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Steven F. Seagal (born April 10, 1952) is an American action movie actor, producer, writer, director, martial artist and singer-songwriter. He belongs to a generation of movie action hero actors (including Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme) who were featured in many of the Hollywood blockbuster action films of the late 1980s and 1990s.
A 6′ 4″ (193 cm) 7th-dan black belt in aikido, Seagal began his adult life as an aikido instructor in Japan. He became the first foreigner to operate an aikido dojo in Osaka, Japan. He later moved to the Los Angeles, California area where he made his film debut in 1988 in Above the Law. Since then, Seagal has become a well recognized action star, mainly due to his action films of the 1990s such as Under Siege (1992) and Under Siege 2 (1995) where he played Navy SEALs counter-terrorist expert Casey Ryback. In total his movies have earned in excess of $850 million worldwide.
Seagal is also a recording artist and guitarist and the founder of Steven Seagal Enterprises. In addition to his professional achievements, he is also known as an environmentalist, an animal rights activist and, like other actors such as Richard Gere, is a supporter of Tenzin Gyatso the 14th Dalai Lama and the cause of Tibetan independence. Spiritualism and Buddhism play an important role in Seagal’s life and he has been recognized by Tibetan lama Penor Rinpoche as a reincarnated Tulku. According to Seagal in a November 2006 interview: “I was born very different, clairvoyant and a healer”.
Seagal was born in Lansing, Michigan, where he lived until he was five years old. His mother, Patricia, was a medical technician, and his father a high school math teacher and an avid Dungeons and Dragons fan. His mother was Irish and his father Jewish. The family relocated to Fullerton, California, where Seagal attended the Buena Park High School in Buena Park, California. Following his graduation, Seagal held one of his first jobs at the local Burger King.
It was allegedly at the age of seven that Seagal first began studying martial arts under the direction of renowned Shito-ryu karate master Fumio Demura and aikido under Rod Kobayashi, the President of the Western States Aikido Federation. He earned belts in aikido, karate, judo, and kendo and in his late teens, Seagal became part of Demura’s Karate Demonstration Team and performed daily demonstrations in the former Japanese Village and Deer Park, in Southern California. In 1974, he was promoted by Kobayashi-sensei to shodan in Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido (a fact disputed by ex-wife Miyako Fujitani [below]). He was also reported (citation needed) as having trained in Mas Oyama’s Kyokushin Kai karate do.