Monday, October 10, 2011

SHO KOSUGI interview

From my personal collection of NINJA magazines, Sho Kosugi is the star of one of my favorite martial arts movie, Revenge of the Ninja. I'm happy to bring to you this interview from back in the day, a trip down memory lane! The golden age of ninjas in America!

NINJA magazine #20 April 1987

Sho Kosugi Interview by Mary Townsley

Sho Kosugi is the hottest thing going in ninja movies today. The thirty-nine year old martial artists has credits that include Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, The Bad News Bears Go To Japan, The Master, and now Pray For Death. His latest film, Rage of Honor has just been completed but is still in the editing stages, so the public has not yet had access to it. Not too shabby for a person who began martial arts training because his sisters thought he was a "mama's boy" and needed to learn to be strong as well as strong-minded.
Sho was born in Tokyo in 1948. He began studying the martial arts at age five and now has mastered nine different arts. His home in Arcadia, California has one room devoted exclusively to his vast weapons collectionthat numbers over 650 at this time. There are 120 different throwing stars.
Starring in ninja movies isn't all fun and games according to Sho. "I almost kill myself four times during movies," he tells us when elaborating on working his own stunts. He doesn't work with stuntmen as a rule since he prefers to use local martial artists who are more than willing to "be in movies"! "Wherever I go I give opportunity to all martial artists because always they very humble and they work very, very hard. Pay not so good, but at least they get opportunity. They know how to take a fall and they know how to kick."
Sho came to the United States in 1969 to attend California State University at Los Angeles. He has a Bachelor degree in economics. Originally he planned to go into international trading, the import/export business. During his school years he opened a martial arts school and ran the import/export business on the side. As more and more students came to his school, however, the teaching occupied more of his time than the other business. He eventually expanded to two locations and seemed happy with the direction his life was going.
Sho's wife is Chinese. He taught her the martial arts for four years until she started raising his children (Kane is 11, Shane, 9 and Ayeeshi is 2 1/2). In 1981 Mike Stone wrote the script for Enter the Ninja and sold it to Cannon Films. He was supposed to star in the film but ran into difficulties with the producers who then brought in Franco Nero to star. Mike originally asked Sho to play a bit part in the movie. But the producers watched Sho on his first day of shooting, they were impressed with his natural ability as a ninja and increased his part. From there Sho Kosugi became synonymous with "Ninja".
Turning his schools over to his students was an easy task for Sho when the movie business became productive. "I had more than enough teaching," he states. "You contribute so much time to the person (student) and because he changes jobs (he) quits or feels he doesn't like it and quits. So all energy you spent with person...someone you don't get the return. I don't get the mental satisfaction because I feel, 'This guys is very good I'm going to try and teach all my skill.' But suddenly he got to go away and there is nothing you can do.
"So now I teach my sons. Now I make them study because is it good for them. Just like when they're young you force them to do what's good for them. It's good self-disciline, self-control. They need martial arts in the United States. Children in private schools learn good manners, but children on street need to learn martial arts to learn good manners."
Sho's hobbies include reading, swimming, tennis, relaxing while watching movies and sports with his kids. He has competed in karate tournaments in the past in Tokyo, Seattle, San Diego and Mexico. His collection of over 600 trophies include winning the LA Open in 1972, 1973 and 1974.
Sho doesn't believe the average martial artist will have the same success he has had in the movies. "I was in the right place at right time with the right things I did," he says. "To be honest, it almost impossible for martial artist to get into movies as star now. I work so hard and it was no easy to get part to start with and they were looking for that part! I knew right things for ninja. Martial arts movies continue forever, but up and down. Ninja movies very hot and will continue a couple more years. I don't expect movie career to be forever. I have a limit to acting. Maybe I go to producing and directing.
"Ninja do espionage and assassination. Some ninja are good. If you work for government you good. If you work for individual you bad. Movies always exaggerated. It look very easy, but to get dynamic movement and dynamic tension on screen you have to do it almost for real. I break heels twice, dislocated shoulder three times. A one-and-half-hour movie takes about one year to make with location scouting, hiring, shooting and editing."
Sho's father is a retired fisherman who still lives in Japan. He is proud of his son and told him earlier in life, "Whatever you do, as long as you can take care of yourself and are happy, that's fine."
Sho has been on a relentless tour, promoting Pray for Death. In each city he works a grueling schedule teaching seminars at local martial arts schools, appearing on TV and radio and helping with community groups like Big Brothers and Sisters. His objectives is to promote his current movie, but he goes one step beyond to make friends with the people he meets and pass on some of the good manners he has learned through the martial arts. He is a considerate and thoughtful man who has earned the respect of martial artists and movie fans worldwide.
For those of you who would like to know more about Sho, his Sho Kosugi Fan Club is located at 1029 East Valley Blvd., San Gabriel, CA 91776

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