Making it in Hollywood demands talent, discipline, and a never-quit attitude, and the same applies to the martial arts. To celebrate the best of both worlds, we’re counting down the six actors who really kick ass up on the big screen.
1. Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan is the undisputed master of Hong Kong action cinema, and this all-round good guy really knows how to throw a punch. A proponent of various martial arts including Karate, Hapkido, Judo, Taekwondo and Jeet Kune Do, Chan is a tough opponent to work with, resulting in his co-stars having to don protective gear to prevent injuries. His skills as a martial artist, along with his creativity as a performer, have led him to become a cultural icon.
Standout Performance: Rush Hour
2. Ronda Rousey
The former World Champion mixed martial artist has made a big impression on the big screen in the last few years with roles in Furious 7, The Expendables 3, Entourage and the upcoming remake of Road House. A skilled Judo practitioner, Rousey won a Bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics before turning to MMA where she obtained a record of 12-1 in the UFC. Rousey fights with a fierce intensity, and we have no doubt that this genuine ass kicker will keep scoring it big in Hollywood.
Standout Performance: The Expendables 3
3. Jean Claude Van Damme
It’s a known fact that the ‘Muscles from Brussels’ credits his rise in Hollywood to a successful martial arts background, and with good reason. Training from the age of 10 in Karate, Van Damme would go on to be one of Europe’s best competitive Karate and kickboxing fighters who compiled a record of 18-1, winning all by knockout from 1977 – 1982, before retiring to focus on an acting career. His breakout performance in 1988’s Bloodsport was followed by action defining roles in films such as Death Warrant, Double Impact, Hard Target, Timecop, Street Fighter and The Quest. Van Damme has also reinvented himself over the last few years with works such as Kung Fu Panda 2 and The Expendables 2, as well as viral advertising sensations for Volvo and Coors Light beer.
Standout Performance: Kickboxer
4. Scott Adkins
Adkins is a fierce English martial arts practitioner whose skills have amazed on the big screen in Hollywood tentpoles such as The Expendables 2, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He’s also set to enthrall audiences in Marvel’s forthcoming adaptation of Doctor Strange. A practitioner of martial arts from the age of 10, Adkins is proficient in Judo, Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Jujitsu, Wushu, Ninjitsu, Krav Maga, Capoeira and Jeet Kune Do, along with being a talented and skilled gymnast whose trademark has become his acrobatically charged combat sequences.
Standout Performance: Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning
5. Katheryn Winnick
She might be the fearsome Queen of the horde in Vikings, but Katheryn Winnick also happens to be a talented and successful martial arts practitioner and business woman. Winnick obtained her first black belt in Taekwondo at the age of 13, and by age 21 had started three different martial arts schools. In addition to her lead role in Vikings, Winnick is making her way up in Hollywood with supporting roles in the likes of Killers and The Art of the Steal, and will be one of the headliners alongside Gerard Butler in Dean Devlin’s Geostorm.
Standout Performance: Vikings
6. Dolph Lundgren
At 6’5 Dolph Lundgren is a giant of a man, whose size and strength continue to dominate both the big and small screens. A skilled practitioner of Karate since the age of 10, Lundgren would eventually put his skills to the test while studying Chemical Engineering on the competition scene, and would go on to be crowned a European Karate Champion in 1980/1981. This determination would see him make it in Hollywood as he beat out 5,000 performers for the role of the fearsome Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. He followed these with top billing performances in Red Scorpion, The Punisher, Showdown in Little China and Universal Soldier. While he eventually faltered to direct to DVD titles, he made a full round return to Hollywood as Swedish sniper Gunner Jenson in The Expendables franchise, and is set to reprise his role for Expendables 4.
Standout Performance: Red Scorpion