There are very few things that can get an action movie fan riled up like a good martial arts movie. The problem is that in order to pull off a good believable martial arts feature film, you need a martial arts expert who can also act. While there are variations of this dynamic, where some entertainer are better actors than martial artist and some better martial artist than actors, finding the right combination for the right film is immensely critical. There have been some very notable martial artist/actors over the years, but the least is somewhat thin today.
So, we decided to list the top 5 martial arts actors in the United States today, and while Jean-Claude Van Damme did not make the cut, we are giving him an honorable mention.
When it comes to martial artists who have done well in “film,” Jackie Chan would likely be at the top of the list. At one point, he was pegged as the heir to the throne of the legendary Bruce Lee, which proved to be too much pressure, so he created his own comedic brand of martial arts movies and fans are still eating it up. The only reason that he is at number five is that he is aging and his martial arts skills are eroding.
While the name may not sound familiar, trust us, you have definitely seen him in movies like The Bourne Ultimatum, The Expendables 2, X-Men Origins, Undisputed and more. Adkins has mastered several martial arts disciplines, including Aikido and Kempo. While his acting leaves a little to be desired his exceptional skills are enough to get him through his films, which he has proven incessantly since he came on the scene.
I know, you are thinking how in the hell did we arrive at this conclusion. Keep in mind that Ben has gone through a great deal of martial training for his characters roles in Batman vs Superman and Dare Devil. But it is actually his performance in a lesser known film entitled The Accountant in which Affleck displays some remarkable skills. Consider his intense training with his Academy Award level acting and it provides a chemistry that will keep action viewers coming back to the theater.
Wesley Snipes secured the second spot on the list because of the existence of a remarkable dichotomy that cannot simply be ignored. He is the one person on the list who has the acting skills that rival their exceptional acting skills. Not only is Snipes a tier one actor, but he holds a 5th-degree black belt in Shotokan karate and a 2nd-degree black belt in Hapkido. He is also training in Capoeira with Mestre Jelon Viera. Snipes is that dude.
1. Michael Jai White
Although Wesley Snipes is a better actor than Michael Jai White, White is no slouch in acting and he may just be the coldest cat on the planet. Like Snipes, he started out as a child training in Shotokan karate, but would ultimately end up holding black belts in eight different disciplines, including a 10th-degree black belt in Kyokushin. You know this dude is bad when you see video footage of him teaching the late Kimbo Slice how to throw the perfect punch. As a martial artist, White stands alone, and his acting is strong enough to separate him from the other true martial artist in contention.