kMartial arts has truly touched the world to the point where it’s influenced a number of cultures, races, and beliefs. Around the same time that martial arts movies started becoming popular, black actors started to incorporate these methodologies whether it was Karate, Kung Fu or Kickboxing. You really started seeing how diverse martial arts could become on screen with a number of people getting into the action. Here are 10 great martial arts actors:
1. Jim Kelly
This guy was the tall, fly guy with the ‘fro. He embodied a persona for black power on the screen. The 70s was a real time for change and he definitely made his mark in a bunch of blaxploitation films such as Three the Hard Way, Black Belt Jones, and Black Samurai. Bruce Lee even praised Kelly once for having a very fast back fist (jab).
Here’s a scene from Three The Hard Way
Taimak was the man in the mid 80s. He was definitely the best Bruce Lee impersonator especially for his role in Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon. He had the whole get up with the Chinese slippers on his feet. His moniker was fittingly titled ‘Bruce Leroy’ in the film. Also, he practiced Chinese Goju, Goju Ryu, and Jiujitsu. Here’s a scene from The Last Dragon.
3. Wesley Snipes
Wesley Snipes is not only known for his breakout roles in movies such as New Jack City and Jungle Fever. He’s also a well accomplished martial artist most known in his role for being the anti-hero, Blade. His role has led to Blade II and Blade: Trinity. I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for this incredible actor and martial artist. Here’s a scene from Blade II:
4. Chuck Jeffreys
This guy is one of the most underrated martial artists that’s sustained a career since the 80s. He’s a well rounded marital artist that has a range from Kali (a Filipino martial art) to Tae Kwon Do and Kung Fu. He’s played a background role in big Hollywood films for stunts and fight choreography in films such as XXX: State of Union and Blade: Trinity. Here’s a bit of old school footage of Chuck Jeffreys:
5. Joey Ansah
Not only is he a well accomplished martial artist with experience of over 15 years, he’s also a great actor and producer. One of his most well known roles is in The Bourne Ultimatum. He does an excellent fight scene. Also, he is producing a series called Assassins Fist which follows Ryu and Ken in Capcom’s Street Fighter. Here’s some show footage from Joey Ansah’s movie reel:
6. Fred Williamson
Williamson came from a prominent career in football to a budding acting career in the 70s. He’s had a number of roles such as Captain Doby in the Starsky and Hutch remake. Here’s Williamson in Black Cobra.
What more can be said about this guy that hasn’t been said already? He’s an accomplished basketball player and a great martial artist. His role in Game of Death is pure genius. Here’s Abdul-Jabbar giving positive words to Bruce Lee’s legacy.
8. Lateef Crowder
Crowder has built a great reputation for his stunts and Capoeira skills. He really started to create a name for himself after his role in Tom Yum Goong facing Tony Jaa. Take a look at this scene.
9. Michael Jai White
White has had a stellar career from comedies to action films. His breakout role was in Todd MacFarlane’s Spawn. He also had a very nice role in the blaxploitation spoof, Black Dynamite.
10. Billy Blanks
Blanks is world renown for his Tae Kwon Do and Karate skills. He had a good run in the 90s with a lot of martial arts films. However, he really gained prominence with a system he developed called Tae Bo. It’s a mix of his martial arts, boxing, and cardio. Here’s a scene from Showdown.
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