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Call him Tsurugi, the STREET FIGHTER. Call him Hattori Hanzo. However, to millions of fans all over the world, they know the name “Sonny Chiba”, one of the most prolific Japanese actors to showcase both his talent for acting and martial arts skills.

Sonny CHIBA

The second of five children, Sadao Maeda was born on January 23, 1939. As a kid, Sadao Maeda was involved in gymnastics and theater. He nearly joined the Japanese Olympic team until he was sidelined by a back injury.

When Sadao entered college, he began his training in the martial arts by legendary karate master Masutatsu “Mas” Oyama. He would earn a first-degree black belt. He also holds other black belts in Ninjitsu, Goju-Ryu, Judo, Kendo, and Shorinji Kempo.

REAL NAME
Sadao Maeda
AKA
Shinichi Chiba
Shin-Ichi Chiba
J.J. Sonny Chiba
J.J. Chiba
千葉 真一
GENDER
Male
BIRTH
1939.01.23 (Fukuoka, Kyushu, Japan)

In the late 1950′s, Sadao entered a talent search for Toei Company called “New Face”. He would go on to win the contest and signed a contract. Sadao Maeda became known as “Shinichi Chiba”. He starred in many crime thrillers and even came up with his English name of “Sonny” after appearing a Toyota commercial for the Sunny-S car.

In 1970, Sonny started his own training school for actors who wish to work in karate films. It would become known as the Japan Action Club. Two of the most famous members of this school are Hiroyuki Sanada and Etsuko Shiomi. In 1973, in the wake of Bruce Lee making a huge impact with the kung fu films in China and all over, Toei decided to take advantage of it as well.

THE STREET FIGHTER became Japan’s answer to the kung fu film genre, with Chiba in the lead role. When the film was released in the United States, it became the first film to get the MPAA’s harshest rating of X for violent content. Nevertheless, the film was a cult favorite in the U.S. and a monster hit in Japan, propelling Toei to release 2 sequels to the film.

Throughout the late 70′s and early 80′s, Sonny would go on to either play the lead role or support his protégés, Hiroyuki Sanada and Etsuko Shiomi in a series of period and modern day martial arts films.

Sadly, in 1990, Chiba was forced to sell the Japan Action Club after the failure of his film YELLOW CLAWS, but it did not bother him a bit. As a matter of fact, in 1992, Chiba headed for the United States and appeared in a series of B-movies, starting with the sequel ACES: IRON EAGLE 3 as the Japanese pilot who helps the hero out in his mission. He followed it up with playing a villain in BODY COUNT, opposite Brigitte Nielsen and a hero teaming with Roddy Piper in IMMORTAL COMBAT, where Sonny can be seen wearing his trademark wristbands from THE STREET FIGHTER.

In 1998, Sonny appeared in his first Hong Kong film, as the evil Lord Conquer in the live action adaptation of the comic book THE STORM RIDERS. He would follow it up in 2000 with a role as a Yakuza head who became Jordan Chan’s father-in-law in BORN TO BE KING, the final installment of the YOUNG AND DANGEROUS series.

In 2003, Sonny took on the role of Hattori Hanzo in the first half of Quentin Tarentino’s martial arts action epic KILL BILL. Since then, he has appeared in Japanese, Hong Kong, and even more Hollywood films.

In his 40+ year career, Sonny Chiba will not only be forever known as “The Street Fighter” but an all around legend in the world of action films.

In July of 2007, Sonny Chiba announced that he would no longer be working on action films or action-oriented roles as the result of an asthma attack he suffered on the set of a TV series’ action sequence. Chiba also announced that it was time to retire the name “Shinichi Chiba” as he felt the name was more in common with his action days. He announced that he will continue to act in Japan under his birth name of Sadao Maeda, and make films internationally as Sonny Chiba, the name everyone around the world knows him as. His legacy will never be forgotten.

SELECT FILMOGRAPHY
Action Director
2003 – Kill Bill: Vol. 1
1989 – Shogun’s Shadow
1983 – Legend of the Eight Samurai
1982 – Ninja Wars
1981 – Shogun’s Ninja
1980 – Shadow Warriors [TV]
1979 – G.I. Samurai
1978 – Swords of Vengeance
1978 – Shogun’s Samurai
1977 – Karate for Life
1976 – Dragon Princess
1976 – Karate Warriors
1975 – Karate Bear Fighter
1975 – The Killing Machine
1974 – The Executioner 2: Karate Inferno
1974 – The Executioner
1974 – Sister Street Fighter
1974 – The Street Fighter
1973 – The Bodyguard

Actor
2003 – Kill Bill: Vol. 1
1998 – The Storm Riders
1989 – Shogun’s Shadow
1983 – Legend of the Eight Samurai
1982 – Ninja Wars
1981 – Shogun’s Ninja
1980 – Shadow Warriors [TV]
1979 – G.I. Samurai
1978 – Swords of Vengeance
1978 – Shogun’s Samurai
1977 – Karate for Life
1977 – Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon
1976 – Dragon Princess
1976 – Karate Warriors
1975 – Karate Bear Fighter
1975 – The Killing Machine
1974 – The Executioner 2: Karate Inferno
1974 – The Executioner
1974 – Sister Street Fighter
1974 – The Street Fighter
1973 – The Bodyguard

AKA
JJ Sonny Chiba
Shin-Ichi Chiba
Shinichi Chiba
Rindo Wachinaga
千葉 真一GENDER
MaleBIRTH
1939.01.23 (Fukuoka, Japan)
  • GoodNuph

    He s The Man of Martial Arts With a simple effective style that emphasizes breath control and muscle tension.

  • GoodNuph

    I forgot to mention I love his movies, too.