Michiko Nishiwaki: The First Japanese Female Bodybuilding Champion

Check out the movie Charlie’s Angels.  Those high-risk stunts apparently performed by Lucy Liu were really done by Michiko Nishiwaki. She has been a stunt double for some big names in Hollywood as well as a fight choreographer.  After just missing being cast in Mortal Kombat, Michiko decided to add stuntwoman to her resume. She performed all the high-risk stunts in Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004), and Kelly Hu in The Scorpion King (2002). She also did stunts in Collateral (2004), Mission: Impossible III (2006), and Rush Hour 2 (2001).

Michiko Nishiwaki has had an interesting and varied career.  As a teenage gymnast in Japan, she liked the muscularity she developed in her upper body but wanted more development in her legs.  In the early 1980s, she was inspired by photos of female bodybuilders, especially of Rachel McLish, to whom Michiko bore a striking resemblance. Initially, she couldn’t picture herself posing in a tiny bikini. She said, “It just wasn’t proper behavior for a woman in Japanese society to display their body in public”. At this point, female bodybuilding was not really established in the US or Europe, so in Japan being a woman in a muscle competition was positively a revolution.

In Japanese society, wearing a tiny bikini was not proper behavior for a woman. Bill Dobbins

As a serious athlete, Michiko Nishiwaki was able to find a gym and began training with weights in a quest to balance out her proportions and symmetry. Within a relatively short time, Michiko became the first female bodybuilding and powerlifting champion in Japan and held these titles for three consecutive years. She opened three fitness clubs with her brother to capitalize on her competition success. Being known as an expert in strength training, she also did executive personal training and made connections with the elite of Japan. Michiko forever changed the stereotype of the submissive and docile Japanese woman by becoming a strong role model for all.

Michiko’s acting career began in 1985 in Hong Kong. Her first leading role was in the film My Lucky Stars, in which she played a Japanese fighter. Her performance caught the attention of Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung and soon she appeared with many of the best-known martial arts stars. Michiko appeared in dozens of these genre films and then, later, in A-list movies like Memoirs of a Geisha, Lethal Weapon, In the Line of Duty, and Man on the Moon, starring Jim Carrey.

As a superior athlete, she had no problem learning to portray a martial arts expert on film, which also included learning weapons training. Michiko realized she could make use of her own gymnastic training like Jackie Chan, whose background helped him develop a unique, athletic style. She eventually found herself in demand doing stunts as well as appearing as an actress and was quickly typecast, playing villains in most of her Hong Kong films.

Michiko was brought to my attention by movie director Oliver Stone.  I scheduled a shoot with her in my studio for the Weider magazines.  Michiko is so popular around the world that I have seen my photos of her published all over the internet on sites devoted to martial arts.  She was not only a pioneer in the world of muscle & physique but an admirable role model in how she was able to capitalize on her athletic success and develop a career in movies.

Michiko forever changed the stereotype of the submissive and docile Japanese woman. Bill Dobbins

Michiko Nishiwaki married and subsequently moved to Moorpark, California.  Having Michiko living close to Los Angeles gave me the chance to bring her to my studio to do photos for Muscle & Fitness.  I consider the images I created with her to be a significant addition to my photo archives, and I’m happy to share them with magazine readers of the current era.

Michiko in a scene from Rush Hour 2 with Jackie Chan. Bill DobbinsMichiko Nishiwaki Movie Credits
Ghost Rock (2003) – Hana
Man on the Moon (1999) – Female Karate Fighter
Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)
Top Fighter 2 (1996) – Herself (archive footage)
City on Fire (1993) – Chia-Chi
Ging fa yu lau ang (Whore and Policewoman) (1993) – Nancy Cheng
Fatal Seduction (1993)
Ba hai hong ying (The Avenging Quartet) (1993) – Sen
Huo bao da quan zi (Big Circle Blues) (1992) – Kwan Show-Yun
Pi li bao zuo (1992)
Yun yu di liu gan (Passionate Killing in the Dream) (1992) – Sha Sha Lee
Hong tin huang jia jiang (Angel Terminators) (1992) – Miss Nishiwaki
Yin yao hao qing (Hero Dream aka Naked Huntress) (1992) – Yi
Sing je wai wong (The Mighty Gambler) (1992) – Joyce Huang (Mainlander)
Se jiang (Witchcraft vs. Curse) (1991) – Simol
The Real Me (1991)
The Best of the Martial Arts Films (1990) – Herself (archive footage)
Magic Cop (1990) – The Sorceress
Dragon Fighter (Hard to Kill) (1990)
Hu dan nu er gang (Widow Warriors) (1990) – Chieko
Outlaw Brothers (1990) – Miego
Tie dan xiong feng (Live Hard) (1989) – Lily
Miao tan shuang long (City Cops) (1989) – Michiko
God of Gamblers (1989) – Ko Chun’s female Yakuza opponent
Time Burst: The Final Alliance (1989)
In the Line of Duty III (1988) – Michiko Nishiwaki
Ojôsan tantei Tokimeki renpatsu! (Young Lady Detectives: Heart Beat!) (1987) – Misao Matsuda
Jikuu Senshi Spielban (Dimensional Warrior Spielban) (1986, TV Series) – Rikkî
My Lucky Stars (1985) – Japanese Fighter
Michiko leading role in Princess Madam Bill Dobbins

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