Profile of Yasuaki Kurata

Name: Yasuaki Kurata
Date of Birth: 20 March 1946
Height: 5’8” (1.73 m)
Weight: N/A
Birth sign: Pisces
Country: Japan

TRAINING BACKGROUND

  • Influenced mainly by his father, Kurata started learning Kenpō Karate when he was 8 years old. He has a 5th dan rank in this art.
  • Upon entering high school, his father also advised Kurata to take up Judo, in which he currently possesses a 3rd dan.
  • In college, he started learning Aikido and is presently at the 2nd dan level.
  • On his training he says: “During this time of adolescence, all I did was train martial arts. That has become my basis for life. It’s now an invaluable fortune as I value every day of my life” (taken from Fist of Legend DVD, Dragon Dynasty, 2008).

Trailer for Legend of a Fighter

 


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Career retrospective

Yasuaki Kurata was always destined to be in films. He went to Nihon University and majored in art, with his main forte being acting. His first breakthrough Hong Kong role was The Angry Guest (1972), a film that launched his image as a formidable on-screen villain. Subsequently, he was put to good effect in films like Four Riders (1972) and Knight Errant (1973) starring Jimmy Wang Yu.

At a time when traditional kung fu films were in decline, Kurata returned to Japan where its popularity was flourishing. He starred in his own TV series, Fight! Dragon (1974). However, he was frustrated when working with other stuntmen who didn’t have the same timing as their Hong Kong counterparts. To solve this problem, Kurata opened his own training school called the ‘Kurata Action Club’ in 1976. The club itself has spawned several well-known Japanese action stars and directors. Most notably, Kurata was the Sensei of Koichi Sakamoto, who would eventually become the leader of The Alpha Stunt Team. Sakamoto has established himself as a top director and fight choreographer with works including Guyver: Dark Hero (1994), Drive (1997) and Broken Path (2008). Action starlet, Yukari Ôshima, was also known to train with some of the team..

Despite his work in Japan, Yasuaki Kurata was still ever present on the Hong Kong action scene and his roles became even more varied. One example was when he played an honourable Ninja warrior in the Shaw Brothers classic, Heroes of the East (1978). Kurata would tackle one of his most poignant roles in Legend of a Fighter (1982), directed by Yuen Woo-Ping. In this film, he plays Chiang Ho-Shan, a teacher to the young Huo Yuan-Jia who will eventually become his enemy. Kurata perfectly plays a man who is conflicted when fighting on behalf of his own country against an opponent who he considers his friend.

During the mid to late eighties, Kurata worked closely with Sammo Hung. He featured in Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars (1985) and Eastern Condors (1987) and even played a rare comedic role in Millionaire’s Express (1986). In the Lucky Stars film, we get to see him show off his mastery of the Sais (a traditional weapon used in the Okinawan martial arts) against Hung’s double tennis rackets.

The role Kurata is probably best known for is Fuimo Funakoshi in Fist of Legend (1994). Similarly, to Legend of a Fighter, he plays a man who is obligated to fight against the Chinese but values human life regardless of nationality. The duel between Kurata and Jet Li not only shows the physical dexterity of the two fighters but also captures a beautiful dialogue regarding the philosophical value of what martial arts represent. The scene is one of many reasons why Fist of Legend is one of the last great kung fu films of the period.

One other notable role that Kurata played was the ‘Master’ in So Close (2002). The film was released when kung fu action was a big popular around the world but the quality was dwindling. So Close was one of the few gems that delivered the action quota and the final showdown between the heroines and Kurata is one of the best in recent years. Despite Yasuaki Kurata’s advanced years, he is still making appearances in big films like Jackie Chan’s Shinjuku Incident (2009) and Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (2010) starring Donnie Yen. Kurata has fought all the on-screen greats, is very experienced in the realm of kung fu cinema and earned his title as a genuine martial arts master. His body of work speaks volumes so his name cements itself as legend in the hearts of martial arts’ and film fans across the globe.

Trailer for Fist of Legend

 


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Selected Filmography

YEARTITLEROLE
1972The Angry GuestKatsu
1972Four RidersLei Tai
1973Knight ErrantTetsuro
1973Bruce Lee and ISun
1974Fight! DragonDragon
1974Sister Street Fighter: Hanging by a ThreadShunsuke Tsubaki
1975The Return of the Sister Street FighterGo Kurosaki
1978Heroes of the EastTakeno
1982Legend of a FighterChiang Ho-Shan
1985Twinkle Twinkle Lucky StarJapanese Assassin
1986Millionaires ExpressSamurai
1987Eastern CondorsGeneralÕs elite soldier
1994Fist of LegendFuimo Funakoshi
2002So CloseMaster
2009Shinjuku IncidentTaro Watagawa
2009Blood: The Last VampireKato Takatora
2010Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen ZhenTsuyoshi Chikaraishi
2012The Last TycoonNishino

Wing-Ho Lin is a big cinema fan. His forte is Hong Kong action cinema of the 70s and 80s, but likes to look at undiscovered action films beyond HK. He has trained in Wing Chun and Shaolin (Sanshou), and enjoys writing.

1 Comment
  1. Reply
    Michael Heanue February 26, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    This guy is briliant in Legend of a Fighter and in Fist of Legend. Great actor with a great presence on camera.

    Love the scene in Fist of Legend where he and Jet Li blindfold themselves to even up the fight when he gets some dirt in his eye.

    Get the lads round and stick these on.

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