Sonny Chiba
Japanese martial arts film star Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba passed away Thursday from COVID-19 complications at the age of 82. Born Sadaho Maeda, Chiba was a gymnastics champion who began studying karate while a university student. A pupil of the late kyokushin founder, Mas Oyama, Chiba achieved a black belt under Oyama and went on to study several other martial arts. He began acting in the 1960s eventually starring in more than 100 films as he carved out a niche for himself with his own rough-hewn brand of action.

Following in the wake of Bruce Lee, Chiba became one of the first Asian cinematic martial arts stars to achieve international success when his 1974 movie "Gekitotsu! Satsujin ken" was released overseas under the title "The Street Fighter." The success of the film lead to two sequels and made Chiba a cult favorite. Among his admirers was Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino who cast Chiba in "Kill Bill: Volume 1." Chiba would also influence the action movie genre throughout Japan with his formation of a popular school for martial arts stuntmen, the Japan Action Club (later called Japan Action Enterprise).

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