Like many Hawaii actors who have played villains on “Hawaii Five-0,” Egan Inoue is a juxtaposition in terms.
Inoue has all the physical attributes needed to play Wo Fat’s bodyguard, as he did in the season two opener, “Haʻiʻole.” And with a resume rich with martial arts experience and training, he looks and acts like a hired mercenary.
Yet no matter what you have read or heard about Inoue, he is a family man, dedicated trainer and MMA practitioner, as well as someone devoted to staying mentally and physically strong though martial arts.
After spending time at Egan’s Training Center in Mānoa and talking to Inoue about his life and his fighting career, I found most may know about him because he trains Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Yet there is so much more to Inoue than just being a trainer to the stars of “Hawaii Five-0.”
Inoue is a self-proclaimed “Mānoa boy,” growing up in the same valley where his training center sits today. He attended Roosevelt High School, then moved to the University of Hawaii Lab School to play baseball. He attended the University of Hawaii at Mānoa until he decided to chase his dreams. He became a professional racquetball player, traveling more than a million miles to play and compete in a sport where he was International Racquetball Federation World Champion in 1986 and 1990.
After his 10-year career in racquetball, he went on to pursue another love, Brazilian jiu-jitsu. In 1996 and 1997 he became the World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Champion and now holds a third degree black belt in the sport. He also holds black belts in Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido, Shotokan Karate, Jeet Kun Do and Japanese Jiu Jitsu, as well as a brown belt in Judo.
Inoue said when practicing jiu-jitsu, it is “all within yourself.”
“In other sports, you’re always comparing yourself to others around you, but if you can stay within your game and keep a clear mind, that is the most important thing in any competition. You always want to stay centered and balanced,” he said.
Inoue himself is a former professional mixed martial arts fighter with five world championship titles. He said his style is mostly based on boxing training he received at Kalakaua Gym (some of his training was with my great-uncle Peter Jhun), Muy Thai kickboxing, and Greco Roman/Freestyle wrestling that he learned from UFC fighter Randy Couture, not to mention years of martial arts training and discipline.
While he no longer trains MMA fighters, he will train those who come through his jiu-jitsu ranks. Inoue currently runs Egan’s Fit Body Bootcamp and Grappling Unlimited out of his Mānoa Training Center and holds classes at gyms in Kailua, Waipio and at the Downtown YMCA. He not only takes pride in his training center and the people he trains, but also has a strong sense of family and self. Inoue has five children, ranging from one year to 16 years old, and his wife Marcia is also very active in the running of his training center.
Everything in life is “a journey,” said Inoue.
“Whether you are learning jiu-jitsu or taking a bootcamp class or MMA, it’s all about the journey. Where you came from and where you are going,” he said.
When I asked Inoue about his time on “Hawaii Five-0,” he said he had been up for a different role, but after being asked to read a few lines he was given the bigger role of Wo Fat’s bodyguard. While his character didn’t have a name, he was seen in several key scenes with stars Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park. In his opening scene with Kim and Mark Dacascos, who plays Wo Fat, he was surprised Kim asked for advice on how he would handle a “surprise attack.” Inoue used his instinctive martial arts training to figure out a quick move that he could teach Kim to use in the scene, which was used in the final cut.
Inoue said working with Grace Park in two scenes was also very memorable as she would joke with him, often fixing his tie and his coat in between shots so he could maintain his slick henchman look. Park even stayed in the scene with him so he could deliver his line, “You won’t shoot, you’re a cop.”
Park could have let her stand-in finish the scene, but she said, “No, I want to stay here for Egan, I’m going to help him,” as the scene probably would have played differently for Inoue without her there to help him maintain his character. Inoue also said he played the ninja who broke into McGarrett’s house and stole the box in “Ke Kinohi” in season one.
“I joked with some fans that I know what’s in the Champ Box,” he said. Alas, Inoue was not allowed to share any more information.
For Inoue, training O’Loughlin and Caan is like working with anyone else.
“I don’t treat them any differently,” he said. “They are human and the jiu-jitsu skill is the same.”
He did say that when they have especially hard weeks they usually want to take time to train more and often call Inoue to carve out time so they can train with him. He said O’Loughlin really enjoys training and Inoue will even text him jiu-jitsu ideas to remember and focus on when shooting is especially hectic.
Today, June 4, is Inoue’s birthday, and in honor of his special day he’ll be sending out a birthday workout as a gift to everyone. He said he’s “thankful and grateful” for all the things fans and followers have done for him, so look for his birthday workout on his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.
Redux Side Note:
CBS is starting to get viewers prepared for the upcoming “Hawaii Five-0” move to Friday nights. This week’s episode was “Hāʻawe Make Loa,” with guest appearances by Rumer Willis, C. Thomas Howell, several Victoria Secret models, and Hawaii actress Z Zoccolante. Fridayʻs episode is “Kahu,” with special guests George Takei and Lew Temple of “The Walking Dead.”
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher who lives and works in Honolulu. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.