Shin'ichi Chiba (千葉 真一 Chiba Shin'ichi, born January 22, 1939), also known as Sonny Chiba, is a Japanese actor, singer, film producer, film director, and martial artist.
Chiba was one of the first actors to achieve stardom through his skills in martial arts, initially in Japan and later before an international audience.
Born Sadaho Maeda (前田 禎穂 Maeda Sadaho) in Fukuoka, Japan, he was the third of five children in the family of a military test pilot. When he was four years old, his father was transferred to Kisarazu, Chiba, and the family moved to Kimitsu, Chiba.
After Chiba went to junior high school in Kimitsu, the physical education teacher advised him to do artistic gymnastics. He also was passionate about track and field sports, baseball and volleyball. He participated in those four sports championships of Chiba Prefecture. In high school, Chiba dedicated himself to artistic gymnastics and won the National Sports Festival of Japan while in his third year. He enjoyed watching Western movies like Shane and High Noon.
Chiba went to the Nippon Sport Science University in 1957. He was a serious candidate for a place in the Japanese Olympic team in his late teens until he was sidelined by a back injury. While he was a university student, he began studying martial arts with the renowned Kyokushin Karate master Masutatsu "Mas" Oyama (whom he later portrayed in a trilogy of films), which led to a first-degree black belt on October 15, 1965, later receiving a fourth-degree on January 20, 1984.