Back in the halcyon days of the early 1980s when America was still climbing out of the 1970s, the hot trend in movies (between Star Wars movies) was the Ninja movie. Despite the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment garnered by the economic problems of the USA, the ninja was adopted whole heartedly by American teen boys looking for a new martial arts hero. The trend was started by the Golan and Globus brothers production of Enter the Ninja with Sho Kosugi. Two more films were made in the Ninja series with Sho Kosugi going on to star in followup Revenge of the Ninja and several more martial arts films. Even in the cheap and somewhat shoddy Cannon films productions Kosugi’s work as a martial artist stands out. He garnered much praise and he still stands out in the pantheon of martial arts stars. It also pays to remember how unusual it was for a Japanese to star in an American movie production. From the Sho Kosugi website:
The Ninja sensation was so big that when Pat Rod, of the Hollywood Reporter, was in countries like Greece and Turkey she said,”Movie enthusiasts there never asked me about Stallone, Cruise, or Harrison Ford; it was always,’Have you ever met Sho Kosugi?’”
He did recognize that the ninja craze was a fad and moved on to more general action movies by the late 80s. But his sense of timing left an indelible impression on the ninja craving fans.
Sho Kosugi went on to found the SKI Institute in Hollywood teaching everything from taiko to gymnastics along with other martial arts schools in Japan. His two sons, Shane and Kane have also appeared in movies and are occasionally competitors on the Sasuke TV show in Japan (Ninja Warrior here in the US).