Steven Seagal Is Taking The MMA World By Storm

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I always knew that Steven Seagal was an accomplished Martial Artist. Back in the early 90’s when I was in LA, I actually saw his Aikido Studio in Hollywood, but I didn’t know just how accomplished of a martial artist he really was.

BruceLeeMost true disciples of the Martial Arts agree that the late Bruce Lee was the best artist ever. Usually people associate the arts with names like Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Damme, Jackie Chan, Jet Li and others who made their name in movies. Out of the aforementioned actors, only one of them (other than Bruce Lee) is really an accomplished Martial Artist. Chuck Norris was a World Champion American Kick boxer and a member of the PKA. In spite of being a world champion, he took lessons from Bruce Lee.

When Bruce Lee spoke about American kickboxing, he referred to it as Karate dancing. He mocked most common forms of Martial Arts by saying there were to many fixed positions, it had too much to do with forms and Katas. His contention that his style (Jeet Kune Do) was superior to Karate. One of his famous quotes is,

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”


There are two ways to learn martial Arts. One is with the fixed positions, forms, and Katas. The other is the practical way (actual combat in class) Bruce Lee referred to. Steven Seagal falls under the latter.

Early Life:

Steven Seagal was born in Lansing, Michigan, where he lived until he was five years old. His family then moved to California. His mother, (Patricia) was a medical technician, and his father, (Samuel Steven Seagal) was a high school math teacher. His mother was Irish, and his father was Jewish.  (In a Russian interview, Seagal once shared that he had a Mongolian grandfather named Kalmyk). His parents relocated to Fullerton, California, where Steven Seagal attended Buena Park High School in Buena Park.

Aikido Training:
StevenSeagal7At the age of 13, Steven Seagal lied about his age and got a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant named The Wagon Wheel. One of the cooks at the restaurant was a Japanese shotokan karate expert and noticed Seagal moved very quickly around the kitchen. He taught Seagal the basics of karate.

Steven  Seagal began training in Aikido under master Harry Kiyoshi Ishisaka, who was the founder of the Orange County Aikido School (Orange County Aiki Kai) (OCAK) in 1964.

Steven Seagal considers him to have been the most important martial arts teacher in his life. Seagal moved to Japan in his late teens.  He went to Japan with his father who was visiting for military purposes where he met karate masters who strongly influenced him, so he decided to remain in Japan.

StevenSeagal12He received his 1st Dan degree (Shodan) under the direction of Koichi Tohei. He continued to train in Aikido as a student of Seiseki Abe, Koichi Tohei (whose Aikido organization was the Ki Society). Steven  Seagal refused to join in favor of staying with the Aikikai, Kisaburo Osawa, Hiroshi Isoyama and the second doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba.

As an instructor.
StevenSeagal11After years of training under the masters of Japan, Steven Seagal attained a 7th dan degree/Shihan (a Sensei) in Aikido. Seagal became the first foreigner to operate an Aikido dojo in Japan. Steven Seagal claims to have been subject to xenophobia in Japan, and that he  was visited by many Japanese who came to try and kill him because they resented a westerner teaching the Japanese. (The same problem Bruce Lee had with the Chinese resenting him teaching the westerners).

When Steven Seagals’ father-in-law retired from his job as an instructor, Seagal became the new head of the organization known as Tenshin Aikido in Osaka City (affiliated with the Aikikai). Seagal is known by his students as “Take Sensei“. When Seagal left his dojo in Osaka, his then-wife Miyako became the caretaker of the dojo which continues to operate to the present day.

StevenSeagal6Steven Seagal initially returned to Taos, New Mexico, with his student (and later film stuntman) Craig Dunn, where they opened a dojo, but Seagal spent much of his time pursuing other ventures. After another visit to Japan, Seagal returned to the U.S. in 1983 with senior student Haruo Matsuoka. They opened an Aikido dojo, initially in North Hollywood, California, but later moved it to the city of West Hollywood. Seagal left Matsuoka in charge of the dojo, which he ran until the two parted ways in 1997.

Initially, he worked as the martial arts coordinator for the films The Challenge (1982) starring Scott Glenn and Toshiro Mifune, and Never Say Never Again (1983) starring Sean Connery and A View to a Kill starring Roger Moore.

StevenSeagal20Steven Seagal developed such a solid reputation as a Martial Arts instructor that UFC phenoms started to pay attention. He has helped train Brazilian mixed martial artists Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida. Silva, who is the former UFC Middleweight Champion, (who was considered by many experts as the best all around fighter in the world) went on to knock out Vitor Belfort with a kick, in their fight at UFC 126 in February 2011. Machida also credited him for helping him perfect the crane kick that he used to knock out Randy Couture at UFC 129 in May 2011.

StevenSeagal10Steven Seagal taught the professional fighters special grappling techniques and how to use less movement and energy in the ring. He taught them that it is better to avoid the blow than try to block it. He taught them to fight with their mind rather than their muscles. He taught them how to disguise their attacks and how to counter guys shooting for their legs so they wouldn’t be taken to the mat. Aikido falls under the same principle Bruce Lee lived by:

“The art of fighting without fighting”.

StevenSeagal3Steven Seagal’s notoriety doesn’t stop there. Martial Arts instructors from all over the world hire him to come to their Dojos to teach seminars to their students as well as to learn his superior Aikido skills themselves.

Steven Seagal has taught police officers how to contain suspects without physically harming them. In spite of all of his skeptics and critics in the fight game and the media alike, Steven Seagal has made his mark in the world of professional fighting. He is now a household name among MMA fighters. Many young fighters have a desire to learn from the first westerner to become a master of the ancient Japanese art of Aikido. The first westerner to ever become good enough to teach the art in Japan.  I included a video I compiled below. Steven Seagal is no joke and needs to be taken seriously. He is not just another actor.  He is a “TRUE” master of the art of Aikido.


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  • cjwright

    I am surprised David Carradine didn’t make your list in the 2nd paragraph.
    Very bad, grasshopper, lol.

  • Great job on the article I couldn’t pronounce a lot of the japanese words, but I found the article very educational. I had no idea that Seagal was that highly trained. As an MMA student yself, I could tell in his movies that he wasn’t just acting though.

  • Californy

    Frank Dux behind the story and the man of Blood sport.

    • Californy most people know that story. he is in the guiness book of world records

  • Californy

    I brough him up because he made his career away from the lime light of Hollywood and Film industry .  Word has it that Ware also is getting some martial art training to help his game.  It was also believe Boxing help Ed Too Tall Jones in his career after his brief retirement from football.

    • Football Mensa

      Too Tall has the fastest knockout in Tennessee golden gloves history.

      • Football Mensa I never knew that: thanks for sharing

    • Californy Seagal studied and taught the arts for yrs before ever getting involved in movies. To him the limelight is fighting on camera for money. Randy Couture said the only way he would comer of retirement is if Seagal would fight him: his reply was I will fight you anytime and anywhere, but it will be with no rules and no cameras. I don’t fight with rules, that’s not real fighting.

  • Football Mensa

    Im not a fan of Segal working with the Brazillian fighters. I couldn’t have been more delighted watchi g Silva go down.

    • Football Mensa I just think  it’s impressive that a world champion brought him in to train him . We had some issues with the first video Al made, but we got the formatting fixed and I put it back in: you can see the actual training of various fighters and a seminar he taught at a school in Russia

    • Football Mensa scrap that: youtube is blocking the vid we just added a couple other vids