What Martial Art Does Steven Segal Practice?

steven segal martial art
Copyright © Western Center for Journalism/Gage Skidmore

Steven Seagal is a Hollywood actor known for his action films, specifically the movie, Under Siege, which catapulted him into international stardom. In his action-packed movies, Seagal is seen demonstrating martial arts to defeat his opponents and defend himself.

Steven Seagal and Aikido

Steven Seagal has a 7th-dan black belt in Aikido. While the actor also has black belts in karate, kendo, and judo, it is his aikido skills that he is most known for.

Aikido is a form of Japanese martial arts that was created by Japanese Morihei Ueshiba in the ’20s, but it wasn’t until 1942 that he named it “Aikido,” which means “The Way of Harmony of the Spirit,” or “Way of Combining Forces.”

It is a very spiritual, philosophical, and ethical approach to martial arts, which is derived from Ju-Jutsu, the precursor to Judo and the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Aikido is a unique form of martial arts because it is non-competitive and focuses more on non-violent self-defense. The practice involves using an attacker’s own force to disarm him, causing him to lose balance, and using his own strength against himself. The movements for Aikido involve a comprehensive system of throwing, striking, joint locking, and pinning techniques. It also involves training in traditional Japanese weapons, such as the sword, the staff, and the knife.

Seagal is famously known for introducing Aikido in the United States in the 1980s when he opened a studio in Los Angeles. His Hollywood debut movie, Above The Law, is credited for making Aikido popular in the country.

Steven Seagal’s Introduction to the World of Martial Arts

Seagal had always been interested in martial arts as a child. He was trained in Karate by Fumio Demura, who is also famously known as having trained Chuck Norris, and Pat Morita, who played Mr. Miyagi in the movie, Karate Kid.

At 17 years old, Seagal moved to Japan to learn more about martial arts. Upon his return to California in 1974, he met Miyako Fujitani, a second-degree aikido black belt, who would later become his first wife. Miyako’s father was an Osakan aikido master who had gone to California to teach aikido. Seagal and Miyako went to Japan, where they eventually married, with Seagal training in aikido, and later becoming an instructor at Miyako’s family’s dojo.

Seagal is also credited for being the first foreigner in Japan to teach aikido at a Japanese dojo.

Steven Seagal’s Aikido Style

Haruo Matsuoka, one of the most combat-competent aikido stylists in the world, names Seagal as his very first sensei, or teacher in aikido. Haruo was trained by Seagal in his Tenshin Dojo in Japan when the former was just a teenager. They would later form a relationship wherein Haruo taught aikido at Seagal’s dojo in California, and also joined Seagal in his early films before they parted ways in 1997.

Haruo described Seagal’s style as having a reputation for being hardcore and effective on the street. When Seagal was training Haruo, his training philosophy was about making things practical for the world, otherwise, they would be useless. Seagal taught a very practical form of aikido, which included swift footsteps and hand movements. He incorporated body posture and sword cuts that were very strong and straight. Haruo also mentioned that Seagal emphasized the relationship between aikido and the art of Kenjutsu, which is Japanese sword work.

This methodology of aikido has been called Tenshin Aikido, which Steven Seagal has originated.

One of Seagals’ greatest achievements as an aikido sensei came in December 2015, when he was commissioned by the Serbian government to train their Special Forces in the art of aikido. Because of this, he was given Russian and Serbian citizenship, and now enjoys triple citizenship: American, Russian, and Serbian.

Steven Seagal may be better known for his movies in Hollywood, but his childhood passion for martial arts was the very thing that brought him fame and success. What began as a childhood interest soon became his calling when he taught aikido in Japan, and later moved back to the US to open his own aikido dojo.

Though he has enjoyed most of his adult life in Hollywood, Seagal has continued to practice martial arts, founded the methodology of Tenshin Aikido, and continues to teach his practical approach to this unique form of martial arts.

Recent Posts