Karate for Life with Sonny Chiba

Karate for LifeAnother fun Sonny Chiba movie from Japan, this time with Sonny playing Mas Oyama of Kyokushin Karate fame in Karate for Life!

The movie begins with one of  Oyama’s famous challenge fights in a Karate dojo, introducing him to the audience as he whips down of the karate fighters in front of him.  We’re then lead into a meeting where Mas Oyama is offered to fight in Okinawa.

In order to make a heap of money, he teams up with a wrestling and Judo champion, so they can fight in these fixed bouts, purposely losing each fight.  The only problem is when Oyama fights he simply cannot lose purposefully.

When he wins too many fights, the gangsters go after the man who hired Oyama, beating him into a pulp.  The three men then go their separate ways.  From there Oyama is robbed and stuck on the streets.  From there he finds a group of kids and befriends them, (despite them having robbed him previously).

From there Oyama becomes a bit of a big brother to the kids, but it’s not long until another opportunity to fight comes up.  Unfortunately, Oyama is still unable to throw the fight, and this time it results in retaliation and the death of his friend.  From there Oyama and his friend the Judo Champion decide to take their revenge on the Gangsters.

Oyama vs the Karate School

This movie will get you pumped!

The first 5 minutes of the movie had me ready for more! Oyama walks into the dojo and demands to fight the head Sensei.  After being told he doesn’t fight people like Oyama, Oyama accuses the man of being a coward, having never actually fought with bare fists.

The Sensei then tells Oyama he must beat his 100 students, to which Oyama replies ‘As long as you’re number 101!’  The students then attack Oyama and he flogs each of them one by one before taking on the sensei, and kicking his ass too!

What an intro!  This was shaping up to be my favorite Chiba film!  But that’s pretty much the highlight for me.  The rest of the movie didn’t quite measure up to that scene, but it was still a decent story and had the usual Sonny Chiba feel to it.

We see his character being very morally driven.  Oyama finds a young prostitute trying to commit suicide and saves her, then gives her his jacket to warm her from the cold.  Then of course he helps the group of poor kids and even drives away some of their enemies.  This movie really shows us a vicious but morally driven man, described best with his own words:

‘Justice without power is nothing.  Power without justice is just violence’

Sonny Chiba

The Martial Arts and Action.

I loved watching the karate style of Oyama as demonstrated onscreen by Chiba.  But also interesting was the fighting style of the Judo champion as he threw his opponents one by one as they charged at him.

The action in this movie is not like ‘Streetfighter‘ in that the violence isn’t ridiculously full of gore (which can be entertaining also!) but instead offers decent pace backed up by well performed martial arts movements.

There was even a mirror scene extremely similar to that of Enter the Dragon at the end of the film.  I do think this was a little bit of a tip to Bruce Lee, who Chiba was lined up to work with before Bruce died.

The Verdict?

A strong start and a decent end, some good action (for a 70’s film especially) with a good performance by Chiba.  Check it out if you’re a Chiba fan. If not, I still recommend it :)

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