this is a list of my favourite martial artist/martial art actors. some just learned martial arts for the movie they were in, but deserve credit for performing well for non martial artists.
Bruce Lee remains the greatest icon of martial arts cinema and a key figure of modern popular media. Had it not been for Bruce Lee and his movies in the early 1970s, it's arguable whether or not the martial arts film genre would have ever penetrated and influenced mainstream North American and European cinema and audiences the way it has over the past four decades...
Steven Seagal is a striking and somewhat boyishly handsome (often with ponytail) action star who burst onto the martial arts film scene in 1988 in the fast-paced Warner Bros. film Above the Law
. Steven Frederic Seagal was born in Lansing, Michigan, to Patricia Anne (Fisher), a medical technician...
Martial artist and Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen was born to newspaper editor Klyster Yen and martial arts master Bow Sim Mark. At the age of four Yen started taking up martial arts from his mother, who taught him wushu and tai chi until the age of eleven when his family emigrated to Boston, MA. From there he continued mastering wushi and tai chi...
Born on February 1, 1965 to Bruce Lee
(Martial Arts idol) and Linda Lee Cadwell
. Brother to Shannon Lee
. In 1970-71, they moved to Hong Kong where Brandon became fluent in Cantonese by the age of 8. He attended Boston's Art-Oriented Emerson College in Massachusetts. He studied Martial Arts and drama...
Wesley Trent Snipes was born in Orlando, Florida, to Maryann (Long), a teacher's assistant, and Wesley Rudolph Snipes, an aircraft engineer. He grew up on the streets of the South Bronx in New York City, where he very early decided that the theater was to be his career. He attended the High School for the Performing Arts (popularized in Fame
Michael Jai White
Michael Jai White is an American actor and martial artist who has appeared in numerous films and television series. He is the first African American to portray a major comic book superhero in a major motion picture, having starred as Al Simmons, the protagonist in the 1997 film Spawn. White portrayed Jax Briggs in Mortal Kombat: Legacy...
Scott Edward Adkins was born on June 17, 1976 in Sutton Coldfield, England, into a family that for generations were butchers. Along with his elder brother Craig, he was raised by their parents, John and Janet (Sanders) Adkins, in a loving middle-class family. Scott attended Bishop Vesey's Grammar School in Sutton Coldfield...
Jet Li born Li Lian Jie in Beijing, China. He started training at the Beijing wushu academy (wushu is China's national sport, largely a performance version of various martial art styles) at age eight. He won five gold medals in the Chinese championships, his first when he was only 11. In his teens, he was already a national coach...
Hong Kong's cheeky, lovable and best known film star, Jackie Chan endured many years of long, hard work and multiple injuries to establish international success via his early beginnings in Hong Kong's manic martial arts cinema industry. Jackie was born Kong-sang Chan on Hong Kong's famous Victoria Peak on April 7...
Japanom Yeerum was born on February 5, 1976, in the northeastern province of Surin, Thailand. His parents were elephant herders. Jaa watched martial arts films as a young kid and began to emulate some of his idols, from Bruce Lee
to Jackie Chan
to Jet Li
. Jaa studied martial arts...
Born in Beijing China in 1974, he was sent to train at Beijing Wushu Academy when he was 6 years old as both his Father and Grandfather were also Martial artists. In 1995 he was spotted by Yuen Woo-Ping who had come to the academy to look for a martial artist for the film Tai Chi 2 (aka Tai Chi Boxer)...
Iko Uwais was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, to Maisyaroh and Mustapha Kamaluddin. His grandfather, H. Achmad Bunawar, was a master of silat, an Indonesian traditional martial art, and founded a silat school. Iko himself has been learning silat since he was 10 years old. He became National Champion in 2005 in Silat Demonstration category...
Action film star Gary Daniels was a real-life kick-boxing champion. With rugged good-looks, a muscular build and a charming personality, it was a natural for him to move from the world of fighting to that of acting. Born Gary Edward Daniels on May 9, 1963 in Woking, Surrey, England, Daniels was a childhood fan of legendary martial arts film star Bruce Lee
Raymond Park was born in Glasgow, Scotland. He moved with his parents, younger brother and sister to London, England. He was raised in London from the age of seven. His father introduced him into Martial Arts from a young age. Ray always wanted to be in the movies, or be like the heroes in movies but he was most inspired by martial arts...
Jon Foo is an artist working in Los Angeles. He was born in London where he studied art and design at Harrow collage, focusing on Product design, sculpture and fine art. Jon had many part time jobs and eventually began a career as an acrobat after being talent scouted at a local open training gym. Jon...
Daniel Bernhardt was born on the 31st August 1965 in Warblaufen, Bern in Switzerland. After finishing high school, he studied architectural design for four years and graduated in Bern. At the same time he opened a martial arts school with his brother. After completing his studies, Daniel moved to Paris and started to work as model...
Olivier Gruner was born on August 2nd, 1960 in Paris. His father is a successful surgeon with his own surgery. His two brothers also made academic careers. When Olivier was 18, he went to an elite force of the french army, where he stayed 4 years. Most of this time he was in Djibouti and Somalia. At this time he already trained karate...
Sammo Kam-Bo Hung
Born in Hong Kong, Sammo Hung's acting career began while he was training in acrobatics, martial arts and dance as a child at the China Drama Academy, and he received acclaim for his performance with a troupe called "The Seven Little Fortunes." He made his feature film debut as an actor at the age of 12...
Yuen Biao is regarded as one of the most acrobatic martial artists ever. Unfortunately, he is still underrated and not as popular as other contemporaries such as Jackie Chan
, Sammo Kam-Bo Hung
, and Jet Li
even though he is the most critically acclaimed out of all of them and the most talented as well...
Andy On was born on May 11, 1977, in Providence, Rhode Island. A non-martial artist, Andy had always loved Jackie Chan
movies and emulated his moves from flips and kicks at his home. In early 2000, while working as a bartender in Rhode Island, someone suggested he should become an actor. Andy, who didn't like the bartending job anyway...
Jang Lee Hwang
Hwang Jang-Lee is the ultimate bootmaster. Known for his powerful and deadly kicks on screen as well as off, Hwang has a reputation as the Lord of the Superkickers. Born in Japan, Hwang's family moved back to their native Korea, where at the age of 14, Hwang began taking the national martial art of Tae Kwon Do...
Bolo Yeung was born in China. He began his martial arts training at the age of 10. Growing up he took an interest in bodybuilding. Later he became know as Chinese Hercules after becoming Mr. Hong Kong bodybuilding champion. He held the title for ten years. Because of his impressively muscular physique he was chosen for several bad guy movie roles...
David Chiang was born in Suzhou, China on June 29, 1947. His mother Hung Wei and father Yim Dut were very popular movie stars. Young David began his acting career at a very early age, appearing in black & white films while he was only 4 years old. "John" is David's real English name, while "David" was a stage name given to him by Director Chang Cheh...
Marko Zaror Aguad (Santiago, Chile) is a Chilean martial arts action star and fight choreographer, currently residing in Los Angeles, California, and Santiago, Chile. His career began as a young boy with a passion for martial arts and fighting, inspired by Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jean Claude Van Damme...
Ilram's parents are from Korea. But Ilram himself was born in the U.S. As soon as he learned to walk, he began training in Tae Kwon Do. Besides the regular training, Ilram would learn by imitating the better martial artists and athletes, including his father. Ilram would soon make his way into making movies with Homevideo Movies...
Korean-American born Ho Sung-Pak is best known for two accomplishments in martial arts. A wushu champion, Ho was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame in 1991. His first accomplishment was that he played both Liu Kang and Shang Tsung in the video game that started a fad and 2 movies, Mortal Kombat...
Sasha Mitchell will forever be known for two particular roles. From 1990 to 1993, he took over for Jean-Claude Van Damme
in the Kickboxer series, ending it with the fourth installment, Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor
. A black belt in tae kwon do, Sasha was once an amateur kickboxing champion, and it helped him land the role of a boxer in 1988's Spike of Bensonhurst
. He also worked as a model...
Jean-Claude Van Damme
Van Damme was born Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Brussels, Belgium, to Eliana and Eugène Van Varenberg, an accountant. "The Muscles from Brussels" started martial arts at the age of eleven. His father introduced him to martial arts when he saw his son was physically weak...
Jason Statham was born in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, to Eileen (Yates), a dancer, and Barry Statham, a street merchant and lounge singer. Statham has done quite a lot in a short time. He has been a Diver on the British National Diving Team and finished 12th in the World Championships in 1992. He has also been a fashion model...
Born to immigrants in Queens, New York, Lucy Liu has always tried to balance an interest in her cultural heritage with a desire to move beyond a strictly Asian-American experience. Lucy's mother, Cecilia, a biochemist, is from Beijing, and her father, Tom Liu, a civil engineer, is from Shanghai. Once relegated to "ethnic" parts...
Margaret Denise Quigley was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to a father of Polish and Irish descent (originally based in New York) and a Vietnamese mother. Her parents met during the Vietnam War. Maggie has two older half-siblings from her mother's previous marriage, and two older sisters. The family moved to Hawaii and settled in Mililani...
A powerful screen presence, Richard Norton wins the applause of international audiences with his engaging ability to play either the hero or the heavy. Rare versatility and focused work ethic have enabled him to build an expanding library of almost 100 film and television titles. The disciplines that brought Norton success originated in his hometown of Croydon...
Phillip Rhee is a master martial artist, actor and filmmaker best known for creating the "BEST of the BEST" film franchise with his producing partner and mentor Peter E. Strauss (Executive VP and Mandalay Pictures) and Frank Giustra, a Canadian Billionaire and founder of Lions Gate. The first "Best of the Best" starring academy award nominated actors...
Master Simon Rhee is a 7th-Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and a 4th-Degree Black Belt in Hap Ki Do. He is a World-Class Martial Artist known for his beautiful kicks and incredible forms, and is a many-time Grand Champion of the tournament circuit. Karate Illustrated noted that "Simon Rhee has the prettiest kicks...
One of Hollywood's edgier, more intriguing characters running around and about for decades, Eric Anthony Roberts started life in Biloxi, Mississippi. He is the son of Betty Lou (Bredemus) and Walter Grady Roberts, one-time actors and playwrights. His siblings are actors Lisa Roberts Gillian
and Julia Roberts
Patrick Wayne Swayze was born on August 18, 1952 in Houston, Texas, to Patsy Swayze
(née Yvonne Helen Karnes), a choreographer, and Jesse Wayne Swayze, a chemical plant engineer draftsman. His mother owned a dance school in Houston, where Patrick was also a student. His father passed away in 1982...
was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, where he became a All-American springboard diver in high school. He broke records in his school's district and conference all without ever having a coach. Determined to go to college, he worked for six years and graduated with honors from Missouri State College...
Lorenzo Fernando Lamas was born in Santa Monica, California, the son of actors Arlene Dahl
and Fernando Lamas
. His father was Argentinian and his mother was American, of Norwegian descent. Lorenzo was raised in Pacific Palisades, California. In 1968, his family moved to New York. He attended private school...
Marshall R. Teague
Marshall Teague is an American actor who has appeared in over 130 films and Tv shows. His talent for balancing starring roles with powerful supporting characters has allowed him to build a varied and pivotal body of work. His theatrical breakout role was as Jimmy Reno in the 1989 cult classic Road House...
Robin Shou is the fourth child of a Shanghai tailor and homemaker. His family moved to the US in 1971. Their first home in Los Angeles was a 2 bedroom apartment near Olympic and Vermont, today known as Koreatown. Shou didn't start attending martial arts classes until he was 19. He took Kenpo (Karate) classes while attending California State University...
If you are of an Asian origin, chances are the mere mentioning of Cung Le's name in mainstream media will instill in you a sense of cultural pride. Cung Le made his first appearance on the pro MMA stage in 2006, and shortly after won the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship in 2008, setting high standards through his powerful kicks...
Dolph Lundgren was born in Stockholm, Sweden, to Sigrid Birgitta (Tjerneld), a language teacher, and Karl Johan Hugo Lundgren, an engineer and economist for the Swedish government. He lived in Stockholm until the age of 13, when he moved in with his grandparents in Nyland, Ångermanland, Sweden. Despite an early interest in music and the fine arts...
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa got his first big break as an actor when he was cast in Bernardo Bertolucci
's The Last Emperor
. A US Army brat, he was born in Tokyo and lived in various cities while growing up. His father was in the army, stationed at Ft. Bragg (NC), Ft. Polk (LA) and Ft. Hood (TX). His mother was an actress from Tokyo...
Ihara Tsuyoshi was born on November 6, 1963, in Kokura, Kyushu. He grew up in Osaka, and after graduating high school, he joined JAC (Japan Action Club) which is headed by Shin'ichi Chiba
(aka Chiba Shinichi), which is a company of stunt and action actors. He made his debut in 1983 in a stage drama called "The Midnight Party." Since then...
Easily the best known actor/martial artist during the 1980s ninja cinema craze, Kosugi was a proficient martial artist & skilled weapons performer which was highlighted in his several starring roles. Kosugi grew up as the youngest child and only son of a Tokyo fisherman, and began his martial arts training at the age of five studying karate at a local dojo...
Keith Cooke is a man of many qualities, accomplished in the arts of Wushu, Tae Kwon Do and Karate. He started his WuShu training in 1973, under Roger Tung. In 1980 he went to China and he trained for 5 hours a day and entered the competition circuit in 1983. He immediately gained a second place in both Weapons and Forms Divisions (lost to George Chung)...
After graduating from Beverly Hills High School in 1980, while attending college Loren Avedon signed up at the Jun Chong Tae Kwon Do Karate school in Los Angeles. He received his first "break" while training late one night at the Karate school. Producer Roy Horan
was looking for an actor/martial artist to be the star of No Retreat, No Surrender 2
Muscular African American sports star, actor, media identity and inventor of the phenomenally popular "Tae Bo" fitness system, derived from his extensive martial arts training. Blanks was born in Eerie, Pennsylvania in 1955 amongst humble backgrounds and grew up as one of 15 children, battling dyslexia and tendon problems...
Jerry Trimble Jr. was born in Newport, Kentucky. At age 13 he was inspired by the late Bruce Lee and began studying the Korean art of Taekwon-Do. In six months he began teaching the art. At 15 Jerry earned the rank of first-degree black belt and became the number one point fighter in the Midwest U.S. At 18, he started Kickboxing and won the "Kentucky State Championship"...
Benny Urquidez was raised in a very athletic family. His mother was a professional wrestler and his father a professional boxer, with all of his siblings black belts. He has earned black belts in nine different martial arts and trained in other styles. The Jet decided to pursue full-contact karate as a career in 1974...
Started his martial arts career at the University Of South Carolina in 1971 and in only two years, earned his 1st degree Black Belt. Competed in regional tournaments and major events throughout the world. Was World Karate Champion and US National Karate Champion for 3 consecutive years. (1978-1980)...
Three-times WKO World Kickboxer Champion and many other titles Don 'the Dragon' Wilson, named the greatest kickboxer of all time. Fighter of the year three times in Blackbelt Magazine. Has 10 titles in three different weight divisions. World light heavyweight kickboxing champion for twelve consecutive years.
Born in Philadelphia, Michael came from a line of German sailors on one side and American Delaware Indians on the other. As a 10 year old Michael directed his first film entitle The Tire. It was shot with a super-8 camera his mother bought him. He continued making short films into his late teens. During his early teens...
Award-winning action film Director/Fight choreographer/stunt performer Art Camacho has a vast experience in the entertainment industry. He is in production of Final Payback 2, a sequel to one of his successful action films, and in development of a Latino Vampire film called "The Crossing". Camacho recently...
Vince Murdocco gained fame in the kickboxing world when he was the North American Cruiserweight Champion. He soon made the transition from kickboxing to film, like many world champions back in the 1990s. However, Vince made his film debut in a softcore porn comedy, Flesh Gordon Meets the Cosmic Cheerleaders
, as the titled character...
When he was seven years old Michel Qissi began training in boxing. He soon met and befriended a young Jean-Claude Van Varenberg (Jean-Claude Van Damme
) who was studying Shotokan Karate, and the two traded techniques in their systems. They grew up together and shared the same love of action films and dreamed of being action stars themselves one day...
Imposingly large, 6' 2" Abdel Qissi was born in Morocco on 20 January 1960 and he is best known for playing some of the leading bad guys to Jean-Claude Van Damme. He grew up in Brussels, where he was trained in boxing at sports center in Ixelles, there he also met Jean-Claude Van Damme. Van Damme, Abdel and his younger brother Michel Qissi (later best known as another Van Damme bad guy...
Matthias Hues was born on Valentine's Day in Waltrop, Germany, to the late Dr. Josef Hues and Maria Humperdinck Hues who still resides in Germany. Maria is the niece of Engelbert Humperdinck
, composer of the opera Hansel and Gretel. Matthias was very involved in sports from an early age on. By the time he...
Dennis "The Terminator" Alexio is considered to be one of, if not the, greatest heavyweight kick boxing champion in the sport's history. His record is an outstanding 70-2, with 65 wins by way of knockout. Alexio developed a strong friendship with Jean-Claude Van Damme and the two made the highly popular and successful film...
Pivotal figure in the 1970s explosion of martial arts cinema as lethal "fists for hire" trouble shooter, Takuma (Terry) Tsurugi, starring in the phenomenally popular and ultra violent "The Street Fighter" series of action films. Sonny Chiba wasn't a graceful, fluid fighter like screen icon Bruce Lee
Togo Igawa is an actor/director living in England. He trained in Japan at The Haiyuza Theatre Company Acting School and Toho Gakuen College of Drama and Music. In 1986, he became the first Japanese actor to become a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. His work spans stage, film, anime, games and television...
Rain was born in Seoul, South Korea, on June 25, 1982 with the birth name Jung Jihoon. He was extremely shy in elementary school, stating in interviews that he barely spoke a word. He caught the desire to become a dancer when, at a school talent show in sixth grade, no one from his school stepped forward to dance so he gave it a try...
Aki Aleong's career has spanned more than 60 years as an actor, singer, writer, producer and activist. He has served on the National Board of the Screen Actors Guild, appointed National Chair of SAG'S EEOC and was a member of the President's Diversity/Affirmative Action Task Force. Aki has also been Executive Director of AIM (Asians in Media)...
Asian American actor & stuntman has picked up a cult fan following based around his numerous appearances in high voltage action flicks from the mid-1980s onwards. Al nearly always turns up as a bad guy with his lean muscled physique, incredible agility, amazing martial arts skills, wispy black hair...
When Yin-Chieh Han was 3 years old, he moved to Beijing and from 9 to 18 years old joined a Pekin Opera group. In 1946, he went to Shanghai and debuted in the film industry at 19 years old as stuntman that same year. Next year he left the movies temporarily to do martial arts and circus exhibitions in Hong Kong and Singapore respectively...
Mestre Cesar started taking Capoeira at the age of 9. He trained with Mestre Carlinhos for 2 years. Than he trained with Mestre Alabama and finally became a Mestre himself. Cesar participated in many tournaments and became part of "Bale Folklorica da Bahia", a privileged group. One year later he joined "Oba-Oba"...
Jason Scott Lee
Of Hawaiian and Chinese descent, Jason Scott Lee was born in Los Angeles, California, but raised in Hawaii from the age of two. His interest in acting began while studying in high school. It blossomed further when he enrolled in Fullerton College, where he studied under acting coach Sal Romeo
David Patrick Kelly
Compact, feisty and fierce character actor David Patrick Kelly was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Margaret Elizabeth (Murphy) and Robert Corby Kelly, Sr., an accountant. He burst onto the acting scene in 1979, playing the devious leader of the leather-clad gang "The Rogues" in Walter Hill
's controversial New York City gang film The Warriors
Though born in Great Neck, Long Island, Christopher Lambert's family left the US when he was only two years old. His father was a United Nations diplomat assigned to Switzerland and, as a result, Chris was educated at private boarding schools in Geneva. Inspired through his having appeared in a play at age 12...
Born William Charles Jeffreys (III) on July 23, 1958 in Washington, D.C., Chuck Jeffreys found his interest in the martial arts at the age of 8 and started training in Western Boxing and Tae Kwon Do. He began training in Northern (Tien Shan Pai) Shaolin Kung fu in the early 70s. He was well known for his kung fu demonstrations in Jr...