Keita Arai: The Next Generation of Samurai Actor

Keita Arai
The Samurai films of master director Akira Kurosawa, such as Yojimbo, The Seven Samurai, and The Hidden Fortress are classics of the genre. For many, they are the first introduction into the world of the Samurai and the martial arts of the sword: Kendo, Kenjutsu, and Iaido.

The Japanese art of sword fighting used in film is called Tate (Tah-tay) and though it is a theatrical style, it is often the sword fighting that western viewers associate with the Samurai. Are the Samurai of the cinema ready to return? If so, martial artist-actor Keita Arai is ready for the call.

Arai lives in Tokyo, Japan, and although he has a wide range of skills, and appears in a variety of films, because of his dedication to tradition, he considers himself a “Samurai Actor.” Having studied Tate, Iaido and Chinese martial arts, such as Jeet Kune Do, Arai is using his knowledge of martial arts to provide authentic Samurai performances.

Arai will be featured in the upcoming film Suena (2022). The film will show the many talents of Arai, including fight choreography and acting. Want to know more about the next generation of Samurai? Read on.

What made you want to study martial arts? 

“First, I started studying martial arts, because I wanted to gain special skills to widen the range of roles and opportunities for me as an actor. Also, I believed it was important to understand my own culture in order to work as an international actor.”

What made you want to study the sword?

“I liked the Samurai and Ninja when I was a kid, and because it's rooted in Japanese culture, it came naturally to me. Also, I like action movies with swords like Star Wars, Marvel movies, etc.”

What benefits, aside from filmmaking do you get from studying Iaido?

Keita Arai

“Through Iaido, I learn about martial arts history, knowledge of the sword itself (name of parts, what they are for), discipline, and the Japanese warrior spirit. Those things are useful for all aspects of my life.”

Do you teach any martial arts?

“Lately, I’m teaching "Tate" which is the art of Samurai sword performance for films.

Also, it's not a martial art, but I've been teaching Hip Hop dance for 10 years. Recently, I’ve found it interesting that Iai, Jeet Kune Do, and dance all have a lot in common in terms of how you use the body.”

 What made you want to be an actor?

“I liked watching movies and TV. The idea that I could become different people was very appealing to me.”

In your videos, you have choreographed sword fights. Do you do the fight choreography yourself?

“Yes, I do the fight choreography myself. My strength is that I’m able to choreograph breathtaking scenes in Iai, as if a real sword fight, and exciting, dynamic, action scenes like a dance, depending on the film. Not many people can teach both.”

Do you consider yourself a martial artist that acts or an actor that does martial arts?

“That's a good question. My answer is both. As an actor, I need to show the culture correctly to the world. At first, I only studied Samurai performance just for the movies, but then I realized that if I was portraying a Samurai character, that is not enough, I had to know them both. I'm an actor and also a martial artist.”

You have been in some films and have directed the Second Unit as well, what is your goal with your film career? 

“I'd like to be the most famous Japanese actor in the world. I want to correctly portray Japanese culture, and if I want to do that, then I have to keep studying my own culture. One of the jobs of an actor is to accurately show different cultures.”

What are your martial arts goals? Do you plan to study other martial arts?

“I'll master martial arts the same way I plan to master acting. Lately, I started studying traditional Japanese flower arranging, "Kado." Martial arts represent strength and flowers represent beauty. Doesn’t mixing it together seem interesting?”

What is next for you?

“In my next movie, I play a Yakuza with a traditional tattoo. I will continue studying martial arts, and respect tradition, and become a new Samurai!”

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