Top 20 Greatest Martial Artists of all Time, Ranked!

We thought that it was high time we rated the greatest martial arts stars of all times, as Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the legend of the Ten rings put Kung-Fu back on the big screen, and Cobra Kai showcased karate on the little screen, and they’d all go into their third season. These are the ones that have made the genre something new or are just fantastic when it comes to beat people.

We’ve got 20 of the best, but hundreds, thousands can be mentioned – they are all much harder than we ever could be. If we did not mention your favorite, name them in the comments, and we’ll see if they deserve the list. Your fellow Paul is not counting. He once managed to half-hear a little balsa forest with his bare hands.

So, let’s discuss The Top 20 Greatest Martial Artists of all Time!

20. Jeff Speakman

Jeff Speakman

The square-jawed powerhouse of Chicago was a springboard diver until it began combat training inspired by the cult Kung Fu TV series (1972). In both Kenpo karate and Goju-Ryu, he eventually achieved black belts. His first performance, The Perfect Weapon, in 1991, saw him take up the mafia alone – often in the mood of The Power from Snap! Speakman is also the founder and director of the international Kenpo karate organization American Kenpo Karate Systems (AKKS), with over 50 schools.

Martial Arts:American Kenpo

19. Dragon Lee

Dragon Lee was credited as the South Korean taekwondo and hapkido expert for his similarity to Bruce Lee (Warrior Season 3) and starred in, yes, The Bruce Lee Clones (1981) and The Bruce Lee Real documentary. A man told him that he looked like Bruce Lee when Dragon Lee was in a theatre. This was a big compliment because the man knew film directors in Hong Kong and helped Dragon Lee progress in his career. Bruce Lee was popular at that time. Dragon Lee moved to Hong Kong early in his twenties and performed in numerous martial arts films, often referred to as Bruce Lei because of the striking similarity he bore to Bruce Lee.

Nationality:North Korean, South Korean
Martial Arts:Taekwondo, Hapkido

18. Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace

Bill Wallace

In his pro career, from 1974 to 1980, the pioneering kickboxer, who was undermined, could only strike one leg following his right injury. His left leg became one of the most revered arms in the struggles and, as shown in The Protector (1995), Jackie Chan, a deadly accurate hook kick clocked at 60 mph.

Martial Arts:Kickboxing, Judo

17. Sonny Chiba

Sonny Chiba

In the post-Bruce Lee 1970s, the bar raised violence. He looked like a wolf, intimidating, and he had a burning, cruel fighting style that matched opponents’ ferocity, keeping his bushy brown face in a thunderous grimace. The devotee of Quentin Tarantino is Clarence, a nerd in True Romance in 1993, and the restaurateur in 2003’s Kill Bill Vol 1 was casting him as a sword manufacturer.

Martial Arts:Karate, Kyokushin, judo

16. Phillip Rhee

Philip Rhee

Often mulled-out When he was four and mastered Taekwondo, Hapkido, and Kendo, Rhee took over martial arts. He decided to make his own, frustrated by the lack of openings in the American film business. The brutal Best Of The Best series (1989-1998) became a cultural classic. Simon is also no slouch. His big brother has choreographed fights and watched show or movie stunts, including The Dark Knight Rises (2012).

Nationality:American, South Korean
Martial Arts:Kung Fu, Taekwondo

15. Stephen Chow

Stephen Chow

In the field of Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, Stephen Chow’s acrobatic work may be reinforced by CGI, but there is no denial of Chow’s martial talents. He was inspired by Bruce Lee as a kid and thus started training in the Wing Chun style. And that he did, we are very grateful.

Martial Arts:Kung Fu

14. Cheng Pei-Pei

Cheng Pei Pei

In the classic come Drink With me in 1966, the former ballet dancer became the first screen queen of Kung-Fu. She played Golden Swallow, a warrior trying to free her brother, who has been abducted. For Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon from 2000, director Ang Lee casting Cheng at 54 years was a major inspiration. The film was a traitorous Jade Fox.

Martial Arts:Karate, Taekwondo, kickboxing

13. Jean Claude Van Damme

Jean Claude Van Damme

The Muscles Of Brussels is a kitsch figure now, like Seagal, but his films of the late 1980s and early 1990s movies are undeniable. He learned kickboxing, muay Thai, Shotokan karate, taekwondo, classical ballet, black belt, and bodybuilding. Mr. Belgium got a lot of success after a shaky start to the film, and later bad breakdancing was replaced as Predator’s alien). 

Martial Arts:Karate, Taekwondo, kickboxing

12. Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris

Part-Cherokee, part-Irish tough nut Carlos Ray Norris wasn’t always so: he wasn’t an athletic child and only took up tang soo while in the US Air Force. He went on to earn black belts in three disciplines, invented his hybrid style called Chun Kuk do (‘The Universal Way’), and became a world karate champion in 1968. Encouraged by Steve McQueen, Norris moved into the film the following year. However, the hairy-chested hero’s screen career didn’t truly take off until the Eighties, with a run of cult action flicks plus cheesy TV vehicle Walker, Texas Ranger that ran between 1993 and 2001.

Martial Arts:Karate, Taekwondo, Judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Tang Soo Do, Chun Kuk Do

11. Gordon Liu

Gordon Liu

The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin – the 1978 vintage that provides a background of the Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album – has shot starved Hui Liu by the nickname of Gordon. It is the first film in Shaolin to show the training techniques of the monastery, as San Te is passing from unfit for fighting to a folk hero. The ‘Master Killer’ played two roles in the films Kill Bill, the favorite of Tarantino.

Martial Arts:Karate, Tai chi, Muay Thai

10. Sammo Hung

Sammo Hung

Cigar bugging Hung is named ‘dai Goh dai’ or ‘greatest big brother’ as one of Hongkong’s new wave, revitalizing the genre in the ’70s or ’80s. He has been a director, producer, and well-known combat choreographer for Jackie Chan and John Woo, but he began his profession as an actor in his childhood. Hung is a strong figure but is surprisingly agile (stars in entering The Fat Dragon, 1978). His circular facial scar resulted from an attack outside a Kowloon nightclub with a broken bottle.

Martial Arts:Karate, Tai chi, Muay Thai

9. Toshiro Mifune

Toshiro Mifune

War veteran Mifune was Akira Kurosawa’s muse director, with his truly unusual behavior and gruff voice. The pair produced 16 films, best known in the Seven Samurai period in 1954. Mifune’s combat style was fittingly macho and ferocious; George Lucas (Willow) was regarded as playing Obi-Wan Kenobi’s part, almost Mr. Miyagi’s part in Karate Kid (1984), but he was considered too scary.

Martial Arts:Karate, Taekwondo, Tai chi, Muay Thai

8. Iko Uwais

Iko Uwais

His indigenous Martial Art Pencak silat, 10, was taken by the ascendant star. When Uwais was seen by film director Gareth Evans and cast the indie flick Merantau in 2009, he was the ‘Sumatran tiger style leader.’ In Jakarta, he was a truck driver. In Episode VII, The Force Awakens, he showed himself more than his work, and he found himself playing a small role.

Martial Arts:Pencak Silat

7. Chow Yun-Fat

Chow Yun Fat

Hong Kong hero Chow Yun-Fat is perhaps more a man than a martial artist and one of the best to train specific roles and pull choreography away from fighting with aplomb. In the 2000 soul-filled, winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this is particularly apparent – Wudang warrior Li Mu Bai, his wirework and arms control were astounding. He mainly played in theatre films and won three of the Best Actor Hong Kong Film Awards and two of the Taiwanese Golden Horse Awards.

Martial Arts:Karate, Wushu, Boxing, Taekwondo, Tai chi, Muay Thai

6. Bolo Yeung

Bolo Yeung

The fearful muscular physics and a bowing mouth of the Cantonese bodybuilder have always brought him to a criminal movie, the most remarkable being Bruce Lee in “ The Dragon and, later, Jean-Claude van Damme as the opposing partner. He has always created a man who knows the tai chi, the Wing Chun, and the bones in general.

Martial Arts:Tai Chi

5. Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan

His acrobatics and slapstick humor contributed to bringing Asian martial arts into the mainstream of Hollywood, but he is also a representative of brutal Kung Fu. He fuses hapkido in his own tight, choppy style and judo, wing Chun, taekwondo, and hei long. For one movie to be chosen, drunken master Chan and one of the biggest kung fu movies ever made is essential. Chan has a widely held record in Eastern and Western regions and has received stars in Hong Kong Avenue, become the Hollywood Walks of Fame, and is one of the world’s influential and most recognizable personalities.

Martial Arts:Hapkido, Karate, Judo, Taekwondo and Jeet Kune Do.

4. Tony Jaa

Tony Jaa

Bruce Lee’s heir forgets wires and stunting doubles, giving a blowing ultra-realism to his battle movies. Growing up in rural Thailand, Jaa looked at martial arts and practiced taekwondo, muay Thai, aikido, Krabi Krabong, judo, jiu-jitsu, and his father’s paddy of rice. Ong-star bak’s is a gymnastic swordsman and hitch, still two meters away. The style of Jaa is acrobatic and quick, fluid and amazing. He’s less than Lee at 5ft 6in but is just like a punching man.

Martial Arts:Muay Thai

3. Donnie Yen

Donnie Yen

The most influential and well-known work from Yen is the instant classic by 2008 Ip Man, a biopic by Bruce Lee’s master. Hongkong is a heart-throb and talented mixed martial artist. The boxing star popularised Wing Chun, the close-up snake crane style, which includes all deflections, blocks, and short arms. It is particularly impressive to see that, in just nine months, Yen learned the technique. Many people have credited Yen for helping Wing Chun to popularise in China. In the 2008 movie Ip Man, a box office success, he was the Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man.

Martial Arts:Wing Chun, Karate, Wushu, Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts, Taekwondo, Tai chi, Muay Thai

2. Jet Li

Jet Li

Li Lianjie was a former wushu champion who, while still a schoolboy, was a national coach. President Nixon was even asked to be his bodyguard for the fighting prodigy. Li was the success stone to the success of Hollywood after conquering the Chinese market, Lethal Weapon 4 (1998). His fluent and influential kickboxing style is about speed, power, and control, hence the stage’s name.

Martial Arts:Chinese martial arts, Wushu, Tai chi, Baguazhang

1. Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee Statue

He is a Kung fu king who combines an athlete’s cardiovascular abilities with the muscles of a bodybuilder. He pressed his lats like a cobra, sprung in the air 8ft, snatched the lightbulb, released the legendary 1in punch. A hybrid called Jeet Kune Do (“Way Of The Intercepting Fist”), Lee has been training in wing Chun, Wu-style, Tai chi ch’uan, and boxing. He hit hard and quickly, danced out of the strike zone – powerful but deadly. He is the benchmark for all others in advance of his time.

Nationality:United States, British Hong Kong
Martial Arts:: Jeet Kune Do (founder), Chinese martial arts (Wing Chun, tai chi), boxing, street fighting, judo, taekwondo


So these are the best of those practitioners: the actors who combine their martial arts skills with dramatic flair. It’s a real thrill to see people beat each other, especially if you do it elegantly! This is one cause for the popularity of the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA). This is also why everybody loves a good martial arts film.

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