Steven Seagal is a true martial artist in every sense of the title, due to his status as 7th – dan Black Belt in Aikido, the Japanese Martial Art founded by Morihei Ueshiba. Aikido translates to English as ‘the way of harmonizing energy through motion’. The rank of 7th Dan is a high-level of mastery and only three levels below the highest ranking of 10th – dan, held by only one man in the world. Aikido uses different techniques, similar to jujitsu and judo by implementing wrist locks, choke holds and throws. What separates Aikido from other martial arts like Japanese Karate, Korean Tae-Kwon-Do or Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is its emphasis on preventing combat from occurring as opposed to engaging in it. Aikido trains its practitioners to use the momentum of the aggressor and deter it away, in the opposite direction. Aikido promotes harmony and peace as opposed to aggression and submission. I’ve had the pleasure of achieving the ranking of 5th kyu in 2010, which is equivalent to a yellow belt, one color ranked above the novice, white. I’ve studied a wide variety of action films by Steven Seagal and have read two books written by Aikido’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba. Steven Seagal’s implementation of Aikido’s techniques into the fight choreography of his films are what separates him uniquely from other martial arts performers in film, such as Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Below are the five essential films I consider to be the gems of Steven Seagal’s filmography that truly exhibit his mastery of Aikido and its technical use throughout the fight sequences.
- Above the Law
Steven Seagal plays Nico Toscani, a Vietnam war veteran working as a Chicago Police Officer who reveals misconduct in the Central Intelligence Agency. The film is directed by Andrew Davis (The Fugitive) with co-stars Pam Grier (Jackie Brown) and Sharon Stone.
- Hard to Kill
Steven Seagal plays LAPD Detective Mason Storm who awakens from a coma to seek revenge against the men who killed his wife and expose the corruption behind the Politician responsible. The film is directed by Bruce Malmuth (Nighthawks).
- Marked for Death
Steven Seagal portrays former DEA Agent John Hatcher who tracks down Jamaican drug lords after his family receives death threats. This film was directed by Dwight Little (Rapid Fire, Murder at 1600) and its music is composed by James Newton Howard (The Dark Knight).
- Out for Justice
Steven Seagal acts as Detective Gino Felino, a cop from Brooklyn who wreaks havoc in vengeance for the killing of his partner as he tracks down the mob boss of an extremely deranged gang. It’s directed by John Flynn (Lock Up) and is Seagal’s most intense action film.
- Under Siege
Under Siege is Steven Seagal’s most successful film and marks the second time he would work with director Andrew Davis. The film grossed $156 million around the world in 1992, which is nearly $300 million today, when adjusted for inflation. The film centers around Seagal who plays Casey Ryback, a former Navy Seal turned professional cook aboard a United States battleship that has been seized by terrorists. The film co-stars Gary Busey and Tommy Lee Jones.