Legends of Action: Sonny Chiba

BirthDate: 23 January 1939

Shinichi Chiba also known as Sonny Chiba, is a Japanese actor, singer, film producer, film director, and martial artist.

He’s mostly known for his roles in the ultra-violent Street Fighter films; the first of which was in 1974; this movie would make him an international martial arts star for the next two decades.

He was brought to the attention of modern younger audiences thanks to Quentin Tarantino in True Romance where Christian Slater’s character Clarence watches a Street Fighter marathon in the theatre. Tarantino would get to work with Chiba in the Kill Bill movies too.

Interestingly enough, Chiba starred in a movie called Battles without Honor and Humanity: Hiroshima Deathmatch which, if you’re a Tarantino fan then THE music from Kill Bill is called Battle without Honor or Humanity, which is yet another nod. The music was used in the trailer and you can listen to it below.

Did you think that would be the only Tarantino reference? I think not. Chiba had his first martial arts role in Karate Kia or The Bodyguard as it was otherwise known.

During the opening credits of the US release it would have this rather familiar quote on-screen: “The path of the righteous man and defender is beset on all sides by the iniquity of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper, and the father of lost children. And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious anger, who poison and destroy my brothers; and they shall know that I am Chiba the Bodyguard when I shall lay my vengeance upon them!” [Ezekiel 25:17]

It actually got me wondering, has Tarantino ever actually come up with anything original?

Chiba has also starred in The Bullet Train (1975), Karate Warriors (1976), Doberman Cop (1977), Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon (1977), The Assassin (1977), Message from Space (1978). Shogun’s Samurai (1978), The Fall of Ako Castle (1978), G.I. Samurai (1979), Shadow Warriors (1980), Samurai Reincarnation (1981). According to Wikipedia Chiba was not only an actor but also stunt coordinator on G.I. Samurai, Burning Brave (1981), Shogun’s Shadow (1989) and executive producer, film director on Yellow Fangs (1990).

Chiba also established the Japan Action Club to develop and raise the level of martial arts techniques and sequences used in Japanese film and television.

Personally, I recommend the Street Fighter collection as a MUST have as all of them are hugely entertaining and super violent. I got the box set for 5 bucks on Amazon.

Although Chiba may never have the name recognition of Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan, he is every bit as awesome and a legend of the martial arts genre.