Every Real Martial Artist Who Appeared In The John Wick Films

Justice for Daisy — that is the essence of the "John Wick" films, as the titular character embarks on a revenge-fueled quest to demand vengeance for his fallen beagle puppy. While the movies have become renowned for the insatiable Hong Kong gun-fu style on display, the action is given extra credibility due to the real martial artists used in the series. Their inclusion adds authenticity to the fight scenes. It's clear these aren't actors who have only trained for 15 minutes before the cameras rolled — they are legitimate fighters, almost as capable of actual violence as they are imaginary violence.

Considering director Chad Stahelski's mixed martial arts and stunt background, it should come as no surprise that he would push for believable sequences with capable performers. It's been a visual treat for audiences, obviously, but it has also had a ripple effect throughout Hollywood. Suddenly, the action genre has been pushed up a level, and it'll be up to other directors to match or improve on the standard set by "John Wick." Here's a suggestion for those filmmakers — hire some of these real martial artists who have electrified the "John Wick" films.

Daniel Bernhardt

The 2014 "John Wick" film didn't mark Daniel Bernhardt's first time sharing the screen with Keanu Reeves. He had previously appeared as one of the sinister agents alongside Reeves' Neo in "The Matrix Reloaded." However, "John Wick" allowed for the two to battle in a more direct and tense encounter. In the film, Bernhardt plays one of Viggo's stooges, Kirill. He tries to suffocate John by putting a bag over his head during a tight and closely matched clash for survival (John wins, of course).

As Bernhardt revealed to Kung-fu Kingdom, he trained in kung fu and moved onto kickboxing and boxing at a later stage. He also practiced Taekwondo, and trained under Grandmaster Hee-iI Cho when he did "Bloodsport 2." Since the mid-1990s, Bernhardt has kicked his way into numerous film and television projects in the action genre. He even had a starring role in the short-lived series "Mortal Kombat: Conquest." 

Speaking about his "John Wick" experience with Kung-fu Kingdom, Bernhardt credited Chad Stahelski for how the fight scenes turned out. "Chad has done every martial art you can imagine," he said. "He's a master in probably 10 martial arts, there's nobody else that I know that's more gifted than him."

Scott Adkins

Not many people recognized Scott Adkins as Killa Harkan when images of the character first surfaced for "John Wick: Chapter 4." Yet, the Kingpin-esque character showed off something that most Adkins fans have known for a while — he is a versatile and talented actor with enviable martial arts skills. Whether he is literally kicking it alongside action superstars like Jean-Claude Van Damme and Sylvester Stallone in "The Expendables 2," backflipping his way into B-movie excellence with "Boyka: Undisputed," or bringing the laughs in Netflix's vampire comedy "Day Shift," Adkins always delivers.

While he has become the undisputed king of direct-to-video action movies, the British actor's history with martial arts began when he started taking judo lessons at 10 years old. However, a mugging incident in his early teens inspired him to take his training even more seriously, prompting his studies of Taekwondo and kickboxing. Eventually, he trained himself up to instructor level in kickboxing.

As Adkins revealed to The Wrap, he has known Chad Stahelski for a while and asked to be a part of the "John Wick" films. Eventually, the director brought Adkins into the fold, but informed him his role wouldn't be as straightforward as he imagined. "[Stahelski said] 'You're going to be in a [fat suit], playing this German head of the German Table,'" Adkins said. "I actually relished the challenge and the opportunity to create such an amazingly evil, yet jolly character."

Donnie Yen

Does Donnie Yen even need an introduction at this point? He's one of the most celebrated Hong Kong action stars of all time. His films have changed the landscape of action cinema and push the boundaries of what's possible with each release. Rightfully so, "John Wick: Chapter 4" includes the bona fide legend in the role of Caine — an acquaintance of John and a lethal blind assassin.

In terms of martial arts ability, Yen is the real deal. In an interview with Men's Journal, he revealed his martial arts training started at a young age. "My mother was a martial arts master and she used to run a wushu school, so I started my training with her," he said. "But there was a quick fascination for what the body could turn into, as well as with the physical aspect of martial arts. I was innately a curious person and I found myself hungry for knowledge on how to get stronger."

Yen explained how his desire to improve took him down a path of discovery where he also enrolled in boxing classes and took up bodybuilding. All these elements combined helped him to build the discipline needed for martial arts and acting. When he was cast as the iconic Ip Man, Yen also trained with Wing Chun masters, developing his skills even further.

Mark Dacascos

Without a shadow of a doubt, Mark Dacascos is one of the most underrated actors in the business. Since the early '90s, he has appeared in lowkey humdingers such as "Only the Strong" and "Brotherhood of the Wolf." However, he only received his flowers when he was cast as the main antagonist Zero in "John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum." Thanks to his electric performance and phenomenal moves, the world finally saw Dacascos has the action chops to rival the Van Dammes and Seagals of the world.

Dacascos has a serious martial arts pedigree in real life as well. His father is Sifu Al Dacascos, the founder of Wun Hop Kuen Do Kung Fu, while his stepmother Malia Bernal is one of the most celebrated and dominant martial arts fighters in the U.S.

In an interview with Inside Kung-Fu, Dacascos revealed how he had maintained his training in wun hop kune do, while also learning Muay Thai. He also discussed why he never stopped training, even when he wasn't doing too many action projects at the time. "I come from a traditional martial arts family and it's my hope I never stop training and I never lose that traditional aspect of it," he said. "Meaning the salutation before and after class, the respect, the discipline, the honor — I love that."

Marko Zaror

Chilean actor Marko Zaror might not be an instantly recognizable name to the general American audience, but for action connoisseurs, his presence in a film is a sure indication that it will metaphorically and literally kick hard. In "John Wick: Chapter 4," Zaror plays Chidi, the ruthless High Table member who tests the ire of everyone as he attempts to put down another dog in this franchise. Fortunately, no one is about to let that slide around here anymore, and he gets his just desserts.

Zaror became interested in martial arts after watching the likes of Jackie Chan, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Bruce Lee. Inspired by these on-screen superstars, Zaror began his training at a young age and was well established in Taekwondo and kickboxing by the time he was an adult. From there, his path took him into modeling before he found his footing in acting.

Speaking to film journalist Rohan Patel, Zaror revealed how much work he puts into preparation for his movies. He explained he treats them as if they are his "Olympic Games" and he needs to arrive on set ready to compete at the highest level.

Yayan Ruhian

As the big bad of "John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum," Zero has a few disciples who duel with John in the film. Two of his shinobi assassins face off against John in arguably the film's centerpiece fight in the glass office. One of the assassins is portrayed by actor and martial artist Yayan Ruhian. Indonesian action cinema fans know all about Ruhian from his appearances in Gareth Evans' "The Raid" films. He is very fast and able to keep up with other sublime martial artists such as Joe Taslim and Iko Uwais.

Ruhian is a practitioner of pencak silat and became an in-demand instructor, even teaching the Indonesian police force at one point in his career. However, martial arts isn't simply a hobby for him, as silat became a major part of his whole being. "There is something that you call wiraga [physical aspects], wirasa [artistic aspects] and wirama [rhythm aspects] in silat," he told The Jakarta Post. "A silat practitioner must be able to master these aspects and they will eventually be beneficial in their lives."

Yamamotoyama Ryūta

The biggest highlight of the "John Wick" films is discovering how innovative John can be when he finds himself in trouble. Not only can he adapt his fighting style, but he can also switch up his strategy when he encounters new and challenging opponents. In "John Wick: Chapter 2," he meets a sumo assassin who isn't going down easy, even after a hail of bullets and swift kicks to the groin. He appears to be an immovable object until a headshot from John's pistol does the trick.

The sumo assassin is portrayed by Yamamotoyama Ryūta, who is a former Japanese sumo wrestling champion. He was considered one of the heaviest sumo wrestlers of all time before transitioning into acting.

Director Chad Stahelski revealed to Flickering Myth that before "John Wick: Chapter 2" he saw a sumo fight and decided he wanted to include a sumo wrestler in the movie. Then he met Ryūta and was immediately impressed by his sheer size. "He was doing a promo in LA," Stahelski said. "So I met him and he came up and almost bent the spring floor in the studio."

Hiroyuki Sanada

Hiroyuki Sanada has been in the film industry for decades. While he transitioned to Hollywood in the early 2000s, it feels like he only recently started receiving the praise he deserves. Hot off playing Scorpion in 2021's "Mortal Kombat" and appearing in "Bullet Train" and "Army of the Dead," Sanada was cast as Shimazu Koji in "John Wick: Chapter 4."

Sanada is also an accomplished martial artist who decided early on in his life that he was going to combine his love of martial arts with acting. He explained to KungFu Magazine that he enjoyed both Bruce Lee and Steve McQueen, so he found a way to merge all his passions into one.

He trained in Shorinji Kempo and Kyokushinkai karate before he joined Japanese legendary actor Sonny Chiba's stunt school. Sanada credited Chiba as his mentor, saying, "When I was 13 and training with Sonny, he told me that acting and actors have a long life, like a marathon, so the most important thing is to continue acting. And by the time I reach 30, that will be the time when I get a real first big chance to do something."

Roger Yuan

With his skills in stunts, martial arts, and acting, Roger Yuan is a triple threat of talent. He is widely known as the fight coordinator for "Jason Bourne" and for appearing in numerous films such as "Shanghai Noon," "Batman Begins," and "Bulletproof Monk." Yuan also contributed stunts and appeared as a Triad assassin in "John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum."

In his early years, Yuan was a self-trained martial artist, learning judo and karate from books he read. However, he underwent formal training for karate in his late teens before his move to Los Angeles introduced him to a certain Chuck Norris.

Discussing the experience with Kung-fu Kingdom, Yuan said, "Chuck tells me about how his style was originally Tang Soo Do but with hand techniques similar to Shotokan and Kyokushin and I might see some of the forms that are similar. 'You should train here,' he said. I was recruited by Chuck Norris to train in his system, and now I have a fourth-degree black belt."

Gary Daniels

While the "John Wick" films have done a great job of putting talented martial artists in pivotal roles, there's also an incredible stunt team who are responsible for the death-defying acts on display. One of the stuntmen in "John Wick: Chapter 2" is British-born martial artist and actor Gary Daniels.

In the late '80s and early '90s, Daniels built up a career for himself starring in all sorts of action fodder with outstanding titles such as "Ring of Fire" and "Pocket Ninjas." Some of his more notable parts include Bryan Fury in the "Tekken" films and his appearance as The Brit in "The Expendables."

Daniels is also one of the most accomplished action stars in terms of his martial arts background. Beginning at the age of 8, he trained in a hybrid combat style called Mongolian kung fu that took elements of aikido, karate, and judo. In addition, he is proficient in Taekwondo and kickboxing. Daniels didn't only train, though, as he picked up several fighting championships as well.

Tiger Hu Chen

Keanu Reeves owes a lot to Tiger Hu Chen. Initially, the two met on the set of "The Matrix," where Chen acted as Reeves' martial arts teacher and taught him the moves he needed to portray Neo. From there, a friendship developed between the two of them, with Reeves eventually directing the 2013 movie "Man of Tai Chi" and casting Chen in a pivotal role. Chen and Reeves received another chance to combine their powers in "John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum," where Chen portrayed a Triad assassin. 

Before leaping into Hollywood, Chen achieved success as a martial artist. He had trained in wushu since the tender age of 8 and participated in several competitions before impressing in karate as well. His life changed, though, when he met fabled Hong Kong choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping and it kickstarted his journey into the world of cinema.

Saïd Taghmaoui

"John Wick" started off as a revenge film but has evolved into a wide-spanning universe with intriguing lore and dynamic characters. In "John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum," The Elder is introduced as a mysterious figure who acts as the head of the High Table. Portraying the character is French actor Saïd Taghmaoui.

While the actor is now known for his role in "John Wick" and his appearance in "Wonder Woman," he was a boxer before he decided to hang up the gloves for the lights, camera, and action. He was pretty decent, too, being ranked second in his weight class in France.

His role as The Elder also came at the right time for him as he had suffered something of a career setback in the recent past. Taghmaoui revealed he had been set to portray the Bond villain when Danny Boyle was attached to the project that became "No Time to Die." However, after the director famously left the production, the filmmakers went in a different direction — one without Taghmaoui.