From Martial Artist to Action Actor

“Don’t think about ‘I want to be a famous’ . . . not like this” (Yukari Oshima, in English)

The female martial artist and action actor better known to Western audiences as Yukari Oshima has so far appeared in over 60 Taiwanese, Hong Kong, Philippino and Chinese films released between 1986 and 1999.  Despite being a Japanese national, Yukari has acted in only one Japanese movie, cast as a radio reporter in a special guest appearance.  Before her movie career Yukari had a number of action parts in Japanese television series and has recently again been sighted on Japanese television, in both action parts and reportedly appearing in a commercial to promote her home town of Fukuoka.  After living and working in the Philippines for a number of years, Yukari now appears to have returned to Japan.  One of her most recent films ("Leopard Hunting," 1998) was partly set in Fukuoka, a port city close to the Asian mainland on the island of Kyushu.

Despite appearing in key roles in several of Asian cinema’s cult classics (e.g., “Millionaire’s Express,” 1986, “Dreaming The Reality,”1991, “The Story of Ricky,” 1992) and featuring prominently in the “girls with guns” (GWG) genre of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Yukari has remained a relatively obscure and somewhat enigmatic figure for Western fans of Asian action cinema.  She never achieved the fame or box office of many other studio favorites, despite appearing alongside some of the best known stars.  As a result, Yukari’s film career presents a profile of physical brilliance - as well as considerable acting potential - stunted by cameo parts, typecasting, and carrying otherwise mediocre films on her talent and name. 

"She was a really tough cookie" (remark attributed to Vincent Lyn, martial artist)

In a filmed interview Yukari described herself as growing up enjoying martial arts movies.  As a teenager she trained in goju ryu karate with Master Miki.  This traditional, low stance Okinawan form involves rigid, linear strikes, in contrast to the more fluid Shaolin-influenced Chinese styles.  Her distinctive fighting style has also included skillful use of traditional weapons forms.  She acquired impressive proficiency with staff techniques (see “Angel The Kickboxer,” 1992, “Hard To Kill,” 1992 and “Angel of Vengeance,” 1993) the sai (“Avenging Quartet,” 1992) and Japanese sword (“Millionaire’s Express,” 1986).  She also apparently received instruction in Hung Gar and Philippino stick forms (displayed in “Outlaw Brothers,” 1990 and “Tapang Sa Tapang,” 1997, respectively).

At the peak of her physical condition Yukari was able to perform jumping split kicks at head height, forward and back flips, kip-ups, impressive combination kicks, as well as a split kick across her torso to either shoulder.  In “Kung Fu Wonder Child” (1989) she delivers an ax kick to the top of a man’s head while standing in front of him!  During the late 80s and early 90s her conspicuous thigh and shoulder development, muscle tone and battered knuckles attested to a high level of physical conditioning.  After a year of training with Sonny Chiba’s stunt school, Yukari was ready to go toe to toe with any action actor and - despite being scattered across so many poor or obscure movies - her screen legacy of fight scenes are among the most spectacular of all recent Asian action cinema.  Yukari performed her own action scenes without doubles and actively sought out the forceful reality of full-contact Hong Kong movies as a showcase for her own physical skill.