Throughout the 80s and 90s martial arts films were exploding all over the big screen and the straight to video market. Of all of them there was none more popular than the ninja films featuring Sho Kosugi. Any one a fan of those films not only knew of Sho, but also his amazingly talented son Kane who stole the show with his own fight sequences showcasing his martial arts skills and creating a hero for kids in an adult genre. Over the years Kane has established his own career making his mark in the film industry and continues to deliver a martial arts whirlwind of fury in the industry with no sign of slowing down. Now he is stepping back into the shadows of the ninja and teaming up with Scott Adkins for Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear. I had the honor of sitting down and speaking with this martial arts legend on his career, martial arts and his latest film.
Bobby: For those that may not know, can you tell us a little bit about how you got started in the martial arts?
Kane: Basically it was because of my father. When I was really little he owned his owned his own dojo and teaching as well as trying to become an actor. When I was born he wasn’t an actor yet, so I think when I was about a year and a half old he started teaching me Karate. I think when I was around 5 is when he got his first movie and when I saw him on the screen is when I knew I wanted to become and action actor as well. So from when I was a year and a half old until I was about 10 or 11 years old I was doing Japanese Shotokan Karate then I switched to Tae Kwon Do. When I graduated high school I was trying to decide if I should continue studying in the states or pursue acting more seriously and was kind of caught in the middle. I got an opportunity to work in Japan and just thought I would come here and work a little then maybe go back and go back to school. When I came here to Japan I started Tae Kwon Do here and just never went back. I have just always tried to study and learn new styles, so I have been doing martial arts for about 38 years.
Bobby: When your father, Sho started headlining with films like Revenge of the Ninja and Pray for Death you became a stable in those films as well alongside your brother, but you got to do all the fun fighting. Were those films written that way or something they just tried to work you into?
Kane: I think they were written in. I think after watching my dad’s first film Enter the Ninja I think they knew I wanted to become an actor as well, so my father gave me chances. I don’t remember a lot of it, but sure it was just basically written in.
Bobby: When those came out I was a kid as well growing up in the martial arts and while I was a fan of your dad’s I was more a fan of yours because we seemed more the same. So it always pushed me to be better. One of the things as a kid seeing those movies that always stuck with me was this bicycle that was like a ninja Swiss army bike. Did you get to have any input on that?
Kane: Oh yeah, that was in Pray For Death. A lot of people always ask me about that because I guess for kids that was like the best thing. I still remember after the movie getting to keep the bicycle too, but without the weapons. (laughs) They didn’t want me messing around and doing weird things with them I guess. (laughs) I remember going to the set and them showing me everything, but I was still pretty young then I think 10 or something like that. I remember thinking it was so cool because it had Nunchaku and everything on this bike.
Bobby: During that time there was also a video your guys put out called Master Class with you doing one-step techniques and stuff. Was that something that was intended to be a series or just a one off type of thing?
Kane: I think it was supposed to be a one off thing. I remember shooting it and there was this Buda statue in the background and my father liked it because it had sentimental value and he put that Buda in the house. Then people kept asking if we were Buddhists or something. I guess growing up you remember the weirdest things.
Bobby: I actually still have the original VHS copy of that in the oversized box it came in and watched that thing over and over to watch you guys to practice technique and usually more you because I related to you.
Kane: Wow, thank you.
Bobby: I know you have done other stuff like DOA and Muscle Heat that was released here, but was there any hesitation with you doing Ninja II in fear that you would get stereotyped back into the ninja role?
Kane: No not at all, I have been wanting to do a ninja movie for at least ten years. I have been working here in Japan since I was 18 and pretty busy until I was 30 doing TV and working here in Japan mainly, but in my heart I have always wanted to go back to the states in Hollywood and do things there. So when I turned 30 I started going back and looking for an agent and manager and going out on auditions. During that time there hadn’t really been any ninja movies since the 80s and 90s. It was something that I had in my mind that I would have loved to do. My father was one of those that made the ninjas in the 80s so I think I should use that to my advantage. After I heard it was going to be Ninja II I was super excited, but then when I read the script and I don’t get to wear any ninja outfit it was disappointing, but it was cool just getting to work with Isaac and Scott and a real honor. I was really happy they gave me a chance. I had met Isaac more than 10 years ago and we have always wanted to work with each other, but it just never worked out so this was a real honor.
Bobby: Without giving anything in the film away, you have a really great fight scene in there, how much input to you get to have to bring your own style to the film.
Kane: Oh thank you. Basically I have been lucky and a lot of the projects I have worked on they always let me do what I want to do. With this project Tim Man was really nice and of course they set up the action scenes, but I like to kick with my left leg and a lot of the choreography is always done with the right leg so there are turns and different movements that I like to put in and I was allowed to do that. I was really happy and wish we had more time, but I think originally the fight scene was going to be a bit bigger and longer, but we didn’t have enough time so we had to shorten it. I think the time we had and that Isaac works fast and Scott is so talented we were still able to make it work.
Bobby: The fight scene is amazing and I am going to be honest, the film seemed to be coming to an end and to give me Kane Kosugi and no fight is just going to tick me off and it’s going to get a bad review.
Kane: (laughs) Thank you so much.
Bobby: It’s one of those things that is not just awesome to watch you two guys in action, but for those that grew up with you it is also very nostalgic because even though you are an adult now, you can still see Kane. I’m watching you do your thing and it’s flashing to the convenience store fight with the bicycle and it is just amazing.
Kane: Wow, thanks so much.
Bobby: I know this wasn’t your first return to US films, I know you did War and some others, but are you planning to try and do more in the states?
Kane: I would love to go back there and work on projects there as much as I can. Actually I am leaving for Thailand and I don’t think it’s released yet but I am doing another US project and they are trying to make a new Tekken movie and I actually got the lead part, but not sure if they have released much on it, but I will keep you updated.
Bobby: That would great I would love to help promote anything you may be working on.
Kane: I will keep you informed; I do a lot of stuff in China, Korea, and stuff like that. Like I said when I was 30 I tried to go to the states and work then I realized and now it is getting a lot better for Asians, but a lot of the roles I went for were villain roles and it was kind of difficult at first. So I figured I would just continue to work on my craft and build up my name more in Asia so tried to work more in not just Japan but other Asian countries and it’s been great, because every country has a different taste and style much like martial arts. If you take Tae Kwon Do and then switch to Wushu it’s the same kick but they kick differently. So it’s always good to learn everything I think. I have been really lucky and just want to keep getting better and better.
Bobby: I know as a fan of yours for so long and getting to see you grow on the screen as a person, martial artist and actor was awesome, but now getting to speak with you is just a great honor. My instructor always pushed us to try and learn as much as possible and growing up with the ninja idea of thinking they know everything there was made me constantly push to be better and I owe some of that to you guys, so thanks.
Kane: No, thank you. Hearing great compliments like that it gives us motivation as actors and what we do. A lot of times just getting fan letters or compliments motivates us to want to work harder and get better at what we do so thank you.
Bobby: I am sure a lot of the fans are going to want to know where they can get autographs and movies, which I know some of them may not be released here yet. Do you have a site or place they can go to?
Kane: As far as movies I am sure they can just go online and find them somewhere and I know one of them Zhang wu shuang was release through Lionsgate as Ninja Masters. For autographs and stuff just go to my website and write me an email about it at www.kanekosugi.com Also in my website I answer questions on the 11th every month. It’s in Japanese, but if you ca figure it out and just write a question in English and I will answer it. It’s just something fun I do and a lot of the fans here in Japan ask questions every month.
Bobby: I know he did Ninja Assassin, but is there ever a chance that you and your father may do another movie together?
Kane: It would be cool, but I don’t know. I don’t think he has done anything since then.
Bobby: I greatly appreciate it. This is by far a highlight in my life and a real honor.
Kane: Not at all, thank you for promoting Ninja II and it was nice talking to you.
For more information on Kane Kosugi head over to his site at http://kanekosugi.com/
Be sure to grab your copy of Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear available on Blu-ray and DVD now.