phrases Al Woods
Chuck Johnson, also referred to as Japan’s First Black Stuntman, has lived an attention-grabbing life, to say the least. We bought an opportunity to take a seat down with this grasp of martial arts and talk about how he went from Taekwondo knowledgeable to progressive stuntman to visionary movie producer. His Dojo, Quiet Flame in Japan, doubles as an motion actor’s coaching facility. And his manufacturing firm, Quiet Flame Movies, is pushing boundaries on this planet of movie. Right here is our interview with the superb Chuck Johnson.
I heard you have been a Taekwondo champion. May you inform me just a little bit extra about how you bought into Taekwondo?
Properly, I’ve bought a reasonably large stature now, however once I was youthful, I used to be fairly skinny. And rising up in Detroit, after all, I had run-ins with bullies. So, once I was 12 years outdated, I found Jackie Chan. And I used to be like, “Oh, my god, anyone systemized preventing. That’s unimaginable.” I used to be immediately obsessed. I requested my mom how I might kick excessive and do the splits like the fellows within the motion pictures, and he or she mentioned “It’s a must to stretch every single day”, so I began stretching religiously. I’d additionally document Jackie Chan motion pictures from TV and watch them time and again making an attempt to repeat the actions. I believe I might need damaged the rewind button on our VCR doing it a lot, haha. By 15, after my household had moved out of Detroit and right into a suburb, I already had full entrance and facet splits and had been doing this for years. My Korean greatest pal took me and one other pal for a trial at a Taekwondo faculty he had simply began at, and I used to be immediately hooked. I used to be lastly doing actual martial arts; and already being actually versatile, and having a way of kicking from emulating motion pictures, I took to it instantly. Out of the three of us who began Taekwondo that day, I used to be the one one who really caught with it. Inside two and a half years I earned my black belt, and fewer than every week later, I used to be a Michigan State Junior Olympic champion. It was the primary time in my life I used to be ever actually good at one thing. The self-discipline that Taekwondo instilled in me early on additionally took me from a C-minus pupil at school, to straight A’s. Finally, I wished to attempt to go to the Olympics, so I went to Korea for coaching, which introduced me to Asia for the primary time. I discovered about all the opposite Korean martial arts and went on from desirous to grasp Taekwondo to wanting to know the whole lot throughout the world of martial arts and preventing: even weapons, hoplology, the character of human battle, and negotiation, the whole lot. I wished to have the ability to perceive all of it holistically, which is among the issues that ended up retaining me in Asia.
And the way did you make that transition from Taekwondo champion to a stuntman?
I cherished Taekwondo a lot that I wished to go to the Olympics. However I had no concept how exhausting it was. I simply knew that Korea was the Mecca, so I needed to go there if I wished to essentially be good. I skilled in Korea for about three years by way of college research overseas applications, however finally, I took each single class that you could take, so the subsequent closest place I’d go was Hong Kong. I skilled and competed there as properly, and the extra I traveled and noticed the world, and all of the totally different features of martial arts, the extra I noticed that I wished extra out of life than merely being a fighter. There was an excessive amount of world to see and issues to study. In my mid-twenties, I made a decision to maneuver on from the Olympic dream as a result of there was simply much more that I wished out of life. That was a tough name to make; as a result of I used to be so critical about it for thus lengthy…and it meant discovering a brand new approach for myself. So I moved to Japan. I figured I had lived in China and Korea, so intuitively, it was a pure step. Like lots of people, I got here by way of English educating, however virtually instantly after I arrived, I used to be employed as a bodyguard for visiting Hollywood celebrities due to my measurement, my construct and the truth that I used to be a local English speaker. These days you see plenty of westerners in Tokyo, however on the time, it wasn’t quite common. Bodyguarding was good work, however I wasn’t doing it sufficient to essentially make a dwelling, so a pal recommended that I get into modeling. I walked into an performing/modeling company (in Japan for foreigners, most businesses do each), and so they informed me they have been searching for martial arts actors for Godzilla: Closing Wars. The casting had actually simply closed an hour earlier than, however the agent ran exterior with me, I took off my shirt and we bought one good flying kick image. They submitted it, and I used to be requested to audition, and I bought into the movie.
I fell in love with it all of the second I stepped on set. I requested one of many stunt guys how I can maintain doing this, and he launched me to Yuji Shimomura. Now Yuji is among the prime motion administrators in Japan, however on the time, he was simply up and coming. He invited me to coach along with his group, so I did. I skilled with them for 2 years earlier than I bought one other job. On the time, there have been no different overseas stunt guys there, so I saved pondering that that meant that if I might make it, I’d be the pioneer. That thought saved me going for a very long time. Finally, that’s what occurred. Folks throughout the trade began realizing that there was a overseas man who might do stunts and everybody wished to make use of me as a result of I used to be distinctive. Over time, I discovered to talk Japanese, and function in Japanese tradition, and at that time, the work began rolling in.
Now you’ve bought this title as “Japan’s first black stuntman”. How does it really feel to be so well-known?
It’s attention-grabbing for a number of causes. One is that typically amongst entertainers, stunt guys often don’t get well-known as a result of we all the time cowl our faces to make the primary actor look good (if we’re doubling) or so we are able to come again and play a special particular person the subsequent day. However in my case, individuals wished to make use of me as a result of I seemed so totally different, so that they wished me to be seen. This meant that I often ended up being a high-profile dangerous man. Normally a “ultimate boss” type of character; so it meant I all the time needed to act as properly. That being the case, it meant I all the time needed to act, and ship dialog earlier than the stunt work; which finally result in my getting as a lot performing work as stunt work. I’ve all the time been merely been each. Even now, in case you take a look at my resume on my web site or IMDB, I’ve simply as a lot performing coaching and performing expertise as I do in stunts. Completely different manufacturing firms rent me in both school or generally each. When I’m doing Movement Seize, generally I shall be a major actor, half of the background actors, and a stunt man for the opposite actors all on the identical time, haha. It’s additionally attention-grabbing as a result of right here in Japan, generally there are some individuals who simply acknowledge my face instantly and ask for an autograph. However lots of people will simply know my face however not know from the place. Folks will say “Have we met earlier than?” after which once I inform them what I do, they’ll instantly bear in mind me from some film or TV present they noticed the week earlier than or one thing. Weirdly sufficient, I’ve gotten much more notoriety exterior of Japan as a result of what I did was so uncommon. Particularly in America. Type of like how everybody in Japan is aware of Ichiro as a result of he performs main league baseball in America, however the common American in all probability doesn’t know who he’s. That type of factor. However I like it as a result of it means I get to maintain a low profile in my every day life and take my son to high school like some other Dad.
Quiet Flame. That’s your dojo, proper? May you inform me about that?
I began Quiet Flame as a result of individuals saved asking me if I knew some other overseas stunt individuals who might work on their movies. They felt like having American stunt individuals of their film made it appear to be the film’s in America, subsequently making it cooler. So, I had some college students come over to Japan from the Worldwide Stunt College the place I taught. Finally, because the demand grew, and I might provide extra work, to maintain extra individuals, I used to be in a position to construct a group right here in Japan. Plus, I had this lengthy historical past with Taekwondo and martial arts that I wished to share with others earlier than I turned too outdated to maneuver properly. Once I first moved to Japan, I used to be coaching at a dojang that was operated by the Japanese nationwide Taekwondo group coach, however after he began a college program, and bought too busy with it, the dojang shrank to unsustainable numbers. They didn’t have a head coach anymore, and finally, it sadly bought down to simply two guys. On the time, I solely had one pupil myself, and so they had a very good house, so I requested if I might are available and function it. At first, it was simply us 3, however over time, it grew to have 100 individuals, 3 children applications throughout town, and a stunt coaching facility. All of it occurred organically and I by no means even marketed it.
So how did you transition from having your personal dojo and coaching stunt individuals to directing motion pictures and beginning Quiet Flame Movies?
I had spent a few years on YouTube, educating martial arts and, finally, I constructed a fairly first rate following. At one level, my channel was rising my 1600% a 12 months. This was when Youtube Japan was simply beginning, and internationally, they wished to push for Youtube Pink to indicate that they may do dramatic content material the identical approach that Netflix or Amazon might. This was again when the opposite streaming providers have been simply beginning off, and so they weren’t tremendous properly established. So YouTube wished to compete in that area. Properly, I bought into this program that partnered with Toei Studios. They took 10 scripts into this system and the highest 3 have been chosen and given entry to the studio’s sources. My script was one of many three chosen. It was known as “Fists of Absinthe.” It was a couple of samurai-obsessed black dude who goes to Japan, drinks absinthe, and hallucinates about having to defend his sneakers from ninjas and samurai. So, mainly, I discovered produce content material by way of Youtube, after which leveraged that information into being a movie producer. Fists of Absinthe gained a full awards at festivals, and that gave me the arrogance that so long as I stayed disciplined, saved striving to enhance, and saved studying, I might produce even higher content material.
What’s subsequent for Chuck Johnson?
The subsequent large factor is pushing ahead with “Eastbound Visitors.” Greater than something I wish to increase consciousness of the difficulty of intercourse trafficking. I wish to let individuals know that intercourse trafficking is one thing that’s occurring proper now. It’s not simply occurring in Japan. It’s occurring in my hometown of Detroit. It occurs all around the world. And it’s not simply occurring to girls. It occurs to kids, trans individuals, and males as properly. And these persons are scarred for all times after going via this expertise. So, I simply wish to increase consciousness of this difficulty and let individuals know that it’s occurring so we are able to know what steps must be taken. That is the imaginative and prescient for Quiet Flame Movies; to make motion pictures that aren’t simply entertaining, however may have a constructive social affect as properly, and Eastbound Visitors would be the flagship movie.