Actors have to learn a lot of various skills superficially (you know, so it looks like they are doing it but the real stuff is done by stunt doubles?). However, the men and women on this list, who happen to also be mega-movie and television stars took their education the whole way. Every single professional actor on this list took it upon him or herself to master one form or another of martial arts and perform their own stunts. We have to say that we applaud the initiative to make it more realistic, as well as the actor’s desire to learn something new and challenging.
Actor Michael Imperioli is known for his sharp words on The Sopranos and Goodfellas, but it also his deep knowledge and practice of taekwondo that sets him apart from others. He decided to learn taekwondo in an effort to live a healthier life and not so much for stunts. He has said that this shift in his life towards the healthier has helped him stop smoking and improved him overall well being. Imperioli said, “Taekwondo teaches you that you can overcome any obstacle, that you can tackle anything.”
The star of Resident Evil needed to be in incredible shape to get through the filming of the action packed film series (which just came out with its latest installment). Milla Jovovich did most of her own stunts on the set of the film, meaning she needed to get in tip top form. Jovovich has said how much she loved MMA and uses the art of Brazilian jiujitsu to continuously strengthen her body and make sure she is always ready for a fight.
Honestly, we didn’t think John would be on a list like this one, but he surprises us yet again. Cusack is actually a force to be reckoned with as he is a level six black belt in ukidokan kickboxing! Bet you didn’t see that coming, right?! Yeah, we didn’t either. Cusack loves talking about his passion for the fighting art and talks about how wonderful the influence has been on his life since he started nearly three decades ago!
We kid you not, Jennifer Aniston is one rear end kicking woman. Aniston practices Budokon, which is a mixed movement practice that Aniston says is the reason she has such a strong upper body. She introduced her husband, Justin Theroux, to the art as well and he seems to also have gotten addicted to the workout. Aniston is always asked what she does in order to maintain her enviable figure, well, we seem to have figured it out.
Actor Forest Whitaker, known for The Last King of Scotland, and Rogue One, is one nice guy. However, he may be nice but you wouldn’t want to get on his bad side considering he practices Kenpo, a form of martial arts that was developed in Hawaii with origins in Japan and China. Kenpo is all about speed and accuracy when it comes to a fighters strike. Whitaker can take you out before you would know what hit you, literally.
Actress Jessica Biel was introduced to martial arts when she was training for the film Total Recall. It was then that she realized how much she loved the practice and decided to make it a permanent part of her workout and physical fitness routine. Biel said, “I’m really into martial arts now – it’s the most amazing workout ever.” Many actors are introduced to marital arts this way but many also leave it, Jessica has been doing it ever since and swears by it.
Keanu Reeves likes to take things to the extreme. Reeves started out learning martial arts for The Matrix (you don’t think he did that back flip without working on it first, did you?). He took things to a higher level when he was preparing for the 2014 film John Wick. It was at that time that Reeves took up judo and jiujitsu on a permanent basis, finding it fun and helpful in his every day life.
Prepare to be amazed. Vikings actress Katheryn Winnick is actually a black belt in three martial arts forms, all of which she mastered before she even got into acting. By the age of 13 she had earned her first black belt. By the age of 21 she had earned two more black belts in taekwondo and karate. This makes her fighting scenes in any future project a piece of cake for her.
Actor or martial artist? James Caan took his teachings to a whole new level when he discovered Gosoku-ryū karate. He became a 6th Dan rank in Gosoku-ryū karate before he moved on to teaching it to the Culver City Police Department! The actor, known for his roles in The Gambler, The Godfather, and Chapter Two, is one hot ticket, a ticket you don’t want to mess with, that’s for sure.
Would you expect anything less of the man who played James Bond? Connery earned a black belt in Kyokushin karate and was using his skills when he got into a fight with his karate teacher during the filming of Never Say Never Again. Want to take a guess as to who his teacher was? Steven Seagal himself was the man behind the karate teachings of the former Bond actor.
Ashton Kutcher may seem like a nice, mellow, harmless guy, but he is a purple belt in Brazilian jiujitsu and can open a can of you know what if you don’t act right. Ashton was trained by Rigan Machado, who is famous among martial artists as he himself was taught by The Gracies who are pioneers in all things combat fighting and are based in Brazil.
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Sarah Michelle Gellar, who shot to fame as both the evil sister in Cruel Intentions but also as the behind kicking Buffy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She had to do a lot of fighting on the television show and so in order to make sure she was up to par, she trained in taekwondo. She trained to the point where she reached the rank of 1st Dan! Sarah Michelle is also an avid lover of all things kicking and boxing.
Naomi may be blonde and unassuming but she can seriously hurt you if you cross her. Watts has been training in martial arts since she was a teenager. It was in the late 1980s that Watts was even a participant in judo championships that were later transformed into Brazilian jiujitsu. She loves practicing the art and considers it a way to get stronger both mentally and physically.
Wesley Snipes is famous for his role in the Blade films. He is one man not to cross, if you ask us. He is more than efficient in the arts of Shotokan karate and Brazilian jiujitsu. When asked about his skills in regards to fighting, Snipes said that whenever there is a fight, it would end very fast. We would NOT mess with Snipes, just in case.
The Law and Order: Special Victims Unit starlet is a fan favorite of us all. She is very familiar with martial arts as she started practicing Shotokan karate back in the 1990s. She, wait for it, is a black belt in Shotokan karate from all of her years of practicing. Hargitay said about the art, “It exercises your discipline in a way I haven’t found in other sports.”
Jason Statham is a buff, tough British man. There, we said it. However, while he is a huge fan of Brazilian jiujitsu, karate, Wing Chun and kickboxing, he has admitted that he prefers fighting that won’t jeopardize his face. Yes, you heard that right. Statham said, “Because there’s not too much contact with the face, so the face won’t get hurt and that’s very important in my profession.” Don’t hurt the money maker, guys!
A first on this list of karate and the like, Jessica Alba has taken up the fighting art of Krav Maga. Krav Maga is the Israeli formed self defense fighting system that was created by the Israeli Defense Forces. Alba said about the art, “It’s brutal, it’s fast, to the point and it was fun to do!” She uses it to keep her body and mind on edge and is sure doing a fantastic job doing so!
Nothing like Al Bundy or even his patriarchal character on Modern Family, actor Ed O’Neill has been practicing Brazilian jiujitsu for many years. He was trained by none other than Rorion Gracie of the Brazilian pioneers of the fighting art and has earned himself a black belt for his years of hard training and energetic fighting. We could see him be a part of such an art, it seems to work well with his tough exterior.
Another Law and Order actor to the mix! Ice-T, rapper extraordinaire, is a huge fan of jiujitsu. The actor and rapper is an intimidating force as it is, but add to that the fact that he is well versed in the art of rear end kicking and we are steering real clear of Mr. Ice. At least he will be able to protect Coco, his wife and biggest fan!
Robert Downey Jr.
Iron Man needs to know how to handle himself in a fight. Actor Robert Downey Jr., although now back on the road to success, was once on a troubled path of substance abuse. It was thanks to Wing Chun marital arts that he managed to navigate through the mess and back into the light. Robert was trained by Eric Oram who was the creator of Wing Chun. Robert said, “Martial has just been… I can’t even say how much it’s impacted my ability to stay well and focused.”