t dawned on me, that it is common sense to me that celebrities are people too and that they probably have an interest in martial arts. Specifically with the popularity of the sport of mixed martial arts, especially the UFC, it’s no surprise that there has been a direct correlation to the growth and popularity of people training martial arts, specifically Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This doesn’t exclude A-list celebrities, however; on average it takes a person around a decade to achieve the rank of black belt and that is with consistent training. To achieve the rank of black belt in BJJ is an honor, a privilege, and one of life’s greatest accomplishments for practitioners of the art. Several famous actors, actresses, musicians, and athletes are trained in various martial arts. Some celebrities are black belts in Karate while others study Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Several Hollywood actors began studying the martial arts in preparation for roles in popular action films.
Musicians who know how to rock but also know martial arts are a pretty famous group. Willie Nelson earned a black belt in Taekwondo. Megadeath musician Dave Mustaine has a black belt in Karate and Taekwondo, and Tool front man Maynard James Keenan trains in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Lou Reed practiced Tai Chi on a daily basis, reportedly for up to three hours at a time. I’m sure the discipline of music is similar to the discipline required for martial arts. Rikki Rockett and Guy Ritchie are also martial artists. Ritchie not only holds a brown belt in Karate but held that same rank in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu…for 8 years! That is until BJJ pioneer Renzo Gracie surprised Ritchie at the movie premiere of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and presented him with his black belt. Renzo had this to say in regards to Ritchie’s accomplishment,
“No one has ever worked harder than Guy to get his black belt; he spent 8 years as a brown belt – training every day. He is my favorite.” ~ Rockett
Rockett, the drummer of the beloved band Poison not only has a background in wrestling, boxing, and Silat but is also a 2nd degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt under Renato Magno. Rockett began training in BJJ back in 1998 with Rigan and Jacques Machado and supplemented his classes with private lessons from Magno. Rockett is also a fierce competitor having competed in the 2010 Pan-American Championships
Some celebrities have obviously studied martial arts. It is apparent from their smooth moves on film. Wesley Snipes is an action star, so if we were to find out he had never trained martial arts it would be crazy news. That of course, isn’t the case. Snipes began training in martial arts when he was 12 years old. He has a 5th degree black belt in Shotokan karate and a 2nd degree black belt in Hapkido. Jason Statham is another guy who throws the good strikes on camera and even shows up at UFC events on a regular basis. Since he is so proficient at martial arts, Statham was offered more film roles, and in 2002 he was cast as the lead role of driver Frank Martin in the action movie The Transporter, in which he was responsible for his own stunts (Statham has made this choice for all of his films). He has studied Wing Chun kung fu, karate, and kickboxing. With the popularity of Jon Wick, you would think Keanu Reeves has had extensive training in martial arts. To even my surprise, Keanu Reeves doesn’t practice martial arts. Although he does play a kung fu master in movies. “I’ve done a lot of Movie Kung Fu. So I’ve had some training in that,” Reeves has been quoted as saying.
The famous comedian and announcer Joe Rogan speaks quite often about martial arts. He is a proponent for them. He is also holds black belts in eight different styles: Shotokan, Taekwondo, Kobudo, Goju Ryu (for which he studied under Master Eddie Morales where he learned to sharpen his Goju karate technique), Tang Soo Do, Wushu and Kyokushin, with a specific focus in Kyokushin. Most widely known as his role as the UFC’s primary color commentator, Joe Rogan is a very interesting and popular personality indeed. He is also widely known for his work as a standup comic and has one of the most interesting podcasts currently on the air, The Joe Rogan Experience. Rogan, a Taekwondo national champion and lifelong martial artist, is also a black belt under 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu founder Eddie Bravo.
Some other unlikely celebs who are proficient in martial arts are pretty entertaining. Ed O’Neill, that’s right, Al Bundy is not only more of a man than you’ll ever be but could more than likely wrap you up like a pretzel and make you scream uncle with his hands literally tied behind his back.
“Ed O’Neill, Al Bundy is more of a man than you’ll ever be.”
Ed O’Neill, famous for his role in the sitcom Married with Children, has been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for more than 22 years and in 2007 received his black belt from one of the UFC and BJJ pioneers Rorion Gracie. Another one, but not as surprising is The Boondock Saints and Dexter star Sean Patrick Flanery began training martial arts at the tender age of nine and continued with various disciplines through his college years. Flanery began his BJJ training with the legendary Rickson Gracie in 2000 and then continued his training with Renzo Gracie in 2003. For the next five years Flanery continued his diligent advancement through the ranks and on May 4, 2008 he received his black belt from one of Renzo’s top instructors, Shawn Williams.