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Every Real Martial Artist Who Appears In The MCU

Aliens. Superpowers. Groot. The MCU is bursting with infinite possibilities and a colorful cast of characters, each with its own distinctive look and abilities. While most of the outlandish parts of this wild and wacky universe are brought to life due to the talented visual effects team and the lean, mean, green screen, there are actors with their own unique set of "super" skills. These individuals don't need to be bitten by radioactive spiders or to wear Infinity Gauntlets because their fists and feet are the only weapons of mass destruction they need. Make no mistake about it, the MCU possesses real martial artists who could give the "John Wick" fighters a serious run for their money.

In some instances, these actors have had the opportunity to showcase their natural abilities on screen, while there are others who haven't had the chance to shine in their purest form. Still, that doesn't take away from the fact they are talented fighters and could probably knock a sturdy mailbox off a pole in a heartbeat. With that being said, let's take a look at the real martial artists who appear in the MCU.

Dave Bautista

Before his time as Drax the Destroyer in "Guardians of the Galaxy," most fans probably remember Dave Bautista as "The Animal" Batista in WWE, where he spent his time Batista Bombing people through tables and claiming world championships. While there's an argument to be made about the merits of pro wrestling as a martial art, this isn't the only contact sport that Bautista has participated in. In 2010, Bautista began training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu through Cesar Gracie and received a purple belt in 2014. Previously, he had also trained and had experience in the martial arts, Kali and Muay Thai.

In 2012, Bautista had a professional MMA fight where he beat veteran Vince Lucero by TKO in four minutes. In an interview with Sherdog, Gracie praised Bautista's natural ability, saying, "You're talking about a guy who is very powerful, very strong and an extremely hard worker, and if he can put it all together he could be a very formidable force." While Drax might have been more of a brawler (and stabber) in the MCU, it goes to show that if Bautista had been allowed to show off his BJJ training on screen, he might have made Thanos tap out before he could snap half the world away.

Lewis Tan

The "Iron Fist" series wasn't exactly the roaring success fans might have expected. As one of the top fighters in the Marvel Universe, it was expected that the actor portraying Danny Rand would have the martial arts chops necessary to convince as the character, but unfortunately, it was clear Finn Jones had limited fighting prowess and training. It might have been different had Lewis Tan been cast for the title role he originally auditioned for. Nonetheless, Tan delivers arguably the best fight scene of the entire first season as Zhou Cheng, who battles Danny in Episode 8 ("The Blessing of Many Fractures").

Tan has also had the opportunity to continue to show off his talents since then in 2021's "Mortal Kombat" film and Netflix's "Wu Assassins." The actor is a legitimate martial artist, having started his training under his father, Philip, who was a renowned stunt and fight choreographer in Hollywood. Tan is well-versed in several martial arts, including Taekwondo and Muay Thai.

Speaking to Rolling Stone India about how the different styles complement each other on screen, Tan said, "Muay Thai is the best striking style for everyday use while Taekwondo is the best to learn if you want to do martial arts in movies. It's beautiful and you have really long kicks and punches. You learn footwork and rhythm. Muay Thai, however, is quite aggressive, but it's also very useful and looks beautiful too."

Scott Adkins

British action superstar Scott Adkins' name always seems to pop up in discussions over who should play the more physical comic book characters. It's easy to imagine him as someone like the Punisher or Batman, especially with his ability to do his own stunt work and fight scenes. However, Adkins' debut in the MCU was about as low-key as it comes in 2016's "Doctor Strange." In the film, the actor plays Lucian, one of Kaecilius' magical stooges. He gets to throw a few punches at the good doctor, but he isn't really positioned as much of a legitimate threat here.

In the real world, though, Adkins would wipe the floor with Stephen Strange, then use the red cape to wipe the single drop of sweat from his eyebrow. The actor started judo at the age of 10 before a mugging incident on a bus a few years later prompted him to train even harder. Adkins is proficient in at least six forms of martial arts, including kickboxing, karate, and ninjutsu. In other words, he's a real-life ninja, so mess with him at your own peril.

Georges St-Pierre

When "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" dropped in 2014, there was one scene that everyone was talking about. It's right at the beginning of the film as Captain America goes toe-to-toe with the mercenary, Georges Batroc. It's a fast, hard-hitting sequence that culminates in Steve Rogers taking off his helmet and dropping the shield to prove he can take Batroc without his armor. Batroc is KOed by Steve here, but he does make his return in "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier."

While Chris Evans' Cap looks good in the fight, he is aided by the fact there's a proper MMA fighter on the other side: Georges St-Pierre. As a former professional fighter, St-Pierre holds a 26-2 record in the UFC, with many pundits regarding him as one of the best MMA fighters in the history of the sport.

Talking to ET Canada about working with St-Pierre in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," Evans said, "We had fantastic stuntmen. Anything they threw at him, not only is he able to do it but he's able to elaborate on it." The actor praised the former fighter for being a total pro and demonstrating uncanny accuracy in everything he did in their scene.

Yuen Wah

Yuen Wah is a stalwart and icon of Hong Kong action cinema, having appeared in countless films as an actor and action choreographer. In "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," he portrays Master Guang Bo, a leader of the mystical Ta Lo. In terms of pure ability, he may also be one of the greatest martial artists to have appeared in the MCU.

Yuen Wah was a student of Sifu Jim-Yuen Yu and trained in various martial arts forms such as Wushu, Hapkido, and Taekwondo. More impressively, the legendary Bruce Lee selected him and a few other stunt performers to learn his hybrid style of Jeet Kune Do. Jackie Chan is also a big fan of Yuen Wah, having trained and shared the screen with him. In his autobiography, Chan praised Wah for being able to accurately imitate any martial arts move or style required. It's not hard to see how this is an incredible and valuable asset in the world of action movies.

Simu Liu

Out of all the MCU films, none has as many martial arts on display as "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings." The fight choreography has a Hong Kong action style to it, and the lead star, Simu Liu, looks more than competent when he's dishing out a fury of kicks and punches. However, this isn't simply a case of magical editing and the stunt performers doing all the heavy lifting for Liu.

Appearing on Kevin Hart's "Hart to Heart" show in 2022, Liu was asked about the rumors that he had no martial arts experience but learned enough to do most of the stunts in the film. "I purposefully downplay how much martial arts I knew," he said, "because I am afraid of that narrative, of like, 'The martial-arts guy, they cast the martial-arts guy to do the martial arts. He's Asian, of course!' "I want to challenge people to see me as an artist." Liu added that he also did gymnastics classes and parkour to help him prepare for the film. In addition, the filmmakers ensured the actors were trained in other martial arts such as Tai Chi and Wing Chun.

Florian Munteanu

"Big Nasty" Florian Munteanu announced himself to moviegoers as the imposing Viktor Drago in "Creed 2." His towering frame and hulking physique immediately made him stand out from the pack, much like his storyline father, Ivan (Dolph Lundgren), had done so in "Rocky IV" decades earlier. With such a distinct and chiseled look, it was only a matter of time before the comic book movie world came knocking at his door with opportunity on a platter.

Marvel struck first, and Munteanu's superhero bow came in Destin Daniel Cretton's "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" where he plays Razor Fist, the Ten Rings' muscle. It's a role that allows the German-born actor to show off his physical skills in an action-packed affair.

While Munteanu is focused on his acting career now, he has a history in boxing and combat sports. In fact, Sylvester Stallone discovered him for the part of Viktor by watching some of his online training videos and liked what he saw. Considering Stallone's close association with boxing over the decades, Munteanu must possess some serious skills to impress the man behind Rocky Balboa.

Frank Grillo

Frank Grillo has carved out a niche for himself in the action movie genre. So much so that even Scott Adkins has joked to Men's Health that he only gets his roles if Grillo turns them down. While most fans expected Grillo would be a shoo-in to become the new Frank Castle and Punisher — a role that even he admitted was interesting to him — he was cast as the villainous Brock Rumlow and Crossbones in the MCU. Grillo made a few appearances as the Marvel character, even wearing the comic book-accurate costume, but he was never the main antagonist of any of the films.

It's a shame, really, since a full-blown action film focusing solely on Captain America and Crossbones could have been epic — especially considering Grillo's martial arts background. He started out by dabbling in wrestling in high school, then moved on to boxing as an adult. He still keeps up with his boxing regime too, training daily and sparring with professional fighters to keep his mind and reflexes sharp.

That isn't all, though. For over three decades, Grillo has practiced Brazilian jiu-jitsu, where he learned from one of the masters, Rickson Gracie. Grillo is no slouch in this martial art either, holding a prestigious brown belt that more than proves he can hang with the best of them.

Hiroyuki Sanada

Hiroyuki Sanada had a small role in the MCU, portraying the Yakuza member, Akihiko, who engages in a swordfight with Clint Barton's Ronin in "Avengers: Endgame." It might not be as substantial as his roles in the likes of "The Last Samurai," "Mortal Kombat," and "John Wick: Chapter 4," but it at least gave MCU fans a taste of what Sanada is all about.

As it turns out, the Japanese performer is both a talented actor and martial artist. In a past interview with KungFu Magazine, he revealed how he discovered at an early age that it was possible for him to merge his love for action and acting into one. At the age of 13, Sanada became absorbed by martial arts, learning Shorinji Kempo and Kyokushinkai karate. At the same time, he enrolled himself in Sonny Chiba's stunt school, which kickstarted his journey toward film stardom.

In the same interview, Sanada revealed that he still carries all the lessons he learned from martial arts in his life to this day. "Of course we learn the physical aspects of training through the martial arts," he said, "and I'm sure we all hear about the spiritual and mental aspects; and it is these things we must truly use all the time. We must learn courtesy, humbleness, and it is these things that I try to bring onto film sets and real life."

Spencer Wilding

Welsh actor Spencer Wilding's face isn't instantly recognizable to the average moviegoer; however, this actor has had many memorable roles — usually under a ton of prosthetics or makeup. Wilding is the actual Wolf Man in 2010's "The Wolf Man," a White Walker in "Game of Thrones," and the Darth Vader actor in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." He also had a small part as the guard who takes Peter Quill's Walkman in the first "Guardians of the Galaxy" movie.

Before Wilding was playing aliens, monsters, and mean guards, he had a different career. He was a boxing and kickboxing champion in the United Kingdom, holding an astounding record of 17 wins in 18 fights, with 14 victories coming from knockouts.

Speaking to The Film Magazine, Wilding explained how a chance encounter with a photoshop owner changed his life's trajectory. "The owner was a man called Tony Scott-Lee, father of Lisa Scott-Lee from [British pop band] Steps," he said. "He rang me to say the photos were ready, and told me I looked good in the photos, and asked if I'd ever thought about being in films because he knew people who knew people who put sports stars in films."

Dallas Liu

When it comes to young actors the world should be keeping an eye on, Dallas Liu is a name that should be on everyone's lips. He has already starred as the younger versions of Jin Kazama and Bi-Han in "Tekken" and "Mortal Kombat: Legacy" respectively, and he has been cast as Zuko in the live-action TV show adaptation of "Avatar: The Last Airbender."

Liu also appears in "Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings" as Katy's younger brother, Ruihua. It isn't a massive role by any means, but he does receive a few lines in the MCU movie. Well, if Shang-Chi ever needs some more fighting assistance, he can always call on Ruihua for help, since the actor is a legitimate martial artist with some pedigree.

Liu is trained and experienced in Shotokan karate, going as far as participating in the North American Sport Karate Association competitions. Blending martial arts with acting, Liu hopes to emulate one of his role models Jackie Chan. "He's big for Asian representation," Liu told NextShark. "Him doing martial arts films and being so well known. It's a huge inspiration for me."

Jade Xu

After having dominated the competitive Wushu circuit, and becoming a world champion in the process, Jade Xu is ready for the next phase of her life as an actor in Hollywood. She has already secured two big movies in the form of "Black Widow" and "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," where she plays a dangerous and highly skilled Widow known as Helen. While the role is small in both films, Xu does more than enough to convince she should get more screen time in the MCU, or any other film that requires serious action stars.

Speaking to Asian Movie Pulse, Xu revealed more about her martial arts background, explaining how she started training at an early age. "I was six years old when I was introduced to the Chinese martial arts," she said. "My mother Xu Guanguan, a professional athlete and coach herself, brought me into it and coached me until I retired from competition in 2009." Xu is still particularly grateful to her mother, whom she says never pushed her into competition, and warmly refers to her as one of her biggest inspirations.