×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Martial arts actors you don't know about but should

Martial arts movies haven't traditionally been known for their acting, but that's changed in recent years. Whether you're into well-choreographed action or you just like watching impossibly chiseled warriors throw endless haymakers at waves of faceless goons, your viewing choices are better than ever—and to help you stock up your kung fu queue, we've put together a list of some lesser-known martial arts movie stars from around the world you may want to check out. For each actor, we've included some basic information as well as provided links to some of their best or most impressive fight scenes on YouTube, many of which we've been assured by medical experts are so badass they double as the visual equivalent of shark Viagra. 

×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Ilram Choi

Nationality: Korean-American

Martial art of choice: Taekwondo

Ilram Choi is described as one of Hollywood's "go-to stuntmen" and has been working behind the scenes in the industry for over a decade. Formally trained in Taekwondo and a self-taught master of gymnastics, Choi is responsible for countless of the cool movie stunts you've seen since 2005. Along with being a stunt actor who has been thrown through a window by everyone from Jason Statham to Optimus Prime, Choi was Spider-Man's stunt double in the Amazing Spider-Man movies. In fact, he was so good at being Spider-Man, he's the fight coordinator for Spider-Man: Homecoming. Not content with being in charge of telling Spider-Man how to sidekick a criminal through a building, Choi also lent his expertise to the crew of Kong: Skull Island—meaning he can technically write "trained King Kong how to whup ass" on his résumé.

Choi has done stunt work for a bunch of video games, too, most notably serving as the basis of Albert Wesker's teleport and jaguar-based fighting style in Resident Evil 5 as well as doing some of the stunts from Devil May Cry 3—a game in which the main character drop-kicks a pool table across a room to kill half a dozen demons made of sand. As if all that isn't cool enough on its own, Choi also has the unique honor of being the only person in history to dunk on someone as a Navi, since he's also one of the guys who provided mo-cap for the basketball scene in Avatar.

×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Scott Adkins

Nationality: British

Martial art of choice: Kickboxing, Taekwondo

Scott Adkins is a British actor seemingly unable to avoid being typecast as a Russian thug with the ability to perforate livers with a hypersonic gut kick. Trained mostly in kickboxing with a background in taekwondo and gymnastics (and shoulders with their own separate time zones), Adkins can effortlessly transition between throwing punishing punches to the jaw and backflips, a skill showcased during his numerous fight scenes as Yuri Boyka, the straight-to-DVD hero of the Undisputed movies—a cinematic universe he rules with an iron fist, an iron beard, and a near-unlimited supply of growling one-liners and back fists delivered at Mach 3.

In addition to portraying Boyka, Adkins has sporadically appeared in bigger movies in smaller roles or as a stuntman, notably serving as the stunt double for Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. (If you're unsure at any given moment whether it's Adkins or Ryan Reynolds playing Deadpool, whenever Deadpool is doing a backflip, it's Adkins.) All in all, Adkins seems to feel most at home making cheesy direct-to-video movies with names that read like unreleased Wu Tang albums like Ninja: Shadow of a Tear and Legendary: Tomb of the Dragon.

×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Marko Zaror

Nationality: Chilean

Martial arts of choice: Taekwondo, Judo, Kung Fu and Boxing

Marko Zaror is a Chilean actor who initially made his foray into the entertainment industry as a model. Standing around pouting in a pair of jeans while his abs went offensively unchallenged didn't cut it, so he decided to try his hands at punching people in Spanish B movies. From this his transitioned to bit parts in Hollywood and Bollywood movies before finally returning to his native Chile to become the country's first real action star.

Zaror is known for his blistering speed, which he hones by training in heavy weighted clothing, a technique favored by such renowned martial artists as Rock Lee and Son Goku. Zaror's intimidating physique and ability to shrug off punches to the face through sheer force of will and the strength of his beard game has earned him the moniker "The Latin Dragon"—a nickname we'd do anything to earn, short of actually fighting Zaror one on one.

×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Sam Hargrave

Nationality: American

Martial arts of choice: Judo, Jujitsu, American Punch-Fu

Sam Hargrave is an American stunt actor so humble, his own résumé notes that he's Captain America's stunt double while simultaneously describing his own physique as "athletic"—an understatement so massive it's rivaled possibly only by Hargrave's biceps. Along with doubling for Captain America when man-mountain Chris Evans is too scared to do something, Hargrave is the guy they call when they need someone to eat an unthinkable amount of pavement while dressed in a stupid costume.

Another martial arts actor more comfortable with you only ever seeing the back of his head, Hargrave stood in for Chris Evans for that fight scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier when he dropkicks the Winter Soldier across a freeway and is tackled out of a window. A prolific stunt actor, a lot of Hargrave's early stunt reels are still on YouTube, meaning you can watch footage of him intentionally throwing himself into bushes or being hit by cars if you're so inclined.

×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Vidyut Jammwal

Nationality: Indian

Martial art of choice: Kalaripayattu

Vidyut Jammwal is trained in the traditional (and difficult to pronounce) Keralite martial art of Kalaripayattu. It encompasses many fighting skills, from punishing strikes to limb-destroying holds and locks, all of which Jammwal is frighteningly proficient at, having trained for over three decades under gurus and, we presume, countless bearded mystics. Interestingly, Kalaripayattu also apparently teaches "healing techniques"—whether this means Jammwal can sit down and restore his health like Yoshimitsu in Tekken 3 isn't clear, but we're forced to assume that he can, just to be on the safe side.

Jammwal's big break came courtesy of Commando: A One Man Army, in which he performed all of his own stunts and choreographed his own fights specifically to show off his martial arts prowess. During the film's many, many fight scenes, Jammwal fells opponents with tree-assisted 720 spin kicks, steals someone's belt mid-combo just to backhand them with it, and backflip kicks a lampshade straight into someone's face. Jammwal, or more specifically the tandem performance of his abs and fists, were considered by many to be the film's only real saving grace. It was enough to get a sequel greenlit, the trailer for which we highly recommend if you want to see Jammwal double kneestrike a guy wearing pogo stilts.

In addition to being recognized as a phenomenal martial artist, being called "India's answer to Bruce Lee," Jammwal is, in the words of Right Said Fred, so sexy it hurts, appearing on dozens of "most desirable man" lists in India as well as being declared PETA's sexiest vegetarian in 2014.

×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Lateef Crowder

Nationality: Brazilian

Martial art of choice: Capoeira

For anyone with a passing familiarity with the Tekken franchise, Lateef Crowder is basically Eddy Gordo, the Brazilian capoeirista everyone picks and spams the kick buttons with when they first start playing. In fact, Crowder's physical resemblance to the character was so uncanny that he was the first and really only choice to play him in the god-awful live-action Tekken movie.

Along with appearing in terrible film adaptations of popular video games, Crowder is a prolific extra in movies when they need a thug who can can do cool spin kicks. As a result, footage exists of Crowder getting his ass handed to him by everyone from Michael Jai White to Jacob Black in the Twilight movies.

Sadly for such a capable martial artist, Crowder is criminally under-utilized in most of his film roles, with arguably his greatest fight scene being his earliest credited role, that of the aptly named "Capoeira fighter" in Warrior King (sometimes called Tom-Yum-Goong) against Tony Jaa.

×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Wu Jing

Nationality: Chinese

Martial art of choice: Wushu

Wu Jing is an astonishingly accomplished martial artist who's never really gotten the same recognition as guys like Donnie Yen or Jackie Chan, even though he's constantly in their movies getting beaten up and slapped around. Known for his incredibly acrobatic fighting style, Jing has mostly starred in Chinese movies with names so badass-sounding, reading them can result in spontaneous chest hair growth on your eyeballs.

Seemingly at home while being surrounded by goons trying to kick-slap him into next week, Wu Jing's bread and butter seems to be taking kicks and punches for a few minutes before ending his opponent with a 40-hit combo. As an OG of the martial arts world, Wu Jing has appeared in everything from cheesy '90s action movies playing a shaolin monk complete with one of those stupid ponytail things to gritty war movies from the 2010s in which his kicks are powered by Chinese propaganda.

×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Johnny Nguyen

Nationality: Vietnamese

Martial arts of choice: Kung Fu, Tai Chi, Aikido

Johnny Nguyen is a Vietnamese martial artist whose kicks we suspect could rule the world if he ever turned them on anyone but trained professionals. While he's sporadically done stunt work in the U.S., lending the services of his reality-warping side kicks to the original Spider-Man trilogy and a live-action Mortal Kombat TV show, Nguyen's real passion is kicking people half to death in Vietnamese action movies.

Since we can't understand anything Nguyen says in any of these movies, we didn't really know which one to recommend to ease you into his kick-centric world—until we saw this fight scene from Clash, in which he kicks three people in the face at the same time, all while wearing mom jeans.