Biography of an Action Hero
A master of several Japanese martial arts, Steven Seagal is a popular action movie hero whose films combine spiritual concepts and social/environmental consciousness with high-voltage violence.
Born in Lansing, Michigan on April 10, 1951, Seagal traveled to Japan at the age of seventeen. There, he taught English, studied Zen, and perfected his martial arts, earning black belts in Aikido, karate, judo, and kendo. Afterwards, he became the first Westerner to open a martial arts school in Japan.
During this time, Seagal occasionally choreographed fight scenes in movies and coached such stars as Sean Connery and Toshiro Mifune. He also became interested in Eastern religion: in a November, 1997 interview for the Shambala Sun, he stated that his encounter with Tibetan Buddhism resulted from his study of acupuncture.
Seagal spent about 15 years in Asia before returning to the States, where he opened a new martial arts academy and also worked as a celebrity bodyguard. Seagal contracted to make martial arts films for Warner Bros. For his first film, he carefully refashioned an average police drama into Above the Law (1988), which stressed characterization and plot as well as high-energy action scenes.It was well-received and Seagal found himself an instant star among action aficionados.
Seagal has since presented himself as a serious student of Buddhism who spends many hours meditating, studying, and practicing the tenets to help him become a teacher and healer.
-- Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide