It is a generally held belief that martial arts is a source of revenue in and of itself. Martial artists who dedicate their lives to honing their crafts, end up making money passing on their skills to their students.
Sometimes however, when the right combination of luck and talent presents itself, these martial artists make it big in the silver screen as well – enthralling audiences the world over with their athleticism and disbelief-beggaring fight sequences.
Some of them emerge as cultural icons – and in one entry’s case, as the forefather of an entire sport.
On that note, here are 5 Asian actors who are also martial artists in real life.
Donnie Yen, or Ip Man as audiences world over know of him, is a man of many talents. Apart from his understated acting skills, he is as legitimate as they come as a martial artist as well.
He is well versed in Taekwondo, Taichi, Wushu and also got familiarized with boxing and kickboxing in his younger days. He trained in the Beijing Wushu academy for three years too.
The fights based on Jeet Kune Do in the Ip Man movies couldn’t have been pulled off so convincingly, had Yen not had a solid grounding in martial arts.
Another Wushu practitioner, Jet Li also trained in the Beijing Wushu Academy – where he incidentally crossed paths with Donnie Yen when they were both young men.
Lee medalled in Wushu multiple times in his youth and was even a coach, before making the transition to movies. If there’s one thing Hollywood cannot resist, it’s a good looking Chinese man with killer fighting skills – which summed up Jet in a nutshell.
And he’s gone on to have a very successful career as an action hero ever since.
Tony Jaa was inducted into the role of action hero by the likes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li. He would imitate their moves from the movies when he was a young boy – which eventually led him to his own pursuit of martial arts.
Hailing from Thailand, it was only natural that Jaa learnt Muay Thai, or Thai Boxing as it’s known, for five years to cut his teeth in martial arts. Soon after, he followed Panna Rittikrai – a stuntman and action film director – into the movies as his protégé.
Probably one of the most popular action heroes in the world, Jackie Chan brought a unique blend of humour, mind blowing action sequences and solid acting to Hollywood – and the fans lapped it up.
However, his grounding came from martial arts. Chan holds a black belt in Hapkido, a Korean martial art, and has studied Taekwondo, Jeet Kune Do and Karate as well.
Although he is 64 years old, Chan is still going strong and is currently filming a movie titled Project X-Traction alongside WWE Superstar John Cena.
Bruce Lee is a movie star to most. But in reality, he is so much more than that.
Lee was trained in Jeet Kune Do real life by Ip Man, the character Donnie Yen portrayed in the movie series. However, Lee didn’t cut his learning off there, and sought to perfect a fighting method that would work in all situations.
He took traditional martial arts of many forms, and tweaked it, seeking to perfect it for real life application instead of just theoretical practice. And he was never afraid to put his skills to the test – fighting against anyone who stepped up to challenge him.
Bruce Lee passed away too early, and at the age of just 33. But he left behind a series of legendary films and a lasting legacy as the founding father of the sport that is known as MMA today.