presents... Interesting Motherfucker: (noun)
An individual exhibiting such uniqueness or individuality that he or she will cause a roomful of bar cronies to exclaim, "That's one interesting motherfucker!" Actual sexual relations with one's mother are not required.

Click here for more Interesting Motherfuckers.

By Wil Forbis

Lately, I've been reminiscing about my childhood growing up in the city of Honolulu, the capital of America's only island state, Hawaii. And mixed in with fond memories of girls in Hula skirts, the romantic music of Don Ho, and frequent overdoses from "ice" (Hawaiian Crystal Meth) is a featured attraction: Ninjas! Being that Hawaii is heavily influenced by Asian popular culture and mythology, Ninjas are as Hawaiian as apple pie (provided that pie contains Hawaiian apples, Hawaiian crust and is prepared by a Hawaiian chef.) You could not be a rough and tumble youngster in Honolulu during the 80's and not think Ninjas were cool. (Though perhaps not as much as this guy.) 

What did young Ninja (as we fancied ourselves) do in their free time? Well, we read plenty of Ninja instruction manuals, practiced throwing Ninja stars, and watched lots of Sho Kosugi movies!

"Sho Whatsugi?" you exclaim. "I think I ordered that last night at the 24-hour sushi buffet." No young asshopper, Sho Kosugi was the actor and action star who, more than any other motherfucker, was responsible for the Ninja craze of the 1980's. Thanks to Sho, millions of children went about playing with sharpened knives, five pointed Ninja stars and nunchucks while emulating the characters Sho portrayed onscreen. Why, I dare say the number of eyes removed from their sockets during Kosugi influenced horseplay must number in the thousands!

Let me pause for a second to accommodate some of my more naive readers who may be asking, "What is a Ninja?" Ninjas existed in feudal Japan and were masters of espionage and assassination. They practiced the martial art of Ninjitsu, a particularly deadly mode of fighting that focused on using eclectic weaponry designed to excite the imaginations of 13-year old boys.

Legend has it, that young Sho Kosugi spent much of his childhood learning Ninjitsu from a mysterious neighbor in his hometown of Shiba, Japan. This sounds like theatrical bullshit to me, but it is well established that Sho was a great practitioner of Shindo-Jinen Ryu Karate, Judo and Kendo and at 18 had become the all Japan Karate Champion. But this early success was not enough to satisfy young Sho, who then moved to the land of opportunity, America, to pursue a degree in economics. (Why, who would want to live the life of a ninja assassin when they could instead be an economist!?) Fortunately, Sho kept his skills up doing martial arts demos and participating in tournaments and his success eventually brought him to the attention of Hollywood big shots looking forward to carrying forth the success of the martial arts movies pioneered by Bruce Lee in the '70's. Lee, however, was a master of the Chinese martial art, Kung Fu . In the '80's, audiences wanted something new, something different. That something was Ninjas!

There were three principal films* that began and carried forth the Ninja craze of the decade. They were "Enter the Ninja" (1981), "Revenge of the Ninja" (1983) and "Ninja III: The Domination" (1984). Also pertinent was a short-lived but memorable TV show called "The Master." And because Sho acted in all of these we will be analyzing each of them below.

* The Sho Kosugi biography would probably disagree with me on this, and include later Kosugi Ninja films like "Pray for Death," but I really don't remember them having the same impact as the first three.

Enter the Ninja
While "Enter the Ninja" deserves credit for kicking off the Ninja craze, anyone with a ounce of integrity would have to concede it's a piece of crap. The film's producers, presumably tepid to offering up an Asian Ninja, instead presented pretty boy Franco Nero ("Die Hard II") as a Caucasian Ninja master who must battle the evil maniac who ordered the death of his friend and wants to blah, blah, blah. To be honest, I haven't seen the film in close to 20 years but I remember enough of it to know it's not worth re-watching. Sho plays the main Ninja baddie, a character named "Hasegawa," who has an all-out fight scene with Nero's "Good Ninja" at the climax. Trust me, just skip this one and roll up to..

Revenge of the Ninja
You know how sometimes a film just has perfect timing? For me "Revenge of the Ninja" was one such film. In 1983 I was at the height of my Ninjaphilia and along came a movie totally dedicated to Ninjas fighting, killing and destroying. Being that the film was rated R and I was under 17, I had to get my Mom to take me and my fellow Ninja-lover, Miles, to see the film. I still remember her gasping in horror at a scene in which one of the Ninjas lacerates a gangster's face with a bunch of metal shrapnel.

The plot to "Revenge of the Ninja" was sublime in its simplicity. Ninjitsu master Cho Osaki (played by Sho) returns to his ancestral home to discover most of his family has been assassinated by Ninjas. Of course, the Ninjas are still hanging around and Sho promptly wipes them out with some help from his gun wielding American friend, Braden. (There's some great scenes where the Ninjas showcase the "Let's-attack-him-one-at-a-time-as-opposed-to-all-at-once" style of fighting.) Once all the Ninjas are dead (It's never explained to the viewer's satisfaction exactly why they attacked in the first place.) Braden convinced Cho to move with his mother and infant son to America.

Six years later, Cho has teamed up with Braden in a successful Japanese doll importing business. Only Braden is actually using the dolls to smuggle heroin but is getting screwed over by the mob. In a delightful plot twist, it turns out Braden is also a ninja, and he starts assassinating the minions of a local greasy wop mob leader to get his attention. Cho and his family get caught up in the feud which leads to him facing off with both hoardes of Mafia henchmen and Braden's "Black Ninja" character.

Ninja III: The Domination
A year later and along came "Ninja III" which, despite its title, was not connected plotwise with either of the previous Ninja films. This time the story centers around a young woman (played by Lucinda Dickey - I remember being mildly amused at the time that her name had the word "Dick" in it) who gets possessed by an ghostly ninja who was only recently gunned down by the police. Thirsting for vengeance this spirit takes control of Lucinda's spellbound body and uses it to assassinate the various police officers who felled him. Sho plays a Ninja master from Japan who comes to American to track down the bad guy spirit. It's, uh, not as bad as it sounds, and does have a great Kosugi choreographed opening sequence where the cops dump thousands of rounds of ammunition trying to kill the evil Ninja. They finally succeed, but only with heavy losses of their side and the stirring realization that you don't fuck with Ninjas!

The Master
At the same time as he was filming "Ninja III," Sho started work on the television show, "The Master." While the show only had a thirteen episode run, its image is forever imprinted in the minds of Ninja-lovers young and old. "The Master" starred Lee Van Cleef (best known as "the bad" in "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly") as an aging white Ninja master training a young protégée played by Timothy Van Patton (now big time director of TV shows like "The Sopranos"). Sho's contribution to the show included choreographing the fight scenes, doubling for Van Cleef and occasionally dropping in as the "bad Ninja" character, Okasa.

"The Master" ended in 1984 and its passing symbolize the fact that the Ninja-craze that had begun with "Enter the Ninja" was beginning to fade. Sho did several more American Ninja films*, such as "Pray For Death" (1985), "Rage For Honor" (1986), and some non-Ninja martial arts movies like "Black Eagle" (1987) and a update of the classic Japanese "Zatoichi" blind swordsman movies, "Blind Fury" (1988). By then, Ninja were, like, so over, man. On a personal level, I had come to the conclusion that chicks dug rock stars more than Ninjas (or at least more than infantile young men who went around pretending to be Ninjas) and traded in my throwing stars for an electric guitar.

* To his credit, Sho never appeared in the retarded "American Ninja" series starring Michael Dudikoff.

But unlike a lot of once-trendy icons, Sho has done all right since fading from popular view. During the 90's he was involved in several "made-in-Japan" films and TV shows, many featuring his son Kane, who is now a established action star. He also pushed a series of Ninja Aerobics tapes, started the Sho Kosugi Institute, an organization dedicated to aiding young Asian actors, and contributed to the big time Playstation video game, "Techu: Stealth Assassins." (Never seen it as I haven't played a video game since "Galaga," but it's got Ninjas so it must be good.) Generally speaking Sho has managed to keep active* while gracefully moving out from in front of the camera to more behind the scenes roles.

* In 1987, falling prey to the anti-drug hysteria of the day, Sho joined NAD (Ninjas against Drugs), which is officially the 4th gayest thing I've ever heard of. I wonder if their battle cry was "GO NAD!"

And of course, given the cyclical nature of entertainment, who's to say the age of the Ninja will not again be upon us? As long as sugar-saturated little boys dream of vanquishing their enemies with lethal weaponry, it is a certainty that Ninjas will continue to capture popular imagination.  And with that realization in place I've little doubt that, one day, the Ninja will rise again.




Whaddaya mean, "How can I see you through the computer screen?" Forget it man, I'm just gonna let that Ninja kill you. See if I care.


# 1 - Throwing Stars
Obviously, the only place to start in a discussion of Ninja weapons is with the "star shuriken" as Sho calls it in "Revenge of the Ninja." Shuriken are star shaped knives that can be thrown at a Ninja's many enemies, piercing the target's throat or impaling his hand against a wooden column. In "ROTN" Sho recommends delivering a killing blow by sending the shuriken through the ocular cavity and into the victim's brain.

# 2 - Nunchucku
I've never been totally clear how nunchucks, made popular by Bruce Lee in "Enter the Dragon," could be a Ninja weapon since they were a Chinese creation. Either way, they're all over Sho's Ninja films. I recall hearing that they were originally designed by Chinese laborers to beat rice, and only turned into weapons when the overlords of the day banned all regular weaponry.

Acid logic reader Kicking Ass Fat Kid adds: "the nunchacku are a okinawan invention. they are a traditional karate-do weapon along with the bo(staff), tonfa(rice grinder handle), kama(sickle), sai (hand pitchfork), and eku(oar). just so you know, dillhole."

# 3 - Sai
Sai are a pair of dueling knives that can be used to puncture the vital organs of a Ninja's victims. (Like the French rapier, the sai do not have sharpened edges and thus cannot be used for slicing.) Perhaps the most popular character to use the sais is "Elektra," the female assassin from the mid-80's "Daredevil" comic books. (She was later brought to the big screen by the lovely Jennifer Garner in the "Daredevil" movie (piece of crap - skip it for "13 Going on 30."))

# 4 - Hand claws
These things were just plain cool. Ideally they could be used for climbing wooden buildings (Sho improbably climbs a skyscraper with them in "Revenge...") but can also be used as a weapon, slashing at your opponent's maw, rendering him mortally wounded and rolling on the floor screaming, "My face! You gouged open my face! Arrrghhhh! It hurts! Owwwww! My face! You fucked up my face. Ahhhhhh!"

Or something like that.

# 4 - Ninja-To
You might be looking at the accompanying graphic and saying, "What the hell - this looks like a regular, everyday sword. What makes it a 'Ninja' sword." Look closer my impertinent pupil, and you will see that the Ninja-To contains a perfectly straight blade, unlike the curved Samurai katana. With this knowledge you will be able to recognize the weapon if you are ever attacked by a Ninja. Of course, you'll soon be dead, but I'm sure the Ninja will be very impressed with your knowledge.

Wil Forbis is the pen named shared by such noted authors as James Ellroy, Katie Roiphe, and Jim Thompson. E-mail him, I mean, them, at

View Wil's Acid Logic web log, a stirring endorsement of sex with pandas!

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Additional Sho Kosugi Material:
Sho Kosugi - The Ninja :
Contains a lengthy bio .

Enter the Ninja :
Good all around Ninja site.

Ninjas Realm :
The place for Ninja nerds.

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