The popularity of Steven Seagal is a complicated subject; people are generally very partial in their opinion. His fans have called him "The Great One", and consider him to be one of the best martial artists and most underrated action stars of today, while his critics belittle his acting talent, his weight gain later in his career, his extensive use of body doubles in fight scenes, and his character, calling him a womanizer with Mafia connections and having a habit of embellishing the truth. The facts speak to both sides of the debate—Hollywood visionary, career exaggerator, holy man, or martial arts avenger; Seagal has certainly earned his fame one way or another.
Steven Seagal was born on April 10, 1951, in Lansing, Michigan to a Jewish father Stephen (a high school math teacher), and Irish Catholic mother Patricia (an emergency room technician). In his youth, he relocated to Fullerton, California and began studying the martial arts under the direction of renowned shito-ryu karate master Fumio Demura and aikido under Rod Kobayashi, the President of the Western States Aikido Federation. This was the beginning of his life-long focus on Asian phenomena, with a particular emphasis on Japan. In his late teens, Seagal became part of Demura's Karate Demonstration Team and performed daily demonstrations in the former Japanese Village and Deer Park, in Southern Californina. In 1974 he was promoted by Kobayashi Sensei to Shodan in Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido.
As far as other information from his early years, he graduated from Buena Park High School in Buena Park, California, and held one of his first jobs at a Burger King. Some sources say that he attended college at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California, as well as Fullerton College in Fullerton. This information contradicts other sources, which say Seagal left America for Japan at the age of 17 to study aikido. Whatever actually happened remains unclear, due to Seagal's secrecy on the matter.
Aikido in Japan
During a seminar in Southern California, he met Miyako Fujitani, whom he later married. Fujitani's mother owned an aikido dojo, the Tenshin Dojo in Juso, a small rough suburb of Osaka, Japan.
It is confirmed that Seagal moved to Japan around the time of his marriage, and changed affiliation from Koichi Tohei's Ki Society and Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido to the Hombu Aikikai. Sensei Seagal did factually battle the yakuza (Japanese mafia) over the rights to the Tenshin Dojo, which his wife's father lost in a gambling game. Older students such as Jimmy Berkley and Nick Scoggins have verified Seagal's encounters with mafiosi who would come to the dojo looking to intimidate him. The debt eventually went away, and Seagal was eventually promoted to go-dan (5th degree). He was the dojo-cho (chief instructor) of the dojo until he left in 1982, after spending about 10 years in Japan.
Seagal initially returned to Taos, New Mexico with senior student and later stuntman Craig Dunn. He opened a dojo, but was gone much of the time, pursuing his film career and other unknown business. Dunn stayed in New Mexico and is there to this day, still running the dojo. Seagal returned to Japan, and came back to the U.S. with senior student Haruo Matsuoka in 1983.
The two opened an Aikido dojo. This school was initially located in Burbank, California, but later moved to the city of West Hollywood. Seagal left Matsuoka in charge of the dojo, which he ran until the two parted ways in 1997.
Seagal's first venture into the film industry occurred when he was hired as the stunt co-ordinator for the 1982 film The Challenge, starring Toshiro Mifune and Scott Glenn.
Inspired by his inclusion in the film, Seagal returned to the United States more than a decade after he left, in order to pursue a career in the film industry. Following The Challenge, he worked as a stunt co-ordinator for the 1983 James Bond film, Never Say Never Again.
Seagal's first movie, Above the Law
Seagal's acting career took off when, by chance, Michael Ovitz, the then president of one of the most powerful talent agencies in Hollywood, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), came to Seagal's Aikido Studio in Burbank, California and became his student. Ovitz, who was very supportive of Seagal’s acting ambitions, personally financed a screen test for Seagal around 1987. Warner Brothers Pictures, who was looking to capitalize on the profitability of action stars at the time, were impressed by what they saw and signed him to a 4-picture contract.
From there, Seagal began work on his first film, Above the Law (also known as Nico in the United Kingdom and Europe), with director Andrew Davis. In it, Seagal played Nico, a vice squad cop in Chicago who becomes suspicious when suspects in a drug raid are set free and Nico is asked to resign from his position. The film, which heavily relied on Seagal’s martial arts fight sequences was a hit, and he quickly became a favorite among action fans.
1990s: the Action Hero years
Following the success of Above the Law, Seagal made three more pictures (Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, and Out for Justice) that were modest box office hits, but finally found mainstream success in 1992, with the release of Under Siege. The film, which reunited Seagal with Andrew Davis, was a blockbuster in America and abroad, and ultimately confirmed Seagal’s place among action stars.
Riding high on the success Under Siege brought him, Seagal next made his directorial debut with On Deadly Ground (1994), playing an oil rig explosives expert who tries to single-handedly save Alaska from an evil oil corporation, run by Michael Caine. This movie probably is the least understood of all Seagal's efforts. Seagal used this movie to stress the issues of pollution, environmental destruction, and corporate collusion. Some (including Utne Reader) found it to be an entertaining fantasy of eco-terrorism; a few saw it as tragically misunderstood comic genius; most, however, were unmoved - it was a failure with audiences and financially hurt his career.
He tried to recover with a sequel to Under Siege titled Under Siege 2: Dark Territory in 1995, and a cop drama (The Glimmer Man) in 1996, but both fell short of expectations. Following his first supporting role in the Kurt Russell film Executive Decision (in which Seagal was incorrectly billed in pre-release marketing as a starring role), he tried once again to make an environmentally-conscious film with 1997’s Fire Down Below, this time playing an EPA agent fighting industrialists dumping toxic waste in the Kentucky hills region. While movie fans had mixed reviews, it was once again a failure commercially.
Retreat to video
The DVD cover art for one of Seagal's Direct-to-video releases, Into the Sun
The next year, he would make The Patriot, another environmental thriller which was his first direct-to-video release in the United States (though it was released theatrically in most of the world). Seagal produced this film with his own money, and the film was shot on-location on and near his farm in Montana.
After taking a couple years off to produce The Prince of Central Park, a more gentle film, Seagal’s career had something of a resurgence in March, 2001 with the release of Exit Wounds. Although the film had few martial arts fight scenes to which Seagal fans were accustomed, it represented a surprise commercial success. This renewed success however, was short-lived, as his next two projects, Ticker co-starring Tom Sizemore and filmed in San Francisco, and Half Past Dead, starring rap star Ja Rule, failed with audiences at the box office.
Seagal’s career has since gone into decline. As of December 2005, every film he has made since 2003 has been released direct-to-video in North America, with only limited theatrical releases in the rest of the world. These movies are routinely criticized by both fans and detractors alike as being of poor overall quality, and will often question whether or not he really has his heart into making movies anymore. Although he has not seen much success in this period, he did star in a US Mountain Dew commercial in 2003/2004 in which he parodied his tough-guy persona, and was well-received.
Seagal has produced many of the movies that he stars in, and has also participated in writing and directing. Seagal's roles do not fit the standard action hero archetype; instead, Seagal's characters are usually "born perfect," displaying no limitations, character flaws, or character development (as is typically included in the story arc for most action heroes). Instead, Seagal's characters are often associated with attributes given to action movie antagonists or villains, such as clandestine government associations (Under Siege), great wealth and high-level corporate ties (On Deadly Ground), high-level biochemical research skill (The Patriot), etc. Seagal's characters always hold all the cards, and cannot be beaten or even slowed down.
This invincible, perfectly controlled protagonist is often hard for audiences to relate to, and may be partially to blame for his lack of success in recent years. While his acting performance in Above The Law gained praise from the likes of Roger Ebert, Seagal has repeatedly faced criticism from both actors and fans who accuse him of playing "the same character" in many of his movies, as well as displaying a lack of emotional range. In fact, some people refer to embracing typecasting as "Seagalism".
Stuntman abuse controversy
(From On Deadly Ground, 1994).
Seagal reportedly has been rough on stuntmen. During the filming of Exit Wounds, he injured a number of stuntmen, as well as his costar, DMX. He also would reportedly "kick guys in the nuts to see if they were wearing cups" . Steven Quadros, a fight trainer, has stated that he knows men who have needed surgery after being injured by Seagal .
One incident is widely repeated: On one movie set, upon injuring a friend of stuntman Gene LeBell, as well as making the statement that his high level of "ki" could prevent him from being choked out, Gene was reportedly forced to place a choke hold on Seagal, as again he made it clear he was attacking the testicles (see []).
Due to the rumored legal actions related to these events, the rest is unclear. However, many recounts (including material originally appearing in the New York Times and Vanity Fair ; ; ; ; ; ; ) relate these common elements: Gene apparently choked him out, and Seagal made the statement that he wasn't ready. A second time Seagal was put in a chokehold, he became unconscious and lost bowel control. Upon waking up he threw Gene off the set. A writ was filed against LeBell; if LeBell speaks of this event, Seagal intends to sue aggressively.
Seagal and LeBell have neither confirmed nor denied these events, which tends to lend credibility to them.
Allegations of Sexual Harrassment
Throughout the nineties, Seagal was accused of sexual harassment by employees and prospective actresses. Ned Zeman in Vanity Fair quotes an actress who described Seagal's new spin on the casting-couch lure. According to the woman, Seagal had asked her to take off her top and groped her breasts in order to show her where her spiritual "meridian points" were located.
Actress Jenny McCarthy was one of Seagal's casting couch victims. “They were casting Playmates for Under Siege 2,” she recalled. “I was the last audition, dressed frumpy and plain, the way I usually go, and I walk into his office and it’s only Steven. His office has a huge shag carpet – shag, I’ll repeat that, shag – and a huge screaming casting couch. Casting, casting, casting, casting couch. And he says, ‘Listen, I can’t tell what your body looks like with what you’re wearing, so why don’t you stand up and take off your dress?’”
“I started crying, and I said, ‘My video’s for sale for $14.99, go buy it if you want to see.’ And I ran out to my car, and he grabbed my arm and followed me and said, ‘Don’t ever tell this to anybody.’ I was like, ‘Dude, you are gonna regret this one day.’”
In addition to acting and aikido, Seagal also plays the guitar, and his songs have been featured in several of his movies (such as Fire Down Below and Ticker). In 2005, he released his first album, Songs from the Crystal Cave, which has a mix of pop, world, and blues music. It also features duets with Tony Rebel, Lt. Stichie, Lady Saw, and Stevie Wonder. One of his album tracks, "Girl It's Alright," was released as a single in parts of the world and has been made into a music video. The soundtrack to Seagal's 2005 film Into the Sun features several songs from the album.
Seagal maintains a ranch in Colorado and a home in the Mandeville Canyon section of Brentwood, a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles.
Seagal's holiness and martial arts skill led to his godfathering a member of the Buddhist elite. Left to right: Dalai Lama, Seagal.
Seagal has gained some notoriety for being a bigamist. When he left his first wife Miyako Fujitani to go back to America (reportedly, Steven's last words to her were,"You are crazy; I want a divorce"), he married former Days of Our Lives actress Adrienne La Russa, despite his divorce to Fujitani not yet being finalized. During his marriage to La Russa he met actress/model Kelly LeBrock, with whom he began a relationship and who eventually became pregnant with his child. When news of this came about, Seagal's marriage to La Russa was annulled, and he then married LeBrock in September 1987. Their marriage lasted until 1994, when LeBrock filed divorce papers citing "irreconciable differences". This can be more or less attributed to the affair Seagal had with Arrissa Wolf, who was hired to be a nanny to Seagal and Lebrock's children. Although he still has a relationship with Wolf, they have never announced intentions to get married.
Seagal has six children from three of the four relationships he's been involved in. With Fujitani, he had a son, Kentaro Seagal (b. 1976), and a daughter, Ayako Fujitani (b. December 5, 1979). His three children with LeBrock included two daughters Annaliza (b. 1987) and Arrissa (b. 1993), as well as a son, Dominic (b. 1990). Seagal and Wolf have one daughter, Savannah (b. 1996).
In addition to siring biological children, Seagal's real-life martial arts skill and status as a high-ranked Tibetan Buddhist have also placed him in the role of godfather to a Tibetan holy child, Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo. Rinzinwangmo, or "Renji," is the only child of the 10th Panchen Lama of Tibet. Renji studied in the United States for a brief period, and her family relied on Seagal for her safekeeping. 
Although its merit as an academic subject is a topic for debate  , there is such a thing as Seagalogy. It’s first known origins seem to have come around 2002, by internet film columnist Vern. Vern, who has said himself his goal was to “study each one of these movies closer than any sane person would, come out the other end alive and then present my findings”, has also said on updates on his site that he has been working on putting Seagalogy into book form “for about 3 years now” (site update 11/7/5). Some have brushed it off as a joke, while others do believe that it may happen, as Vern has stated on several occasions he is a fan of Seagal and has reviewed his movies shortly after their release dates.
Seagalogy does not have many known participants, although a joke site, titled seagalology.com, appeared in late 2005. This site, which is updated sparsely, contains primarily derogatory comments on Seagal. The site’s author has even gone as far as stating in his disclaimer that it is a “joke site” and that whatever is written on it should be “taken in jest”. 
Seagal's other identities
As a modern polymath, Seagal has been honored by additional names which recognize his other talents. He has been proclaimed Chungdrag Dorje and Takeshigemichi in separate ceremonies. These two titles were sometimes thought to represent separate people, as they were so divergent. However, it is confirmed that Shigemichi and Dorje are one and the same, in spite of their diametric opposition. In keeping with Seagal's consistent asiaphilia, both aliases are of Asian origin.
Chungdrag Dorje, reborn 1951.
Takeshigemichi, the first westerner to run an Aikido dojo in Japan.
Seagal is a practicing Tibetan Buddhist. In 1997, one of his teachers, Penor Rinpoche, gave him this name as he proclaimed him a tulku, a reincarnation of a Tibetan lama, the Treasure Revealer of Palyul Monastery . Chungdrag Dorje deals in the realm of quiet, reflective spirituality, in sharp contrast to the violent blend of aikido and terror advocated by Seagal in his film work.
Takeshigemichi is the aikido name of Steven Seagal; the term means "Pathway to Prosperity". As Seagal the actor, Takeshigemichi brought aikido to a new, younger audience with his films in the 1990s. Takeshigemichi's aikido fusion style (Takeshigemichido) blends traditional aikido methods with sudden, explosive violence and injurious manuevers from other traditions.
As evidenced by the film record, choke holds, pressure point attacks, jailhouse taunts, and lethal gunfire are seamlessly integrated into an aikido framework of traditional wristlocks, sankyos, and seiza walking. A central art of Takeshigemichido is frequent, crippling groin attacks (see also 52 Blocks).
Many of Seagal's movies from the 1990s feature aikido wristlocks and throws, often shot in close up detail, emphasizing technical correctness.
Seagal hosted Saturday Night Live on April 20, 1991, and was barred from hosting again due to his difficulty in working with the cast and crew. During Nicolas Cage's monologue in a 1992 episode, Cage is speaking with Lorne Michaels backstage and says, "...they probably think I'm the biggest jerk who's ever been on the show!" To which Lorne replied, "No, no. That would be Steven Seagal."
In 2003 it was revealed that Seagal was a victim of extortion from the Gambino crime family due to his relationship with Hollywood producer Jules Nasso, who had Mafia connections.
In all of his films, he is seen holding a Colt M1911 semi-automatic pistol. He owns several in his private collection. Seagal has received personal tactical training from Ken Turnupseed, world-renowned pistol expert.
Nicknamed "The Great One" by some movie fans. On the IMDb, he is also referred to as "Lord Steven".
Marketing an energy drink known as Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt as well as an herbal oil product line.  Has his own brand of aftershave called 'Scent of Action', although during an interview played out on Christian O'Connell's Virgin Radio Breakfast Show of March 21 2006 Seagal claimed he knew nothing about it.
Has a fan in King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden  Has appeared in several television commercials in Japan in which he speaks in Japanese and English
A signed first edition of Mein kampf is in his possession
Speaks fluent Japanese, and often promotes his films by granting Japanese language interviews for television in Japan. (His native language is English.)
Miyako Fujitani (1975 - 1986) (divorced) 2 children
Adrienne La Russa (1984 - 1984) (annulled)
Kelly LeBrock (September 5, 1987 - 1996) (divorced) 3 children
Above the Law. (aka "Nico") (1988) - Blockbuster police drama directed by Andrew Davis.
Hard to Kill (1990) - Playing a cop out for vengeance. (He later married costar Kelly LeBrock.)
Marked for Death (1990) - Playing a retired DEA agent who returns to his hometown, to find an evil drug lord in charge.
Out for Justice (1991) - Playing one of two childhood rivals fighting over old grievances.
Under Siege (1992) - Another Andrew Davis movie, about a cook who prevents nuclear armageddon. This was his most successful movie.
Seagal at the peak of his film career, with Joan Chen, both in Eskimo costume (from On Deadly Ground, 1994).
On Deadly Ground (1994) - A movie in which he befriends an Indian tribe and fights against an evil oil company. This is Seagal's directorial debut; he also produced. However, the movie underperformed at the box office and damaged his career.
Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995) - Seagal returns as Casey Ryback, this time out to foil a mad scientist who tries to hijack a satellite weapon hidden on board a train. He also produced this movie.
Executive Decision (1996) - Playing the head of an elite military team that must stop a plane carrying a nerve-gas bomb.
The Glimmer Man (1996) - Playing a detective who must find a serial killer.
Fire Down Below (1997) - Playing a hard-hitting EPA agent investigating a mine in Kentucky. He also produced this film.
The Patriot (1998) - Playing a Canadian who foils an evil, virus-releasing militia. He produced this film also.
The Prince of Central Park (2000) - Credited as producer.
Exit Wounds (2001) - Playing a tough urban detective
Ticker (2001) - Playing the leader of a bomb squad.
Half Past Dead (2002) - Playing an FBI agent.
The Foreigner (2003) - Political intrigue and scandal plague Seagal's character in this film. Known as "The Package" in production
Out for a Kill (2003) - Playing an archaeologist who avenges the death of his wife. Oblowitz directs.
Belly of the Beast (2003) - Direct to video release with Seagal copying some of his best known films.
Out of Reach (2004) - Seagal and his stunt double attempt to save a kidnapped girl.
Clementine (2004) - Guest stars in this Korean martial arts film.
Unititled Onion Project (unreleased as of 2005) - Guest stars in a spoof of himself by the makers of The Onion.
Into the Sun (2005) - Seagal fights the Yakuza in another direct to video release shot in Japan.
Submerged (2005)- Playing a mercenary who must fight terrorists
Today You Die (2005) - Seagal plays a former thief who is trying to go straight and seeks vengeance on those who framed him
Black Dawn (2005)- Seagal returns as John Cold in this continuation of "Foreigner" franchise.
Mercenary for Justice (2005) - Seagal plays John Seeger, a mercenary who is on a mission that threatens the lives of his family, and will break into a European prison to free a drug lord's son to save them.
Shadows of the Past (2006) - Plays an intelligence operative who discovers no one is who they seem in the world of espionage (will be released in U.S. in April).
Harvester (2006) - The plot is unclear as of right now, but appears to have a science-fiction theme to it (currently in post production).
Prince of Pistols - Tentative project said to be a "modern day tale of revenge" . Seagal reportedly wants to film in New Orleans to bring some money into its economy after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.