The Truth About How Steven Seagal Learned Martial Arts

When Steven Seagal’sHard To Kill character, Mason Storm, threatened to take Senator Trent to the bank, “the blood bank,” everybody laughed. But Seagal laughed all the way to the money bank, thanks to a slew of movies in which he squints with the intensity of a constipated lion and beats the crap out of bad guys. Seagal holds black belts in karate, judo, kendo, and aikido, according to Biography.com

One might also argue that he’s skilled in the arcane art of tank-fu. In 2011, the Above the Law star rode a tank as part of his reality show, Steven Seagal: Lawman. As the AV Club recounts, Seagal and law tank smashed through the home of a man suspected of running a cockfighting ring, resulting in the suspect’s 11-month-old puppy getting shot to death and more than 100 roosters getting euthanized by Seagal and his team. Though his tank skills leave something to be desired (like restraint), his blood-banking expertise has been sought after by a foreign military. The Independent reports that in December 2015, the Serbian government asked Seagal to train the country’s Special Forces in aikido. The following January, he received Serbian citizenship after offering to start martial arts schools, according to the Guardian. Given how integral his fight ability has been to his life, you might wonder where it all began.

Before 'Under Siege' Steven Seagal was overseas

Biography.com writes that Seagal’s relationship with martial arts began in childhood under the tutelage of Fumio Demura, whom the Daily Beast describes as the “real-life Mr. Miyagi.” Versed in karate and kobudo, Demura not only got Seagal started in martial arts but trained Pat Morita and inspired the sensei Morita portrayed in The Karate Kid. Once Seagal went from being a karate kid to a karate 17-year-old, he traveled to Japan, where he earned black belts in karate, aikido, judo, and kendo.

However, opinions seem to be divided on just how skilled a fighter the actor is. MMA Imports notes that famed UFC commentator and martial artist Joe Rogan didn’t seem too impressed with Seagal’s vaunted aikido ability, arguing, “This would never work against a trained fighter, never…not in a million years. You get a NCAA division one wrestler, he’s going to shoot on this guy and this guy is going to be on his head in seconds. It just doesn’t work.” A legendary grappler may have proven Rogan right. Judo champion Gene LeBell, a guy described as “the toughest guy around,” recalled getting into it with Seagal and choking the actor so hard he pooped himself.

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