"I've just been continuing it somehow," said Yasuaki Kurata, whose Kurata Action Club, a school for training action stars, marked its 40th anniversary this year. Japan's top karate action actor, now 69, established the club in 1975.
Though he made his debut as an actor after graduating from university, Kurata initially could not make a breakthrough in Japan. However, he somehow passed an audition for a Hong Kong film, and his appearance catapulted the Japanese actor to stardom in Asia.
Kurata returned to Japan in 1974 when "Call Me Dragon," a kung fu movie in which he appeared, was released in his country. The actor gained popularity in Japan with TV drama series such as "Tatakae! Dragon" (Fight! Dragon) and "G Men '75."
However, the choreography for action films in Japan looked tame to him.
"Japanese actors stood too far away from each other [in fighting scenes], and they said my kick was scary because it came so close that they could feel the wind caused by it," Kurata said. "That convinced me I had to have my own stunt team."
Kurata set up his own team and taught Hong Kong-style fighting choreography. Since then, the club has been successively producing internationally recognised action movie directors and others.
Now, Kurata is going to play the role of an old master at a martial arts training hall in a play titled "Shitei: Young Master ~ Boku to Sensei tono Tokakan" (Master and his disciple: Young master ~ My 10 days with the master). The play starts on June 17 at the Theater Sun-mall in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward, to mark the 40th anniversary of his club.
"I will pretend to get out of breath because it is a comedy," Kurata said.
In reality, however, Kurata does two hours of basic training every day.
"If I become unable to do stunts, it'll mean I've lost my importance [as an action star]," Kurata said with smiling eyes. "I'll try to reach the 50th anniversary."