Many actors learn some martial arts in order to look good on camera, but some take it a little further, so here’s a great opportunity to see what celebrities are as ‘bad-ass’ off-screen as they are in the movies. Being as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is my core art, this will be the starting point… But don’t worry – we’ll cover other martial arts as well.
Michael Clarke Duncan
Back in the early 2000’s, I was training with the Gracie family in LA. It was a great environment for learning, and was back when Rorion Gracie (the inventor of the UFC) would take some of the classes, and Helio Gracie, the arts inventor, would wander round and assist. One day I walked into the changing room to see a behemoth of a man sat chilling, looking pretty exhausted. He was immediately recognisable from Armaggedon and The Green Mile as Michael Clarke Duncan. His smile was as huge as his biceps and he was very chatty. He explained to me that he’d just done an introduction class with Ryron Gracie, and was amazed that his strength hadn’t been that effective against a trained martial artist – every time he tried to bench press his opponent off of him, he ended up the victim of an armbar. He got the jiu jitsu bug that day, and ended up getting his purple belt before his untimely passing in 2012.
Another regular at the academy was the ‘Married With Children’ and ‘Modern Family’ star Ed O’Neill. While he often played a henpecked father, in real life he’s committed to his jiu jitsu and gained his black belt in 2007 after 17 years of training. He states that his black belt is “the greatest achievement of my life, apart from my children.”.
Film director Guy Ritchie played a huge role in the introduction of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu into the UK. Madonna’s ex and creator of ‘Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels’ and ‘Snatch’ had practiced karate for 14 years before getting into BJJ and would regularly invite accomplished instructors to coach him in the UK, often with his friend and actor Jason Statham. He setup the first BJJ classes at the oldest and most prestigious martial arts academy in Europe – the Budokwai, and the future of BJJ in the UK was assured. After being a brown belt for eight years, he received his black belt from Renzo Gracie at his film premiere in 2015.
Other stars who practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu include Mel Gibson, Ice-T, Tommy-Lee, Paul Walker, Milla Jovovich, Jason Scott Lee, Chuck Norris, Steve Irwin, Ashton Kutcher, Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, Joe Rogan, and Kevin James. As for our LFS fighters, we have plenty of guys and gals who supplement their standup with BJJ so watch out, they may be just as deadly on the ground!