Steven Frederic Seagal (born April 10, 1952) is an actor (52 roles in films), a producer (28 films), a screenwriter (8 films), a guitarist (7 films), a director (1 film, won the Worst Director at Razzie Awards), a martial arts instructor, a choreographer, and stunt coordinator who holds American, Russian, and Serbian citizenship.
Seagal was granted Serbian citizenship on 11 January 2016, following several visits to the country, and has been asked to train Aikido to the Serbian Special Forces. The martial arts star said earlier that he would like to establish an Aikido school in the Serbian capital of Belgrade. Also being a guitarist, Seagal, who has a large fan base in Serbia, took the stage for an open-air concert in Belgrade on New Year’s Eve 2015. The actor stressed that Serbia has suffered injustice in recent history, adding that Americans harbor prejudices against Serbs as well as against their role in the Balkan conflicts in the 1990s, RIA Novosti reported.
Seagal was granted Russian citizenship on 3 November 2016, according to Russia President spokesman Dmitry Peskov, “He is a rather well-known actor, which became the reason for granting him Russian Federation citizenship … He was asking quite insistently and over a lengthy period to be granted citizenship.” Steven is a frequent guest in Russia, to which he has ancestral ties. While visiting Moscow, he told that his grandfather was a Russian Mongol, while his father is said to be a Russian Jewish emigrant. His grandmother was originally from Vladivostok before she moved to America where his parents were raised. Answering the question what he was doing in Russia, being a US patriot, Seagal replied that he is against the conflict between the two countries.
In his political views and activism Seagal may be seen as a controversial figure to many. He supported the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014. He played a concert there in which he brandished a T-shirt bearing an image of Vladimir Putin. He described Vladimir Putin as “one of the great living world leaders” and said that he “would like to consider Putin as a brother.” He depicted Ukraine as a country controlled by fascists. His take on Ukraine and Russian citizenship granted by Putin, caused Ukraine to ban Seagal because he “committed socially dangerous actions.”
Seagal received his first dan accreditation in 1974 after he had moved to Japan to further his martial arts training. After spending many years there honing his skills, he achieved the ranking of a 7th dan in the Japanese martial art – the first foreigner to operate an aikido dojo in Japan. Seagal’s fighting style was rather different from that of other on-screen martial arts dynamos such as Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme, who were predominantly fighters from striking arts background such as karate or tang soo do. However, aikido is built around using an opponent’s inertia and body weight to employ various locks, chokes and holds that incapacitate him.
Seagal is the guardian of Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo, the only child of the 10th Panchen Lama of Tibet. When she studied in the United States, Seagal was her minder and bodyguard. “Princess of Tibet” she is considered important in Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan-Chinese politics, as she is the only known offspring in the over 620-year history of either the Panchen Lama or Dalai Lama reincarnation lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. Panchen Lama is one of the most important figures in the Gelug tradition, with its spiritual authority second only to Dalai Lama. “Panchen” is an abbreviation of “Pandita” and “Chenpo”, meaning “Great scholar.”
Unbeknownst to many, in 1997 Seagal publicly announced that one of his Buddhist teachers, His Holiness Penor Rinpoche, had accorded Seagal as a tulku, the reincarnation of a Buddhist Lama named Chungdrag Dorje, a 17th-century terton (treasure revealer) of the Nyingma, the oldest sect of Tibetan Buddhism. This initial announcement was met with some disbelief until Penor Rinpoche himself gave a confirmation statement on Seagal’s new title as a mere recognition, whereas ancient enthronement as a tulku would require first a “lengthy process of study and practice.” Seagal has repeatedly discussed his involvement in Buddhism and how he devotes many hours studying and meditating this ancient Eastern religion.
Seagal spoke out against the protests during the United States national anthem by professional athletes, stating, “I believe in free speech, I believe that everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but I don’t agree that they should hold the United States of America or the world hostage by taking a venue where people are tuning in to watch a football game and imposing their political views.”