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Steven Seagal is a great many things: Actor, blues musician, a reportedly difficult coworker,

possibly useless in an actual fight.

However, back in the days when he was more famous than infamous, he was known as a martial


Although Seagal has been known to spin the occasional tall tale about his abilities and

role in training assorted famous fighters, his status as a dude who is very good at aikido

is rarely disputed.

Should his claims of aikido royalty be taken at face value, though?

Whatever your opinion of Steven Seagal may otherwise be, his black belts are very real.

Yes, that's "belts" in plural: Though Seagal is mainly known for his aikido wizardry, he's

also the proud owner of black belts in karate, kendo, and judo.

Seagal has been heavily into martial arts since he was a small child, and he moved to

Japan when he was 17 to "study Zen" and hone his martial arts skills.

He ended up spending around 15 years in Asia doing all sorts of Steven Seagal things, such

as "studying Eastern philosophy" and working as a martial arts choreographer.

As chuckle-worthy and/or worrisome as Steven Seagal's antics might be these days, if you

ask his old aikido cohort Haruo Matsuoka, Seagal is, or at least used to be, the real


According to Black Belt Mag, Matsuoka was one of Sensei Seagal's favorite students in

the 1970s, and Seagal even recruited him as his uke - the guy all those aikido moves are

demonstrated on - when he set out to conquer Hollywood.

Matsuoka and the article both make Seagal's brand of aikido seem like a fairly ruthless,

brutal and street-ready affair that drew heavy influence from Japanese swordsmanship.

Apparently, Seagal held great influence within aikido circles and was on great terms with

at least some of the higher-ups.

Matsuoka even points out that aikido had an extremely hard time in the west, until Seagal's

1988 breakthrough movie Above The Law caused the art's popularity to explode virtually


On the other hand, Matsuoka points out that Seagal's newfangled famous-person ways ultimately

estranged the two, and caused them to fall out in 1997.

Fittingly, that's around the era that Seagal started moving from box office successes like

Under Siege to direct-to-video fare like The Patriot.

Steven Seagal may be an aikido master, but his reported judo prowess might be a bit less


At least, if you believe the story of his altercation with a man nicknamed "Judo."

Gene "Judo" LeBell, a bona fide martial arts legend, apparently taught Seagal some humility

while serving as the fight choreographer for the Seagal vehicle Out For Justice.

When Seagal boasted that he simply couldn't be choked out, LeBell happily took up the


As a result of this very brief altercation, Seagal passed out so hard that he, well, evacuated

his bowels.

In front of about thirty stuntmen and crew members, if you believe LeBell.

"Oh, how the mighty have fallen."

To be entirely fair, LeBell is perfectly cordial about the incident and says he respects Seagal

as a martial artist, though he points out that the aikido master would do well if he

abstained from speaking in potential foot-in-mouth situations.

It should also be noted that LeBell has been known to tell a tale or two in his time, and

Seagal himself vehemently denies this ever happened.

Still, one would probably be forgiven for not betting on Seagal in a judo match.

"Who are you?

Are you like some special forces guy or something?"

"I'm just a cook."

"A cook?"

Karate might not be the first martial art you associate with Steven Seagal, but it turns

out he started his studies as a karate kid.

That's not clever wordplay, either: He actually studied under Fumio Demura, a man who also

trained Pat Morita, who played Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid movies and brought a lot

of Demura to the role.

According to the Daily Beast, Demura has played a part inspiring legends such as Dolph Lundgren

and Chuck Norris.

He even worked with Bruce Lee, who he briefly tutored on the use of nunchaku.

Seagal is happy to sing his old master's praises:

"Demura sensei's the real thing."

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