Chapter I: Growing Up in Japan (1948-1968)

Born on June 17, 1948 in Shiba, a suburb of Tokyo, Japan (日本・東京都港区芝), Shōichi Kosugi (小杉正一), better known to ninja movie fans all over the world as Sho Kosugi (ショー・コスギ),  first began his martial arts training at the age of 5 and a half.  Sho was the youngest child and only son of a fisherman.  His father Fusatarō (房太郎), along with his mother and 2 older sisters Masako (正子) and Setsuko (節子), urged him to learn some form of martial art, because although tall for his age, he was rather weak due to a hole in his lungs.


Kosugi family photo at 5 months old in November 1948.

At 5 months old with family.

At age 3 with sister Setsuko.

At age 4 and a half with one of his sisters.

At age 5 with his sister.


Reluctant, but wanting to honor his parents wishes and become stronger, Sho began studying Shindō Jinen Ryū Karate-jutsu (神道自然流空手術) with master and originator of the style Yasuhiro Konishi (小西康裕), at a dojo about a block away from his home.  This style of karate, which not only draws heavily from both Shōtōkan (松濤館), from which it originated, and Shitō Ryū (糸東流) Karate, but also extensively utilizes Aikidō (合気道), Jū-Jitsu (柔術) and Kendō (剣道) principles and techniques, was young Sho's first exposure to the martial arts.  Though frightened by his much older classmates, some of whom had facial scars and appeared to be yakuza (ヤクザ), young Sho nevertheless persevered, particularly after his mother told him that she'd give him some candy if he attended classes twice a week.

Yasuhiro Konishi


A year or so later, when Sho was 6, he attended acting school in Tokyo for about six months, but the hyperactive boy was thrown out by the teacher who told Sho he had no patience and that he'd never be an actor.



By age 7, Sho no longer needed to be bribed with candy and was fully devoted to his martial arts studies, regularly attending classes 3 or 4 times a week.  Around this time, Sho met Yamamoto (山本), a mysterious neighbor.  Uncle Yamamoto (山本叔父) as Sho called him, was a quiet 70-year-old man who kept to himself and whom the other neighbors regarded as being strange.  Against his family's wishes, Sho would visit the old hermit everyday after school and they would have long talks about Ninjutsu, the art of the ninja.  For the next 5 years, the old man would teach the young Kosugi ninjutsu techniques and weaponry in an informal manner.  Then suddenly one day when Sho was 12 years old, he came home to find that Uncle Yamamoto had disappeared, never to be heard from again.

In subsequent years, while continuing his Karate training, Sho began his studies in Kendō (剣道) and Jūdō (柔道) while in Junior High School, where he also played Baseball, and then began his studies in Iaidō (居合道) and Kobudō (古武道) while attending Nichidai Sanko High School.  While playing in various Baseball tournaments, Sho was scouted by Nichidai University and by the pros.  However, after attending a game between the prestigious Keio and Waseda Universities, Sho decided to study harder in hopes of following in his second sister's footsteps by attending Keio University in Tokyo.


Despite focusing a lot of time on his school studies and baseball, Sho continued practicing the martial arts, receiving his shodan (1st degree black belt) in Shindō Jinen Ryū at age 16.  Within the span of the next two years, Sho also received his nidan (2nd degree black belt) in Jūdō, his shodan in Kendō, and had also studied Kyudō (弓道) (archery).  By the time he was 18, Sho's martial arts studies had helped him to become All-Japan Karate Champion.



Shortly thereafter in 1968 at age 19, after a battle with depression and thoughts of suicide due to his failing university entrance exams in Japan for 2 years in a row, Sho made the decision to relocate to the United States to attend College in California following a heart-to-heart talk with his older sister Setsuko, who'd suggested he should apply to American schools.  As Sho's family was very poor, his two sisters set about borrowing money and helped their younger brother buy a one-way ticket to America.