Arnold Schwarzenegger Pays Tribute After His Conan The Barbarian Sensei’s Death

Arnold starring in Conan the Destroyer, 1984
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Throughout his career of starring in some of the best action movies, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger has had several memorable characters. And one of the most iconic is his Conan The Barbarian role. In the 1980s, the Austrian-born star burst onto our theater screens muscled and oiled as the titular sword and sorcery hero. Still, his portrayal of Robert E. Howard's character wouldn’t have been complete without the guidance of Japanese martial artist Kiyoshi Yamazaki, who sadly passed away on Wednesday at 83. The Terminator star has taken to social media to pen a heartfelt tribute to his Barbarian sensei.

In a touching Instagram post, Schwarzenegger shared a series of throwback pictures capturing intense sword-play training sessions with the late Yamazaki on the set of Conan the Barbarian. Accompanying the snapshots, Arnie penned a caption that expressed profound gratitude and genuine sorrow for his former teacher: "He played an important role in my life, he was a dear friend, and my thoughts are with his family,” the action icon captioned his post. You can read the entire heartfelt tribute embedded below.

Born on August 16, 1940, in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, Kiyoshi Yamazaki Kaicho's journey into martial arts commenced under the guidance of his father, a kendo teacher. This early exposure laid the foundation for his lifelong dedication to traditional Japanese karate. This commitment saw him rise to become the overseas chief instructor and president of Japan Karate-Do Ryobu-Kai.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's tribute went beyond personal anecdotes. The Terminator star shared a glimpse into his philosophy, emphasizing the profound impact of collaboration and mentorship: 

When I say no one is self-made, this is what I mean. Who knows if Conan would have been a success if Sensei Yamazaki didn’t make my swordplay realistic?

The former Governor of California’s sentiment underscores the importance of the unsung heroes behind the scenes, whose contributions elevate cinematic experiences to new heights.

Conan the Barbarian, released in 1982, stands as a landmark in the Jingle All The Way alum’s career, propelling him into the spotlight and immortalizing his portrayal of the fierce and determined Cimmerian warrior. The film, directed by John Milius, traces the Cimmerians’ journey from a young survivor seeking vengeance to a resolute hero challenging the forces of darkness personified by the sinister Thulsa Doom, becoming one of the best '80s movies in the process.

As Hollywood remembers the legacy of Kiyoshi Yamazaki and his pivotal role in shaping Arnold’s portrayal of the indomitable Conan, his influence lives on not only in the annals of cinema but also in the hearts of those he inspired and guided throughout his remarkable life. In the ever-evolving tapestry of entertainment, Yamazaki’s dedication to his craft serves as a reminder that true greatness is often born out of collaboration and the bonds forged on the journey to create something extraordinary.

At 76 years old, the former Mr. Universe remains impressively fit and ready to get back to work as soon as the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes conclude. Schwarzenegger has committed to bringing back a second season of FUBAR. While waiting for that, you can catch up on the first season of this hilarious action-comedy series. Additionally, the Govenator’s enlightening three-part docuseries titled Arnold is currently available for streaming with a Netflix subscription.

Our sincere condolences go out to Kiyoshi’s family and friends as they mourn his loss. 

Ryan LaBee

Ryan graduated from Missouri State University with a BA in English/Creative Writing.