The film, produced by Amritraj Productions and released through Crown International Pictures, also suffered from some truly horrible acting on the part of the film's villains, making the film laughable at times. On the bright side, the film did offer some cool fight scenes choreographed and performed by Sho and his students. Sho's 2 sons, Kane and Shane, also appear in the film. Another highlight was the flashback sequence showing how Sho's character had left his ninja group. It's worth noting that the actor playing Sho's master in the flashback, Philippines-based Japanese actor Ken Watanabe (not to be confused with the famous actor from Japan who appeared in the American films THE LAST SAMURAI opposite Tom Cruise and BATMAN BEGINS opposite Christian Bale) also appeared in and wrote some other ninja films produced in the Philippines including NINJA'S FORCE, NINJA WARRIORS, and DOUBLE EDGE. It's also interesting to note that 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA's writer/director Emmett Alston, who had previously worked with Sho on ENTER THE NINJA where he'd been the 2nd Unit Director, would go on to direct a few more ninja movies without Sho. The first one was called FORCE OF THE NINJA and it starred another alumni from ENTER THE NINJA, Doug Ivan (aka Douglas Yamanaka), who, as Sho had done, played a number of maroon ninja warriors during that film's opening sequence. He also played Hasegawa's victim in the Black & White "snuff film" sequence in ENTER THE NINJA. Along with starring in FORCE OF THE NINJA, Doug Ivan, whose mother was Japanese, co-wrote the screenplay with his father, American martial artist Dan Ivan. As far as 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA is concerned, the end result left Sho with a bad taste in his mouth and he vowed to become more involved in the pre-production, casting, and editing of his next films.

Sho next appeared in a wonderful coming of age drama initially called "Hanauma Bay", later to be known as "Made in Hawaii", and finally released years later as ALOHA SUMMER. Filmed on location in beautiful Honolulu, Hawaii, with Sho filming his part in July 1984, the sentimental drama set in the summer of 1959 revolves around a group of teenagers of differing ethnicities and economic backgrounds coming together, becoming friends and growing up. Sho plays the part of Yukinaga Konishi, a traditional and strict Japanese father teaching the art of Kendo to his son Kenzo (played by Yuji Okumoto). The role called for Sho to appear much older than his 36 years and to speak for the most part in his native Japanese. Although a supporting role, the film offered Sho the opportunity to play his first non-ninja role and to shine as an actor, and he delivers one his most powerful performances ever. While on the set, Sho met and worked with Japanese-Canadian actor Robert Ito (best known for his role on the TV series QUINCY, M.E.) and asked him to play his father in his upcoming ninja film PRAY FOR DEATH. It's worth noting that Robert Ito had played one of the earliest ninja roles seen in an American production, having appeared as a ninja in an episode of the classic 1970s KUNG FU TV series entitled "The Assassin". Ito's series QUINCY, M.E. also featured an excellent ninja episode entitled "Touch of Death" with Mako as a ninja and Tadashi Yamashita doubling one of the actors in a fight sequence that opens the episode. The cast of ALOHA SUMMER also included Chris Makepeace, Don Michael Paul, Andy Bumatai (who'd later have a recurring role on the aforementioned RAVEN TV series), Warren Fabro, Blaine Kia, Scott Nakagawa, Ric Mancini, Lorie Griffin, Teri Ann Linn, Marina Ferrier, and marked the screen debut of actress Tia Carrere. For whatever reason, although filmed in 1984, the film was not released until 1988 on Warner Bros. Home Video.

A few months after completing ALOHA SUMMER, Sho began work on his next film, PRAY FOR DEATH. Filmed on location in Houston, Texas and Los Angeles, California from October 1984 to December 1984, PRAY FOR DEATH marked Sho's return to a more serious type of ninja film. Similar in theme to REVENGE OF THE NINJA, the film revolves around a reluctant master ninja named Akira Saito who moves his wife and 2 sons to the U.S. from Japan hoping to achieve the American Dream but finding a nightmare instead. Kane and Shane once again share the screen with their father, playing appropriately enough, his 2 sons. Donna Kei Benz, who plays the boys' mother and Sho's wife in the film, had previously appeared as the daughter of legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune in John Frankenheimer's excellent modern-day Samurai movie THE CHALLENGE starring Scott Glenn. She also appeared on an excellent Yakuza themed episode of QUINCY, M.E. entitled "Sword of Honor, Blade of Death" along with Soon-Teck Oh, "ninja movie" regulars Mako and John Fujioka, and another future PRAY FOR DEATH actor, Robert Ito. Also appearing in the film were James Booth, Norman Burton, Matthew Faison, Parley Baer, and Michael Constantine. James Booth who plays the film's villainous Limehouse, also wrote the film's screenplay and would go on to do the same for "American Ninja 2" and then appear as another villain in "American Ninja 4". Blessed with a compelling story, solid direction from Director Gordon Hessler, great production values, and Sho's involvement not only as star and fight choreographer but also as consultant in the editing process, PRAY FOR DEATH was another huge box office smash for Sho, even garnering positive reviews from the mainstream press. The film also has the unique distinction of being the first foreign-made "ninja movie" to be released theatrically in Sho's native Japan. To coincide with the film's release in 1985, Sho attended the Cannes Film Festival in France to promote the film and was delighted to discover how popular his movies were in Europe. One day, while on the yacht provided to him by TWE (Trans World Entertainment), the film company responsible for PRAY FOR DEATH, Sho received a visit from film legend Clint Eastwood. Sho and Clint spent the afternoon together discussing films and the martial arts.

With Sho's popularity soaring worldwide, more and more fans were joining the official SHO KOSUGI NINJA FAN CLUB during this time. Members who joined received glossy 8x10 photos of Sho from his many movie and TV projects, a membership patch, a regular fan club newsletter, and other goodies. Members also received discounts on the wide variety of items being sold by SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES INC. This included posters, VHS copies of Sho's movies, magazines featuring Sho, and a large number of martial arts weapons (some specially designed by Sho himself), training equipment, and uniforms, etc... Two of the most notable and prized items, were the official Sho Kosugi Ninja-To, a sword specially-designed by Sho, and the Sho Kosugi Ninja Uniform, both of which were featured and used by Sho in a number of his projects.

Sho next turned his attention to shooting an Instructional Home Video called MASTER CLASS. Produced by Sho's frequent collaborator Alan Amiel in conjunction with TWE (Trans World Entertainment), the same company behind PRAY FOR DEATH, the 60-minute video directed by Danielle Kail was hosted by Sho and featured him and his son Kane demonstrating a multitude of self-defense techniques involving both unarmed and armed attackers. In between these self-defense lessons are scenes from Sho's film PRAY FOR DEATH. Sho and Kane also demonstrate some basic sword and nunchaku techniques. Around this time, Sho also shot at least 13 different segments for TWE for use in their video collection NINJA THEATER HOSTED BY SHO KOSUGI. As the title suggests, these short segments feature Sho "hosting" a film presentation by introducing a weapon and then a short fight scene involving Sho using this weapon is shown. Among the known segments done are: "KATANA", "SHIKOMIZUE", "BO", "YARI", "KAMA", "MANRIKI-GUSARI", "TEKAGI", "SHOBO", "NINJA FAN", "NUNCHAKU", "TONFA", "JITTE", and "SELF DEFENSE". More often than not these short introduction segments were the best thing on the tape, as most of the films in the NINJA THEATER collection were cheaply produced Hong Kong Chop Socky films. It should be noted that Sho had nothing to do with these films and DID NOT appear in any of them. It should also be noted that the "ninja craze" begun in 1981 by ENTER THE NINJA had already reached its peak by this point. Many quickly and poorly produced copy-cat ninja films had been made all over the world, and this phenomenon began to saturate the market and thus the ninja craze was beginning to fade.

In the summer of 1985, Sho was offered his own ninja series. Weighing the pros and cons of doing a weekly television show and remembering how little time he was allotted to choreograph the fight scenes on THE MASTER TV Series, he decided to pass and focus on his film career instead.

Following up the success of PRAY FOR DEATH, Sho quickly moved on to his next ninja movie. The film's working title was "Way of the Ninja" and according to an early promotional poster it was supposed to co-star Telly Savalas of Kojak fame. However, by the time filming began in November 1985 Savalas was no longer in the cast. Filming was completed in April 1986 and the film's title was changed to RAGE OF HONOR. Once again produced by Trans World Entertainment and shot on location in Phoenix, Arizona and in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Gordon Hessler directed film had Sho playing a DIB (Drug Investigation Bureau) Agent out to settle the score with the drug dealers who killed his partner. Appearing alongside Sho in the film were Lewis Van Bergen, Robin Evans, Gerry Gibson, and Chip Lucia. Sho's character Shiro Tanaka uses a wide variety of traditional and modernized ninja gadgets and weapons in his job. Wearing a tuxedo by day and black clothing by night, Sho's James Bond-like character can best be described as a "Ninja 007" or as one magazine writer called him, "00-Sho". Appropriately enough, the 1st modern-day ninja movie was the 1967 James Bond adventure YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE which featured legendary Japanese actor Tetsuro Tamba as Tiger Tanaka, leader of Japan's Secret Service which includes an army of ninja warriors. Who knows, perhaps Shiro Tanaka is Tiger Tanaka's son... In any event, as with Sho's previous films, the action quota in RAGE OF HONOR is very high with Sho choreographing the fight scenes, including great ones against ninja warriors dressed in camouflage costumes in the jungle, and against 2 black ninja assassins played by Argentine-based Japanese martial artists Masafumi Sakanashi and Kiyatsu Shimoyama, in a prison. Sho also performed most of his own stunts. In one scene, Sho was supposed to jump over a pit 12 feet by 8 feet by 20 feet deep. As he reached the other side, the special effects technician was supposed to create an explosion. However, unable to see, the special effects man set off the explosion prematurely, catching Sho in the air. Sho received 2nd degree burns on his left leg and was taken to the Emergency Room. Once he recovered, he returned to finish the film which was released in February 1987. RAGE OF HONOR would not only mark the end of a string of ninja movies for Sho, but also proved to be the final project that Sho's frequent collaborator Alan Amiel would be involved in. Amiel had appeared in all 6 of Sho's ninja movies starting with ENTER THE NINJA, as well as THE MASTER TV series, and the MASTER CLASS and NINJA THEATER videos. He had also served as Assistant Fight/Martial Arts Choreographer, Stunt Coordinator, or Action Coordinator on a number of those projects. Following the filming of RAGE OF HONOR, Trans World Entertainment produced another martial arts movie filmed in Buenos Aires called CATCH THE HEAT, with Alan Amiel serving as Martial Arts & Stunt Coordinator and Production Supervisor. Interestingly enough, the film starred Tianna Alexander, a former student of Bruce Lee, who had previously appeared as a female ninja alongside her ninja father played by Mako and their ninja enemy played by Martial Arts master Tak Kubota in THE KILLER ELITE in 1975, which was the 2nd modern-day ninja movie. RAGE OF HONOR's Masafumi Sakanashi also appears in CATCH THE HEAT as Tianna's Kendo Master.

In October 1986, Sho filmed his first American Television commercial for the then new Honda HURRICANE Motorcycle. This clever promo had Sho dressed in full ninja costume and holding a katana (sword) inside a traditional Japanese house as a hurricane rages outside. The voice-over saying "The ninja... His strength and swiftness have become legend.... But even the ninja knows all things must hide from the hurricane. Hurricane Honda... It will come in the spring of the new year." The suggestion of course being that the Kawasaki NINJA and Suzuki KATANA motorcycles were no match for the Honda HURRICANE motorcycle.

In the early part of 1987, Sho joined a group called NAD (Ninjas Against Drugs) headed up by Michael DePasquale Jr. and the staff at NINJA THE DEADLY WARRIOR magazine. This organization was dedicated to helping young people learn the facts about drugs and most importantly learn to say NO to drugs.


CHAPTER IV: A TIME OF EXPANSION (1987-1997)

Sho's next film, BLACK EAGLE, filmed on location in Malta from June 1987 to August 1987, marked a departure for Sho. No longer playing a ninja, Sho's role of CIA Agent Ken Tani did call for him to use some martial arts, but nowhere near as much as in his previous films. This was particularly surprising considering the fact that the film co-stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as a Russian agent and Sho's nemesis. The pairing of Sho and Van Damme promised to be an explosive combination, but the few fight scenes they're involved in are way too short for most martial arts enthusiasts. Nevertheless, the contrast in Sho and Van Damme's East-West styles of fighting is interesting to watch. Also co-starring in the film were Doran Clark, Bruce French, Vladimir Skomarovsky, and Kane and Shane Kosugi, playing, you guessed it, Sho's sons. The film was directed by Eric Karson, who had previously directed THE OCTAGON, and produced by Shimon Arama and Executive Producer Sunil R. Shah for Imperial Entertainment Corporation. Arama and Shah's previous company had been TWE (Trans World Entertainment), so this was a new beginning for them as well. Despite the minimal amount of martial arts, the film was quite successful, especially in Europe and Canada.

After a short break from his hectic schedule, Sho returned to the silver screen in a Special Appearance cameo role in a modern-day adaptation/remake of a Japanese film called ZATOICHI CHIKEMURI KAIDO (aka Zatoichi Challenged, aka Zatoichi's Bloody Path), the 17th film in the legendary Chanbara (Japanese Swordfighting) film series ZATOICHI, The Blind Swordsman starring Shintaro Katsu. Called BLIND FURY, the Tri-Star Pictures film directed by Phillip Noyce starred Rutger Hauer as a former Vietnam Vet blinded during the war and who was nursed back to health and taught to use a cane sword by an old Asian man. Returning to the U.S. many years later, he unwittingly is assigned the task of reuniting a son with his father. Also co-starring in the film were Terrance O'Quinn, Brandon Call, Noble Willingham, Lisa Blount, Nick Cassavetes, Rick Overton, Randall "Tex" Cobb, Charles Cooper, and Meg Foster. After repeated requests from the film's producers for help with the sword fights, Sho agreed to give Rutger Hauer a one-day crash course lesson on using a sword. Sho also agreed to make a cameo appearance at the end of the film as a Yakuza/Ninja assassin hired by the film's villain to fight the blind swordsman. Filming the scene in Los Angeles, California in December 1988, Sho brought in his former student Eddie Tse to double for Hauer in the film's fantastic sword duel finale.

The following year would be a big one for Sho. After traveling all over the United States for various business conferences and meetings, Sho traveled to Japan 4 times from October to December 1989. During these trips to Japan, Sho had numerous autograph and photo sessions with his many fans there. He was also interviewed by various magazines and trade periodicals. In fact Sho was featured in 168 different newspapers and magazines throughout Japan in 1989. More importantly, Sho's visits to Japan enabled him to make important contacts with film producers and gave him the opportunity to set up his new company in Tokyo called SHO KOSUGI CORPORATION, LTD. The new company's main purpose would be to raise funds for future projects, to act as his agent in Japan for commercials, interviews, movies, etc... and to distribute Sho's movies. Sho also started a Tokyo branch of his fan club, which had already been in operation in the U.S. for quite some time along with Sho's company SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES, INC. which sold ninja weapons and costumes along with Sho's movies on videocassette.

Around this time, Sho was approached by a number of Japanese Publishing Companies and asked to write about his experiences since moving to the United States as a young man. Part autobiographical, part inspirational, and part instructional, these books, of which there are at last count 9, are unfortunately only available in Japanese. Sho's first book was entitled SHO KOSUGI: AMERIKAN DORIIMU WO JITSUGEN SHITA OTOKO (Translation: Sho Kosugi: The Man Who Achieved the American Dream) and was published by Nitto Shoin on December 1, 1990. Subsequent books written since then are: AMERICAN SURVIVAL published by Kodansha on March 7, 1993, SHO KOSUGI NO UN WO TSUKAMU (Translation: Sho Kosugi: Grab Hold of the Luck!) published by Kodansha on September 2, 1994, SHO KOSUGI NO NINJA SHIKI JINSEI HISSHO HO (Translation: Sho Kosugi: How to Win at Life with Ninja Style) published by Bungeisha on November 20, 1996, MAKE DREAMS COME TRUE published by Uinet on September 30, 1997, BOKU NO EIGO MUSHASHUGYO: ATAMA WA IRANAI! EIKAIWA (Translation: My English was learned by traveling about to gain skill in combat: Easy English Conversation) published by Kodansha on June 15, 1998, SAIKYO NO OTOKO KANE KOSUGI NI NARU 43 NO HISAKU (Translation: 43 tips to becoming the strongest man Kane Kosugi) published by Kodansha on July 21, 2000, HARIUDDO SHINEMA EIGO DOJO: DORYOKU WA IRANAI! EIKAIWA (Translation: Hollywood Cinema English Language Dojo: Easy English Conversation) published by Kodansha on Sept. 15, 2000, and KODOMO O TAKUMASHIKU SODATERU HONMONO NO SHITSUKE (How To Raise a Child) published by Business-Sha on August 1, 2001.

After securing a lucrative multi-million dollar deal with SANYO, Sho began work on his next film project, a period Samurai Epic initially called "Shogun Mayeda", later to be released as JOURNEY OF HONOR in the U.S, as "Kabuto" in Japan, and as "Shogun Warrior" in the U.K. This film, a U.S., Japan, U.K. co-production, would mark a huge undertaking for Sho. Not only would he star in the film but he would also serve as co-writer and producer alongside executive producers Hiroshi Tsuchiya and Toshiaki Hayashi. After a substantial writing, pre-production and casting period, the film apparently went into production in late 1990 and/or early 1991 with a screenplay by Sho's writing partner Nelson Gidding, and with director Gordon Hessler at the helm. Sho had previously worked with Hessler on 4 episodes of THE MASTER TV Series (including the series best episode "Kunoichi"), as well as on 2 of Sho's best ninja films PRAY FOR DEATH and RAGE OF HONOR. Seeing that much of the film was rooted in the Jidai-Geki (Japanese Period Drama) genre, Sho hired Hiroshi Kuze, pupil of the late-great sword fight choreographer Ryu Kuze ("Seven Samurai", "Yojimbo", "The Challenge") to choreograph the fighting in JOURNEY OF HONOR. Hiroshi had recently choreographed the sword fights in the final ZATOICHI movie starring Shintaro Katsu, released in 1989. With a reported budget of over 10 million dollars, Sho's first production featured an impressive cast of actors, including the legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune who plays the role of Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa (a role Mifune had previously played in the massive American TV Mini-Series SHOGUN starring Richard Chamberlain and Yoko Shimada). Also appearing in the film were famous Japanese actresses Miwa Takada and Nijiko Kiyokawa, as well as the great British actors Christopher Lee and John Rhys-Davies (who also appeared in SHOGUN). Actress Polly Walker, singer/actor David Essex, and actors Norman Lloyd and Ronald Pickup rounded off the stellar supporting cast. Co-starring with Sho in the film was his son Kane. This marked Kane's first big "grown up" role and he is absolutely fantastic in the film. The end result can only be described as Sho's masterpiece. Filmed on location in Japan and Yugoslavia, the lush cinematography, great performances and engaging story come together to make one of the most unique and enjoyable adventure films ever made. Starting with the famous Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, the film tells the story of a journey to Spain by Shogun Ieyasu's most trusted vassal Daigoro Mayeda (played by Sho) and the Shogun's brash young son Yorimune (played by Kane) to get firearms needed to maintain peace in Japan. When asked to describe the film in an interview for a U.K. based magazine, Sho responded that it was "like SHOGUN in reverse". This is a very apt description, but the similarities between the two East meets West "fish out of water" sagas don't end there. Along with the aforementioned presence of Toshiro Mifune playing the same role, both productions are based on true stories. Whereas James Clavell's SHOGUN is loosely based on the true story of English navigator William Adams' journey to Japan in 1600, Sho's JOURNEY OF HONOR is loosely based on the true story of samurai Tsunenaga Hasekura's Trans-Pacific journey from Japan to New Spain (California, Acapulco, and Mexico) and his mission to Europe (Spain, France, and Italy) in order to discuss trade agreements with the Spanish crown in Madrid, and to meet with the Pope in Rome. Hasekura's journey was also the subject of famed Japanese author Shusaku Endo's novel "The Samurai" published in 1980. Although set a decade earlier than Hasekura's 1613 voyage, Mayeda's 1602 voyage in JOURNEY OF HONOR recounts some of the same events, such as the meeting between Samurai and the ruler of Spain, King Philip III (played by Christopher Lee). With impressive battle scenes and a rousing musical score composed by John Scott and performed by The Hungarian State Opera Orchestra, JOURNEY OF HONOR is a timeless classic sure to delight fans of both "Samurai" films and adventure films. This swashbuckling Samurai Epic is unquestionably Sho's greatest artistic triumph.

Continuing in the period piece vein, Sho's next project would be a Japanese TV series called RYUKYU NO KAZE (Dragon Spirit) (Literal Translation: Wind of Ryukyu). Likely shot in late 1992 and/or early 1993 in Okinawa, Japan, the Jidai-Geki series aired on NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) from January 10, 1993 to June 13, 1993. The series was part of NHK's long running "Taiga Drama" series, which first began in April 1963. Airing each Sunday night, the Taiga Drama "block" usually airs one new story/series per calendar year, with each story usually running 52 weeks. The RYUKYU NO KAZE story was a little shorter running just 23 weeks due to the fact that it was the first of a three-part renzoku series, and was the 31st NHK Taiga Drama series. Yoshiyuki Yoshimura and Takahiro Enokido shared directing duties on the series. Reportedly desperate to have Sho appear on the program, the producers paid him more for his supporting role than they did the lead actor, Noriyuki Higashiyama. Starting in 1582, the series tells the story of how the Ryukyu Islands (of which Okinawa is the biggest), became part of Japan in the early 1600s. Sho plays the part of Shintenpu, the Ryukyu martial arts master who had studied Shorinji Kenpo in China. Faced with an impending invasion from the Samurai of the Satsuma clan, Shintenpu must teach the Ryukyu villagers to defend themselves using Karate and Kobudo. Sho appeared in 10 episodes of this series, which was also shown with English Subtitles on a local Japanese TV station in San Francisco. Sho's son Kane also appears in at least 10 episodes of the series as Ken, an orphan whom Sho's character essentially adopts and teaches the martial arts to. The show is more of a drama than an action series, but Sho and Kane's presence on the show gives the viewer some wonderful training sequences, sparring matches and fight scenes. The series also co-starred a number of well known Japanese actors including: Kenichi Hagiwara, Toru Emori, Kenji Sawada, Norihei Miki, Sumiko Fuji (aka Junko Fuji), Akira Kobayashi and Youki Kudoh (who's had quite a bit of success in Hollywood, subsequently starring in high profile films such as PICTURE BRIDE and SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS, and also appearing in RUSH HOUR 3 starring Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, and Hiroyuki Sanada).

Immediately on the heels of RYUKYU NO KAZE, Sho appeared in a Japanese Yakuza film called KYOKUTO KUROSHAKAI (Drug Connection) (Literal Translation: Far East Dark Society) directed by Shokaku Baba. Produced by TOEI, the company that invented the Yakuza film genre, the film co-stars popular Japanese actors Koji Yakusho and Masahiko Kondo, along with Jessica Lancelott, Sawako Kitahara, Daisuke Nagakura, Reiko Saito, and Kiyoshi Nakajo. The legendary Hong Kong actor Jimmy Wang also appears in the film as the Triad Boss. Filmed on location in Japan in 1993, KYOKUTO KUROSHAKAI tells the story of a pair of Asian-American Policemen who come to Japan to infiltrate and take down a deadly "drug connection" consisting of members of the Yakuza (Japanese Mob), the Triad (Hong Kong Mob) and the Mafia (Italian-American Mob). Sho plays Larry Matsuda, one of the Asian-American Policemen. Going undercover he infiltrates the organization and when his cover is blown, all hell breaks loose. Although ultra-violent and containing very little martial arts, this film is quite good, with Sho and Koji Yakusho both giving excellent performances.

Somewhere around this time, Sho was called upon to voice the title character in the first episode of ULTRAMAN POWERED: THE ULTIMATE HERO (aka ULTRAMAN: THE ULTIMATE HERO), a 13 part half hour science fiction TV series that his son Kane had done in the summer of 1993 in Los Angeles, California. Originally filmed completely in English, the series, a co-production between Steppin Stone Entertainment and Tsuburaya Productions, would need to be dubbed into Japanese for its release in Japan. And so Sho was asked to dub in the voice of "Ultraman" in the series premiere which made its debut on Japanese home video on December 17, 1993. Oddly enough, the original English language version (which does not feature Sho's voice, but does feature Kane's real voice) has never been released legitimately in any form in the U.S. where it was made.

Sho's next projects in Japan seem to have been 2 modern-day martial arts films starring his son Kane. Directed by Sho and produced and released by the TOEI Company, ZA KAKUTO OH (The Fighting King) and ZA KAKUTO OH 2 (The Fighting King 2), can best be described as a cross between TOEI's 1974 trilogy SATSUJIN-KEN (Street Fighter) starring Japanese martial arts movie legend Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba (also well known for his many turns as ninja in Japanese period films and TV series, most notably as the Samurai/Ninja Jubei Yagyu and Iga Ninja like Hanzo Hattori, Shinpachi Tsuge, and Hanzo Tarao) and "The Karate Kid" films (with one big difference... this "Karate Kid" is a master of Karate in real life). In the 2 films written by Isao Matsumoto, screenwriter on Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba's classic SHORINJI KENPO (The Killing Machine) and KYOKUTO KUROSHAKAI (Drug Connection), Kane plays Japanese-American martial artist Ken Oshiro, who after the death of his father Kiyotake (played by Hiroshi Miyauchi), goes to Tokyo, Japan with his sister Aya (played by Risa) to enroll in the World Martial Arts Championship in Okinawa in his father's place. In Japan, he stays with a friend of his father's, fellow Shoen Ryu Kenpo master Munehisa Tachibana (played by Yasuaki Kurata, an excellent martial artist and master of Shito Ryu Karate who interestingly enough starred in some pretty good Ninja films made in Hong Kong about the same time that Sho was making his Ninja films in the U.S.). Kane's character also has a romance with Tachibana's daughter Noriko (played by Taeko Nishino). After putting his father's remains to rest in his native Okinawa, Ken begins intense training with an old Okinawan man (played by Hideyo Amamoto). Everything comes to a head when Ken fights the best martial artists from around the world in a no-holds-barred competition to determine who will ultimately be crowned the "fighting king". The fighters at the tournament include Tae Kwon Do master Simon Rhee as the Korean fighter Lee Go-Yu, Kung Fu expert Lee Chi-Ming as the Chinese fighter Ra Den-Shin, Pan-American Tang Soo Do Champion Scott Harmon as the American fighter Jim Spencer, former American Gladiator Michael Horton as the French fighter Tony Valmont, and ex Japanese Wrestler Kendo Nagasaki (aka Mr. Sakurada) as the Mongolian fighter Suputai Han. Attentive viewers will also notice that the tournament referee in the film is played by Masashi Ishibashi, villain in many of TOEI's 1970s martial arts/Karate films, such as the aforementioned Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba vehicles, and the 1976 film HISSATSU ONNA KENSHI (Dragon Princess) starring Japan's premiere female martial arts star, Etsuko Shihomi, and co-starring Yasuaki Kurata. After the tournament, Ken prepares to return to the U.S., but an unexpected tragedy forces him to stay in Japan. The second film has him taking revenge on the bad guys responsible for the deaths of the people he loved. Helping him along the way are a mysterious young woman named Beniko Ishikawa (played by Reiko Saito, also seen in KYOKUTO KUROSHAKAI), and Kojiro Shimizu as Miki. Shimizu had previously worked with Sho and Kane on RYUKYU NO KAZE and would later compete against Kane in a number of KINNIKU BANZUKE (Muscle Ranking) PRO SPORTSMAN NO. 1 tournaments which Kane would dominate in the years to come. Also appearing in both films is Shinzo Hotta as the White Dragon (Chinese Mafia) boss. Vernon Rieta, a master of Hung Gar Kung Fu and stuntman, battles Kane in the 2nd film's finale. As a first time director, Sho does a good job at moving the action along and putting Kane's amazing skills in full view. Kane's fighting in these 2 films is very impressive. He has definitely lived up to the potential we first saw in REVENGE OF THE NINJA.

After a hectic 1993, Sho's next on-screen appearance would be in his son Kane's Japanese TV series NINJA SENTAI KAKURANGER. This weekly half hour TV series about a group of monster fighting teenagers with the ability to transform themselves into super heroes was TOEI's 18th Super Sentai series and marked the 20th Anniversary of TV Asahi's Sentai Series "block" of programming. The plot of the series was that 400 years earlier, the ninja and the Yokai (demons) had a great war. The legendary Sasuke Sarutobi and four other ninja had sealed up the Yokai Commander Nurarihyon and all his powers in a cave protected by the "Seal Door". In the present, the only surviving Yokai, Kappa, had tricked Sasuke (played by Teruaki Ogawa) and Saizo (played by Hiroshi Tsuchida), the descendants of Sasuke Sarutobi and Saizo Kirigakure, into releasing the Yokai by opening the "Seal Door". Joined by three other descendants of great ninja, Tsuruhime (played by Satomi Hirose), Seikai (played by Shu Kawai), a descendant Seikai Miyoshi, and Jiraiya (played by Kane), a descendant of the original Jiraiya, they become the Kakurangers in order to fight the Yokai. Helping to guide them on their quest to rid the world of the Yokai was another legendary ninja, Sandayu Momochi (played by Akira Sakamoto). The basic premise of the series would later be used in the 3rd season of the show's American counterpart "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers". Sho's 2-part appearance had him playing Gali, a mysterious character who comes to Japan from the U.S. to do battle with his former student Jiraiya (played by Kane). In flashbacks, we discover that many years earlier Gali had made a pact with a demon in order to save his daughter's life after a horrible car accident. After keeping his end of the bargain, the demon had cursed Gali and caused him to transform into the evil character that killed Jiraiya's father. To atone for his crime, Gali had taken Jiraiya under his wing and taught him Karate and Ninjutsu. Sho's 2 episodes, directed by Shohei Tojo, are definitely the best in the series which ran from February 18,1994 to February 25,1995, with Sho's episodes (#28 and #29) airing August 26, 1994 and September 2,1994. Although different from his American productions, NINJA SENTAI KAKURANGER marked a return to the ninja genre that first made Sho a star. The 2 episodes contain nearly non-stop fighting between Sho and Kane, showing that Sho hasn't lost any of his skills over the years and that Kane is getting better and better.

Sho's next project would take him in a slightly different direction. Joining forces with the Atlantic Syndication Network, Sho created, produced, and starred in a weekly half hour instructional TV series called SHO KOSUGI SELF DEFENSE & NINJAEROBICS (aka MASTERS OF THE MARTIAL ARTS STARRING SHO KOSUGI). Starting on March 16, 1996 on ICN (International Cable Network), the series reportedly ran for 2 years with Sho visiting a variety of martial arts masters in Japan, China, Korea and other Asian Countries. The show also had regular segments showing the audience how to react to certain situations and how to get in shape while learning self-defense the "Ninjaerobics" way.

On November 30, 1996, Sho briefly returned to episodic Japanese TV, appearing in a special guest starring cameo role in yet another of his son Kane's TV series, SEI RYU DENSETSU (Legend of St. Dragon). This 10 episode series about a young schoolgirl (played by Yumi Adachi) who possesses magical martial arts powers aired on NTV (Nippon Television Network) from October 19, 1996 to December 21, 1996. Sho appears in Episode 7 as Shusaku Sendo, father of Kane's character Daisaku Sendo. Shusaku is both a martial artist and a cook at a restaurant that Kane, Jun Toba and Yumi Adachi's characters go to. Later, Sho and Kane, whose character is cursed by an evil spirit in the episode, have an impressive fight in a school hallway. The episode was directed by Ryuichi Inomata and also featured regular cast members Kanako Enomoto, Junko Igarashi, and Tsurutaro Kataoka. The series also featured some other big name guest stars, in particular martial arts film legends Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba in Episode 1 and Yukari Oshima in Episode 5.


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. 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 have been opened in Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka, and Sho plans to expand to Taiwan, Korea, China and Europe. The school in Hollywood is open to Asians 16 years or older, whereas the schools in Japan are aimed at children 15 years or younger. With semesters starting in September and April, students can study Gymnastics, Acting, Dance, Singing, Martial Arts, English, and Taiko (Japanese Drums). Sho is reportedly very hands-on in the running of the schools, even teaching some classes himself. Sho's son Shane is a supervisor at the school in Nagoya.

Around the same time he was making SKI a reality, Sho got involved with the Sony Playstation video game TENCHU: STEALTH ASSASSINS. Released by Activision in September 1998, the video game about a group of ninja warriors in feudal Japan seeking justice against an evil warlord, was a huge seller in both Japan and the United States. Motion captures of Sho and Kane were used to create the realistic and fluid movements of the game's ninja characters. Sho's movements were used for the lead character Rikimaru, while Kane's movements were used for the alternate lead character, the tomboy ninja Ayame. Sho also voiced his character Rikimaru in the Japanese version of the game. A video showing Sho and Kane doing these video captures was offered as a special bonus to people who pre-ordered the video game in early 1998.

Also in 1998, using members of SKI, Sho created NINJA TAIKO, which combines traditional Japanese Taiko (drums) with Martial Arts and Acrobatics. The Ninja Taiko Group has since performed at various public events in Los Angeles, including one that caught the eye of a director which led him to ask them to do the taiko drum score for the movie THE SCORPION KING, which Sho choreographed.

In 2001, NINJA TAIKO also became a stage play called THE NINJAS FROM HOLLYWOOD. Sho produced and starred in the original production along with his son Shane, and a number of singers and actors from the Sho Kosugi Institute. The show was reportedly an extravaganza of martial arts, romance and music in the tradition of "West Side Story", and they toured Japan in both 2001 and 2002.


CHAPTER VI: Return of the Ninja (2005-now)

On March 28, 2005, Variety.com posted an announcement that Sho Kosugi fans had been hoping and waiting years for in an article entitled "Kosugi will kick up 'Return' to ninja role". The article stated that a new Hollywood movie entitled RETURN OF THE NINJA was being scripted by Steven de Souza ("Die Hard") and would be produced by Kevin Foster of Amazing Grace Films. Not to be confused with the proposed but never filmed mid-1990s movie of the same name (aka "Renegade Blade", aka "The Last Ninja Hero"), which would've reunited Sho with former Cannon Group co-head Menahem Golan, this newly proposed movie would be financed by a group of Japanese investors who would bankroll 60% of the project's $35 million budget. Sho would play Ohara, the last ninja master, who travels to the U.S. to find the American heir to the stealth martial arts legacy. A year and a half later, Black Belt Magazine ran an article entitled "Return of the Ninja!" in their November 2006 issue in which they interviewed Sho who reiterated that plans were underway to get the film to the screen. While waiting for the project to get underway, Sho kept busy by doing an instructional TV series called ITSUDEMO DOKODEMO! SHO KOSUGI NO TAORU EKUSASAIZU (Anytime anywhere! Sho Kosugi's Towel Exercise), which aired on the NHK Educational TV channel from December 2006 to February 2007. A book by the same name was also released at this time, while a follow-up video called SHO KOSUGI NO LET'S TAORUSAIZU (Sho Kosugi's Let's Towelcize) was released on DVD in March 2008. Unfortunately where RETURN OF THE NINJA is concerned, no further info has been released since the Black Belt magazine article and so it appears that the project will not come to fruition after all. This is as surprising as it is disappointing considering the fact that after a drought that spanned most of the 1990s and early 2000s, ninja characters have finally started to re-emerge in substantial American movies in recent years. Whereas ninja characters have never gone "out of style" in Japan, appearing frequently on TV series and movies like legendary Japanese director Masahiro Shinoda's 1999 remake of FUKURO NO SHIRO (Owls' Castle) starring Kiichi Nakai, Mayu Tsuruta, Riona Hazuki, Takaya Kamikawa, Toshiya Nagasawa, Jinpachi Nezu, and the one and only Mako, the same can't be said for Hollywood. Thankfully the ninja have stepped out of the shadows again in films like the period epic THE LAST SAMURAI (2003) starring Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe, and in comic book adaptations like DAREDEVIL (2003) starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, and its spin-off ELEKTRA (2005) also starring Jennifer Garner. Heck, even Batman himself has become a ninja, first in the long running TV series BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES starring Kevin Conroy where his ninja training is shown in an episode entitled "Night of the Ninja", which also features a rival ninja character named Kyodai Ken voiced by none other than PRAY FOR DEATH's Robert Ito, and then in the most recent live-action movies BATMAN BEGINS (2005) and THE DARK KNIGHT (2008) starring Christian Bale and Ken Watanabe.

Sho's 2 sons also got into this ninja re-emergence, with eldest son Kane making impressive appearances in both the video game adaptation DOA: DEAD OR ALIVE (2006) written by J.F. Lawton (THE HUNTED) and directed by Corey Yuen (NINJA IN THE DRAGON'S DEN starring Hiroyuki Sanada) where he played the ninja Ryu Hayabusa, and in WAR (2007), a film revolving around rival Japanese Yakuza and Chinese Triad gangs and also featuring a short ninja scene, where Kane played a yakuza warrior/henchman who sword fights his boss played by Ryo Ishibashi and has another fight against none other than legendary martial arts movie star Jet Li, chroreographed by Corey Yuen. Sho's youngest son Shane has also continued the Kosugi legacy by appearing as one of the Samurai ensemble being trained by legendary martial artist and actor Hiroyuki Sanada in the aforementioned epic THE LAST SAMURAI. While working on that film, Shane befriended another member of the ensemble named Takeshi Maya, an impressive martial artist in his own right, who would write, produce, direct and star opposite Shane in the awesome KAGE (2007), a ninja short film featuring a nod to Sho Kosugi Production in the "Special Thanks" section of the closing credits. Although it's unclear how much of a role Sho Kosugi Production had in the production of the short, a closer look at the Kanji (Japanese characters) used in the credits indicate that what was translated as simply "Special Thanks" is actually more accurately "Produced in Cooperation with". Takeshi Maya had previously cut his ninja teeth on the Japanese movie SHOGUN IEMITSU NO RANSHIN: GEKITOTSU (Shogun's Shadow) in 1989, the TV movie remake of JUSHICHININ NO NINJA (Seventeen Ninja) in 1990, and the TOKUGAWA BURAICHO TV series in 1992, all starring Shinichi "Sonny Chiba". While all of these have their merits, what Sho Kosugi / ninja movie fans all over the world really wanted was for the "Master Ninja" himself to return to the screen and play a ninja at least one more time...

And then in the Spring of 2008, when it was looking less and less likely that Sho's return to the ninja movie genre would be happening, there came word that mega producer Joel Silver and the Wachowski brothers (of "The Matrix" fame) were co-producing a new Ninja epic in conjunction with Warner Bros. and that a certain legend of the genre might be involved. This was confirmed in the Warner Bros. press release on May 29, 2008. Sho Kosugi was indeed a part of the new film NINJA ASSASSIN playing the ruthless leader of the Ozunu ninja clan hunting for a renegade former member played by the film's lead, Korean pop music sensation and actor Rain. And unlike RETURN OF THE NINJA, whose status remained unknown, this production was already well underway with filming having started a month earlier on April 28. Shot on location in Berlin, the shoot wrapped up principle photography at the end of June. Yes folks, it's official, the Master Ninja Sho Kosugi is really and truly BACK! And fittingly enough he's playing the "bad ninja" out to snuff out the "good ninja", just like he did when he played the Ninja Assassin Hasegawa in ENTER THE NINJA, the Ninja Assassin Okasa in THE MASTER TV series, the Yakuza/Ninja Assassin in BLIND FURY, and the Ninja Assassin Gali in the NINJA SENTAI KAKURANGER TV series. Director James McTeigue ("V For Vendetta"), stars Rain and Naomie Harris, and producer Joel Silver attended the 2008 Comic-Con in San Diego in late July to talk about the film and were asked numerous times about Sho's involvement. Director McTeigue revealed that he'd been a ninja movie fan growing up and thought it would be cool to have Sho in the film as an homage to him and his great ninja movies. Very cool indeed! The film's Stunt Coordinators / Second Unit Directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch also stated in interviews that they were big Sho Kosugi fans and thrilled to have him in the movie, referring to Sho as a master martial artist who's still in fantastic shape. On November 19, 2009, Sho attended the Hollywood premiere of NINJA ASSASSIN at the famed Grauman's Chinese Theatre before reportedly traveling to Hong Kong to attend his son Kane's wedding on November 21. Father and son had been estranged since 2002 when Kane had decided to leave Sho Kosugi Productions 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 continue to help with his Sho Kosugi Institutes while continuing to pursue his dream of becoming an action star, but Kane wanted to strike out on his own, thus causing a deep rift between them. The reunion at such a happy event is something all Kosugi fans had been hoping for. The celebration continued when NINJA ASSASSIN opened 4 days later on November 25. The $40 million budget film grossed over $13 million in its opening weekend in North America and went on to gross over $61 million worldwide ($38+ million domestically and $23+ million internationally), making it an unquestionable box-office success. Reviews for the film were mixed, but then ultra-violent ninja movies aren't everyone's cup of tea. Some complained about the overuse of CGI and the overall darkness in the fight scenes, both valid observations, but ultimately the good far outweighed the bad for most ninja movie fans. Sho's performance was pretty unanimously applauded amongst the film's intended audience, with many saying that he stole the film. Yes indeed, as expected Master Sho has done it again. His absolutely fantastic performance as the evil clan leader Ozunu has given us yet another instantly iconic ninja character. The film also boasts an impressive performance from newcomer Rain as Raizo (named after the late Japanese actor Raizo Ichikawa, who starred in the classic 1960s ninja movie series SHINOBI NO MONO), who's incredible dedication to the intense training for the role really paid off on screen. Other stand out performances in the engaging and entertaining film included British actress Naomi Harris as Mika Coretti, Korean pop star Joon Lee as Teenage Raizo, and Japanese actress Anna Sawai (who ironically enough also appeared on a Japanese TV episode with KYOKUTO KUROSHAKAI and ZA KAKUTO OH 2 actress Reiko Saito) as Teenage Kiriko. The film is a blend of old and new with elements of Sho's classic 80's ninja movies merging with Japanese anime like NINJA SCROLL to create a new style of ninja movie that still manages to retain what made them so cool in the first place. From a story stand point, the film bears quite a few similarities to Sanpei Shirato's classic Japanese manga (comic book) KAMUI GAIDEN, which was also made into a highly enjoyable and entertaining live-action feature film released a few months earlier in Japan. Some purists have complained about the decision to use mixed martial arts instead of sticking to the more traditional ones used in the past, but generally speaking most people found the action both visually stunning and viscerally satisfying. The final duel between Rain and Sho amidst roaring flames is particularly impressive and reminiscent of another on-screen father and son duel between Japanese movie legends and master martial artists Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba as the one-eyed Samurai/Ninja Jubei Yagyu and Tomisaburo Wakayama as his father Munenori Yagyu at the end of SAMURAI REINCARNATION (1981). It's interesting to note that Sho's duel against Rain marked the 4th time one of his characters has squared off against a character played by a Korean actor, having previously battled Tae Kwon Do master Jun Chong in AMERICA BANGMUNGAEG (1976), Korean actor David Chung (who grew up in Japan) in NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (1984), and Korean actor Soon-Teck Oh (who has training in Kendo and Judo) in THE MASTER - "Out-of-Time-Step" (1984), where Sho doubled for Lee Van Cleef. It's also worth noting that prior to the theatrical release of NINJA ASSASSIN, the last real big screen American-made "ninja movie" released was Universal Pictures' THE HUNTED starring Christopher Lambert, John Lone, Yoshio Harada, Yoko Shimada, Tak Kubota, and Joan Chen back in 1995. To say it was long overdue would be an understatement. And nothing could be more fitting than for Sho Kosugi, the man who brought this new genre of ninja movie to such great heights and worldwide popularity, to be brought in to be a big part of it. My thanks and gratitude to the filmmakers for paying proper homage to Sho-san, and for giving him a role that was both substantial and worthy of him and his ninja movie legacy. With NINJA ASSASSIN the modern-day ninja movie is back with a vengeance and so is the legendary Sho Kosugi! It's also worth noting that prior to the release of NINJA ASSASSIN, a made for TV movie entitled MASK OF THE NINJA starring Casper Van Dien, Anthony Brandon Wong, Bellamy Young, Kristy Wu, and Yuji Okumoto (who had played Sho's son in ALOHA SUMMER), was available to view on an on demand channel in August 2008 before making its TV premiere on the SPIKE TV channel in April 2009. Okumoto also co-wrote, produced, and starred in a superior 9 minute TV pilot called KATANA about the Yakuza underworld and featuring a brief ninja scene which was released on-line at www.strike.tv in December 2008. Another movie simply called NINJA starring Scott Adkins, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Mika Hijii, and featuring a cameo by Fumio Demura was released theatrically in Malaysia in October 2009, but was generally relegated to a direct-to-DVD release in most places, including North America. The film which could easily have been called "American Ninja 6" is certainly better than the virtually unwatchable MASK OF THE NINJA, but still not very good by any stretch of the imagination. Another new ninja movie called THE LAST NINJA was rumored to be in the works, indicating not only that ninja movies have returned, but that they might be sticking around for a while. One can only hope that if this happens, the "Master Ninja" himself, Sho Kosugi, will play a big role in this new wave, just like he did in the 1980s and in his exciting and triumphant return in NINJA ASSASSIN. Another even more exciting bit of news was posted on Sho's official website blog on July 4, 2008. The entry stated the following: "Sho has returned from Germany following the filming of NINJA ASSASSIN. Sho has started working on his next film." Could this be the long awaited RETURN OF THE NINJA, or is the Master Ninja at work on another project? Could we be in the midst of a new Ninja craze? Stay tuned. More recently in February 2011, Sho's official staff blog reported that Sho had been featured in articles in a number of Japanese newspapers and websites talking about a new movie that he'd been considering for years. The movie would be based on the Shikoku Pilgrimage of 88 temples around the island. No word on whether or not the proposed movie would star Sho or if it would involve any martial arts, but hope springs eternal...

Regardless of what the future holds, Sho Kosugi's place in film history is assured and his name will forever be synonymous with the word Ninja.