Biography of Steven Seagal

A Martial Artist and Hollywood Star

Steven Seagal wearing sunglasses and a leather jacket
Kristina Nikishina / Getty Images

The biography of Steven Seagal starts on April 10, 1952 in Lansing, Michigan.


Seagal lived in Michigan until he was five, when the family moved to Fullerton, California. The son of a Jewish math teacher (father) and Irish medical technician (mother), he graduated from Buena Park High School.

Martial Arts Training

Seagal first began studying Shito-ryu karate under Fumio Demura and aikido under Rod Kobayashi around the age of seven after a demonstration by aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba sparked his interest in 1959.

After many years of training at the age of 17, Seagal traveled to Japan and stayed in Asia for approximately 15 years while teaching English. In 1974, he was promoted to Kobayashi-sensei to shodan in Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido and is considered to be the first foreigner to operate a dojo in Japan. He also owns belts in aikido, karate, kendo, and judo.

Back to America

Seagal opened a dojo in Taos, New Mexico with student Craig Dunn upon his return to the states. After some work trying to get his foot in the door in Hollywood and another trip to Japan, he once again returned to the United States in 1983 with student Haruo Matsuoka. The two opened an aikido dojo in Burbank, California and later moved it to West Hollywood.

Film Career

Seagal choreographed some martial arts fight scenes in movies early in his career. However, his acting debut occurred in the 1988 film Above the Law. After his martial arts action hero introduction, he picked up lead roles in Hard to Kill (1989) and Under Siege (1992), which was his most popular early film. Later, Seagal began directing movies, making his debut with the commercial failure On Deadly Ground. As both an actor and director, Seagal's more recent works have fallen on hard commercial times with the exception of Exit Wounds in 2001, which accumulated almost $80 million worldwide.

The Mysterious Steven Seagal

Seagal is a supporter of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama and the cause for Tibetan independence. Further, he has been recognized by Tibetan Lama Penor Rinpoche as a reincarnated Tulku. In fact, Seagal once said the following to WEWS in Cleveland: "I was born clairvoyant. I was born a healer, and I was born very different."

Beyond that, Seagal has also hinted on occasion about involvement with the CIA. Thus, it can clearly be said that throughout his life he has walked a somewhat different and mysterious path.

Finally, former UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva has indicated that Seagal has previously helped him in MMA training, which would be unusual for someone with an Aikido background. In part due to this, the validity of his involvement with Silva has long been debated by those in the MMA community.

Personal Life

Seagal married Miyako Fujitani in 1975 (divorced in 1986), having son Kentaro and daughter Ayako with her. He then married Adrienne LaRussa in 1984, but their union was annulled in 1987, the year he married actress Kelly LeBrock. He and LeBrock divorced in 1996 after having daughters Annaliza and Arissa, and son Dominic. During his marriage to LeBrock, Seagal began having an affair with the children's nanny, Arissa Wolf. He and Wolf have one daughter together (Savannah).

Seagal has also been placed in a guardianship role to Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo, a Tibetan child, in accordance with his Buddhist beliefs.

Interesting Steven Seagal Facts

  • Unlike martial arts movie actors Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, Jet Li, and Jean-Claude Van Damme, Seagal's preferred style of martial arts does not subscribe to flowing kicks and lots of offense. Rather, aikido is a defensive martial arts style that focuses on throws and joint locks in defense against attacks. In this sense, he's unique among the martial arts movie actor brotherhood.
  • Seagal is an outspoken animal rights activist that has adopted several pets and was awarded a PETA Humanitarian Award in 1999 for his efforts. He has also donated time and money to environmental and Native American issues, the influence of which can be seen in some of his more recent films.
  • Seagal believes in reincarnation.