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Hollywood actors trained in Judo

23 Dec 2020 17:15

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What do the following multinational actors have in common besides acting? It’s Judo, of course. Many have benefited from learning martial arts, and we could even go on to say some may not have had film careers without it.

While a great many actors and actresses play action heroes, these actors have genuine Judo skills and have spent many years training to become fully-fledged masters of the art.

Suppose you love action films as much as we do? Then you will be interested to know who in the world of cinema and celebrity is a Judo aficionado. Starting with some stars who have the skills and others you may not realise the practice “gentle way”.

Starting with Keanu Reeves.

Probably the most famous actor in this list is Keanu Reeves. It was during the making of The Matrix in 1999 that Reeves became a fan of martial arts, in particular, Judo. Who else than triple Olympic Champion Tadahiro Nomura trained Reeves and the result is great!

Reeves continued to practise Judo throughout the next three films - The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions and The Matrix Four, he now considers Judo a way of life, and it is.

Chuck Norris 

Norris began his martial arts journey in Judo while serving as an MP at the Osan Air Base in Korea and eventually becoming a Grandmaster. Two weeks into his training, he broke his shoulder in a fall on the mat, but this did not stop Norris from embracing Judo and becoming a black belt, going on to use his skills to train others. Here is a list of achievements.

> Along with Judo, Norris developed his personal brand of martial arts called Chun Kuk Do and is a 10th Dan Black Belt

> Tang Soo Do - Grandmaster - 10th Dan Black Belt 

> Taekwondo - 8th Dan -  Black Belt

> Karate - 5th Dan - Black Belt

> Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu - 3rd Dan Black Belt 

> Jeet Kune Do - taught by Bruce Lee

John Foo

Foo was born in Athens, Greece to a Singaporean father and an Irish/English mother. Inspired by his father's fascination with karate and his mother's keen interest in judo, subsequently, he trained in kung fu. 

The actor specialises in mixed styles, including Judo. He began his career at festivals with the Gangs of New York, a London Chinese Acrobats company, signing with one of the biggest film companies in Asia working alongside Jackie Chan.

Jackie Chan

Chan is a martial artist foremost and an actor, as well as a stuntman, filmmaker, action choreographer, and singer. He is known on-screen for his slapstick acrobatic style, fantastic comic timing, improvisation of weapons, and innovative stunts, all performed by Chan in over 150 films.

He has trained in Kung Fu, Hapkido - Black belt, Wing Chun, Taekwondo, Shaolin Kung Fu - Northern and Southern, Judo - Black Belt, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Guy Richie

Filmmaker and screenwriter, Ritchie, is probably best known for the film Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and also for being married to Madonna.  Ritchie’s interest in Martial arts started at the age of seven with Shotokan Karate.  But that’s not his only skill.

He was also Judo Black Belt and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu - Brown Belt

Mick Jagger

Jagger is a well-known singer but what most people do not realise is that he’s an accomplished actor and uses Judo to keep fit. It was Jaggers father who introduced Jagger junior to Judo.

Naomi Watts

Watts is a well known Hollywood actress, making her debut in 1995 in the science fiction film called Tank Girl and horror film Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering in 1996, and biographical drama Dangerous Beauty in 1998. 

Not many people know that Watts has practised judo for many years. She competed in amateur Judo championships from 1989 - 1992. Watts trains in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to keep in tip-top shape.

Bruce Lee 

The most famous martial artist of all time Lee was a Judo student under the legend Gene Lebell. 

Lee was the founder of a hybrid martial arts philosophy drawing from different combat disciplines called Jeet Kune Do. Often credited with paving the way for modern mixed martial arts - Lee is considered by commentators, critics, and other martial artists to be the most influential martial artist of all time. The list is impressive.

Wing Chun from Ye Wen, Shaolin Boxing, Tam Tuei, Springing Leg, Jie Boxing and White Crane Boxing, Qigong and Ying Gong and Judo

Gene Lebell

Lebell was Bruce Lee’s teacher. A well known American martial artist, Judo instructor, professional wrestler and stunt performer. Lebell, the actor, was born in Los Angeles, California in 1932 and has worked on over 1,000 films and TV shows. 

Called "the Godfather of Grappling", Lebell is credited with popularising “grappling” in professional fighting circles, serving as a precursor to modern mixed martial arts.

As a member of the Amateur Athletic Union, Lebell competed in AAU National Judo Championship in 1954 and 1955. With more accomplishments in wrestling, he has also taught his famous grappling skills to many well-known wrestlers and martial artists including Benny "The Jet" Urquidez, Chuck Norris, Bob Wall, Ed Parker, Karo Parisyan, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Gokor Chivichyan, Mando Guerrero, Manny Gamburyan and of course Bruce Lee.

Ronda Rousey

Rousey is an MMA movie star, but she qualifies for this list due to several small roles she had in action films.

Best known for her UFC career and her Judo career, here is a rundown of her skills.

> Pan American Judo Champion

> Olympic Bronze Medal in Judo

> World silver medallist in Judo

> Former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion

> 6th Degree Black Belt plus a Red and White Belt in Judo 

> Trains in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

There are, of course, lots of other famous and not so renowned film and TV stars who love Judo; we decided to mention the above celebrities because in one way or another they have championed the sport and others because they are keeping the love of Judo alive.

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