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Martin Adam Pavlík
October 5, 2022, 6:00pm
Reading time: 7:06

You Wouldn't Want To Fight Them In The Ring Or On The Street. These Are Ten Hollywood Actors Who Mastered Martial Arts

Some started in the ring when they were just children.

Martin Adam Pavlík
October 5, 2022, 6:00pm
Reading time: 7:06
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You Wouldn't Want To Fight Them In The Ring Or On The Street. These Are Ten Hollywood Actors Who Mastered Martial Arts
Zdroj: Steve Starr/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
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You probably already knew that Jason Statham, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Steven Seagal, Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson and Dolph Lundgren can fight well even off camera. These action movie stars are known for their great form, years of martial arts training and even wrestling.

But did you know that Jack Black, Guy Ritchie, Jim Carrey or John Cusack also mastered martial arts? In this article, we will introduce you to other famous faces of Hollywood, with whom you would definitely not want to compete on the street, in the ring or in the cage. You would probably quickly end up in the intensive care unit.


And although you wouldn't say that about some of them, appearances are often deceiving and underestimating your opponent is not exactly an ideal tactic in a duel. What martial arts do they master, how long have they been doing them or how did they get to them? Let's answer these questions, and more.


Source: 20th Century Fox

1. Danny Trejo

Although he is only 168 centimeters tall, his murderous look organically inspires respect in everyone. Trejo is known for his criminal past. It's no secret that before he got on TV screens or cinema screens (you can remember him from the films From Dusk Till Dawn, Con Air or Machete, for example), he spent a few years behind the bars of various prisons.


In an interview with Boxing Scene, the 78-year-old actor revealed that he owes his career to boxing, as he became a movie star because he got into this industry as a boxing trainer for actors. He received his first boxing training at the age of eight from his uncle. However, he also introduced him to drugs, so during his tumultuous adolescence he boxed in amateur duels, sold drugs and collaborated in various robberies.


Therefore, it did not take long before he was behind bars. It was there that his previous experiences came in handy. "I was the lightweight and welterweight champion in every prison I was in," he told All That's Interesting. He talked more about the tough matches on Steve-O's Wild Ride podcast. For a while, Trejo tried to get a serious boxing license in order to take up the sport professionally, but he reportedly never succeeded because of his criminal record.


2. Ashton Kutcher

You probably wouldn't expect this name to be on our list, and yet here he is. Although you know him more as a skinny comedian, Ashton Kutcher would make you give up on the mat in a variety of ways before you even knew what was going on.


He holds a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and according to his legendary trainer Rigan Machado, the Two and a Half Men star could beat even former two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor in a grappling duel. Machado also told TMZ that if Kutcher were to become a professional wrestler, he could be one of the best in the world.


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3. Robert Downey Jr.


The fifty-seven-year-old American is now one of Hollywood's highest-earning stars, but he went through a stormy and difficult period in the past. Due to his drug addiction, he got into trouble with the police several times and often had trouble getting a "bigger role" because of this. However, according to him, martial arts helped him "pull himself together" and overcome his demons , reports MaArtial. He started training in 2003.


Downey focused on a specific South Chinese martial art focused on self-defense, wing-cheun, a form of kung fu. This technique was made famous by the Ip Man film series and, in addition to the main actor Donnie Yen, it is also practiced by Jackie Chan.


As Dragonist writes, wing-cheun has even been integrated into the training programs of hundreds of military units and law enforcement agencies around the world. It is used by the US Navy Seals, the FBI or the CIA, as well as the French RAID police units and the German SEK units.

4. Mickey Rourke

You may remember him from the films Double Team, Barfly, Angel Heart, Sin City and Wrestler. But did you know that before he was famous in Hollywood, he was throwing punches in the ring? According to People magazine, Mickey Rourke had an impressive record as an amateur boxer. He credited up to 27 wins to his account (he experienced the first in his career as a 12-year-old), while he left defeated only three times.


Even more impressive is the ratio after the transition to professional boxing. He is undefeated. He managed to win six times and draw twice. However, no one was able to defeat him. As a 62-year-old, he even returned to boxing in 2014 and beat only 29-year-old Elliot Seymour in an exhibition match, surprising perhaps even himself.


As Screenrant writes, Rourke also studied the Asian martial art of Hwarangdo for six years under the guidance of Tae-joon Lee, whose father founded this art.


Mickey Rourke in a boxing duel with Steve Powell. Source: Getty Images/Mark Morrison /Allsport


5. Henry Cavill

We all have him fixed as a robust Superman or the Witcher. We have seen both characters in several fierce fistfights. However, if you assumed that Cavill practices boxing or kickboxing, you were wrong. The 185-centimeter-tall Brit trains, just like Ashton Kutcher, Brazilian jiu-jitsu.


Sportskeeda writes that he started BJJ at Renzo Gracie's prestigious academy in New York, where he was preparing for the role of the Man of Steel. However, but this technique enchanted him so much that he began to devote himself to it even afterwards. One of his teachers is ten-time BJJ world champion Roger Gracie.


6. Liam Neeson

He received an Oscar nomination for Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, fought with a lightsaber in the Star Wars saga against Darth Maul, and in the action blockbuster Taken, he eliminated all the gangsters that came his way to save his kidnapped daughter. Whether with bare hands or firearms. If you were wondering while watching his fight scenes if he actually has any martial arts knowledge, the answer is yes!


As the Irish actor revealed to the Huffington Post, he started boxing as a child. He stepped into the ring for the first time at the age of 11 and won several titles as an amateur. He became a three-time Northern Ireland champion and many predicted a great future in the sport.


"I had a good forehand shot, it really worked for me. Out of roughly forty fights, I won about thirty," the actor told ESPN in 2012. However, he finally quit boxing at the age of seventeen due to health problems. His skills undoubtedly came to him later in Hollywood.


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7. Keanu Reeves

Although he says that he is not an expert in martial arts, this is, once again, just his exaggerated modesty. They are among his most characteristic features. According to the Screenrant portal, the hero of action thrillers such as Speed, Point Break, Matrix and John Wick got into martial arts training during the first part of the well-known Wachowski sisters' sci-fi film series and continued it for years after that.


He tried jiu-jitsu, wushu, boxing or krav maga, but also judo and karate. That's also why he does most of the stunts himself, even though he would not have to. He also knows how to use weapons. From the available videos, it looks like he was already born with pistols and submachine guns. You can find his training at this link.

8. Idris Elba

The charismatic actor, who shone on cinema screens as Nelson Mandela in the drama Long Walk to Freedom or the blockbuster Suicide Squad, revealed to Forbes that boxing taught him discipline and concentration in his youth. This also contributed to his decision to collaborate on the documentary miniseries Idris Elba's Fight School, in which he gave boxing lessons to seven disadvantaged young people.


But before all that, he went through hell himself when he decided to take on an extremely tough challenge, both mentally and physically – to become a professional kickboxer in just 12 months. The whole process was captured by the cameras in the authentic documentary miniseries Idris Elba: Fighter from the Discovery Channel.

The actor trained and sweated blood under the guidance of the best trainers until he faced the younger and more experienced Dutchman Lionel Graves at London's York Hall in his professional debut. It took place under the auspices of the most prestigious kickboxing organization in the world, Glory. In the end, he left the ring victorious, in the very first round. He defeated his opponent by technical knockout.

9. Tom Hardy


He was once a thin and inconspicuous guy, today he is a massive "muscle" and the star of blockbusters Venom, Mad Max, Revenant and Legend. We have seen him land punches several times, especially in the drama Warrior, where he played an MMA fighter. That's why he went through hard training before filming. However, few people knew that the actor was so fascinated by martial arts that he practiced Brazilian jiu-jitsu even after filming.

As Vanity Fair writes, Hardy worked his way up to a blue belt, and in September at a BJJ tournament in Milton Keyes, England, he even won a gold medal, surprising not only all viewers, but also the competition. However, this is not his first success. He also won the gold medal in August at the Reorg Open in Wolverhampton, England. "He told me, 'Forget it's me and do what you normally do.' wrestler Danny Appleby.


10. Forest Whitaker

You may remember him as a spiritually minded samurai in Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, where he showed impressive choreography. He gave fists and elbows again in the remake of the cult classic Repo Man. In it, you competed with Jude Law. Keanu Reeve also tasted the power of his wounds in the police drama Street Kings.


However, Whitaker was never the typical tough action hero and brawler in front of the camera. We know him more as a humble, calm and prudent gentleman in a suit giving orders. Despite this, as he revealed to Entertainment Weekly, he has been practicing martial arts since he was 12 years old.


According to MMA Underground, he has a black belt in kenpo karate. In addition, he also trains the Filipino indigenous martial art of kali under the guidance of Dan Inosanto, who was a student of the legendary Bruce Lee and also coached Bruce's son, the late Brandon Lee.






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Thumbnail: Netflix/Mark Lennihan/Getty Images/Mark Morrison/Allsport
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