Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba, born Sadaho Maeda in Fukuoka, Japan, on Jan. 22, 1939, died on Thursday of COVID complications at age 82.
The renowned actor and martial artist are perhaps best known to North American fans for his contributions to “Kill Bill Volume 1” and “The Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift.” His five-decade-long career boasts more than 200 acting credits.
As a martial artist, Sonny Chiba holds black belts in the following disciplines: Fourth Dan in Kyokushin Karate and Ninjutsu, Second Dan in Goju-Ryu karate, Shorinji Kempo and Judo, and First Dan in Kendo.
A touching viral moment occurred during a “John Wick” press tour where Chiba surprised Canada’s Keanu Reeves with a visit. Both men admired each other, and for Reeves, it appeared it was a dream come true.
His influence can be felt in sports too. Kenny Florian, a three-time UFC title challenger and MMA color commentator, highlights Chiba’s impact on martial artists.
“Sonny Chiba was an amazing and highly accomplished Japanese martial artist, actor, and stuntman who inspired a whole generation of martial artists like myself,” Florian tells ET Canada. “I was sad to hear the news of his passing. His passion, talent, and memory will live on.”
Before the pandemic, Ciba was set to star in “Outbreak Z” with Jesse Ventura and Wesley Snipes. His final posthumous film role will be “Bond of Justice: Kizuna.”