Getting into martial arts or any form of combat arts is no easy feat and being able to master it on a certain level surely gives you bragging rights. The art of fighting is studied in depth for many reasons.
For some, it’s an amazing form of exercise, as it tones practically every muscle of your body, not to mention gives you that much-needed cardio workout without having to do something as monotonous as running on a treadmill. For others, it’s a form of self-defense. There’s no better way to ward off potential attackers than to give them a couple of karate chops here and there to send them on their way.
To reach a level of expertise takes a lot of hard work, discipline and commitment, and when one is able to earn a black belt, it only means his blood, sweat, and tears have paid off throughout the years.
It may come as a surprise to many that there are some celebrities who hold black belts in certain martial arts. Whether it was needed for a role in an action film, a form of exercise, or just plain passion, we salute these celebs who were able to earn their belts, which cannot be attained without sheer determination.
11. Arnold Schwarzenegger – Tae Kwon Do
Before he became an action star and politician, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a professional bodybuilder, having won the Mr. Universe title at the young age of 20. When he transitioned into movies and signed up to do the film The Commando, the Austrian native underwent extensive martial arts training and due to his skill, he was given an honorary first Dan Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do, despite not having received formal training in the art nor having gone through the different ranks to attain that black belt.
The honorary belt was based on his level of excellence in martial arts in general and it’s said he actually qualifies for a second Dan Black Belt if he had gone through the process.
10. Sean Connery – Kyokushin Karate
He’s a screen legend and is most popularly known as the original James Bond. Who can ever forget Sean Connery as the dashing 007 who defied death and bedded dozens of women?
Yes, Bond may be Connery’s most famous role and while he performed many of his stunts, not very many people know that he can actually put “martial arts expert” in his resume. He trained in Kyokushin Karate and reached all the way until the level of first Dan Black Belt.
9. Eric Roberts – Tae Kwon Do
He has earned Golden Globe and Academy Awards nominations for his supporting role in the film Runaway Train, but it was for the film Best of the Best and its sequel that Roberts had to delve into some serious physical training. He studied Tae Kwon Do and decided to follow through til the finish, eventually earning himself a first Dan Black Belt in it.
8. Sarah Michelle Gellar – Tae Kwon Do
One of the reasons she was able to successfully play the role of the teenage vampire hunter in the hit TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer is because Sarah Michelle Gellar did not need to start from scratch when she was training for her action scenes.
Aside from being a competitive figure skater during her earlier years, the mother of two has also studied kickboxing, street fighting, gymnastics, and Tae Kwon Do. For the renowned Korean martial art, she has impressively earned herself a first Dan Black Belt.
7. Elvis Presley – Karate
The king of rock and roll was not only a crooner and an expert pelvis shaker onstage, but apparently, he was also trained in the art of Karate.
Back when the martial art was relatively obscure to the western world, Elvis Presley took it upon himself to spread its practice by training in it religiously. He earned himself a first degree black belt and was one of the few non-Asians to accomplish that feat during the 1960s.
6. Forest Whitaker – Kenpo Karate
Forest Whitaker is known for taking on some of the most challenging roles in Hollywood and has already earned himself an Academy Award for his role as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin for the 2006 film The Last King of Scotland.
He’s no stranger to rigorous physical training exercises. He did boot camp training for his role in the film Platoon and went into the martial art of Kenpo Karate, for which he reached the level of first Dan Black Belt.
5. Guy Ritchie – Judo
He may be Madonna’s ex-husband but it’s fair to say that Guy Ritchie has had many achievements under his belt all on his own. The English filmmaker is known for directing crime films like Snatch, Sherlock Holmes, and its sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.
Aside from films, one of Ritchie’s other passions is martial arts, having started training in Shotokan Karate at the young age of seven. He later took up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, for which he reached the Brown Belt level and he is a certified black belter for Judo.
4. Sean Patrick Flanery – Tae Kwon Do and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Though he may not be as high-profile as his colleagues in Hollywood, Sean Patrick Flanery has had many achievements in his own right. Known for playing one of the McManus brothers in Boondock Saints and Indiana Jones in the TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, he seems to favor the crime drama genre, as he has had guest appearances in the TV shows Numb3rs, Criminal Minds, and Dexter.
Unknown to most, he has been training in martial arts much longer than he’s been acting. Flanery is a black belter in Tae Kwon Do and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, for which he’s also an instructor.
3. John Cusack – Ukidokan Kickboxing
John Cusack has always been one of those actors that doesn’t quite make it to the headlines of the tabloids, yet he still manages to be quite popular based on his own merits. Apart from being known as the brother to actress Joan Cusack, his most noted role to date is in the film High Fidelity, for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe award.
He has been a trained kickboxer for over 20 years, working under kickboxing champion Benny Urquidez. Cusack holds the rank of a level six Black Belt for Ukidokan Kickboxing.
2. Evan Rachel Wood – Tae Kwon Do
She first gained significant recognition in the films Across the Universe and The Wrestler and is considered one of Hollywood’s actresses to watch out for. Aside from a lucrative career, Evan Rachel Wood’s personal life is also very much front and center of her public persona, having dated Marilyn Manson and married (and then separated from) British actor Jamie Bell.
Not too many people are privy to the fact that Wood has been a black belter in Tae Kwon Do since she was 12 years old. She said she took it up because she didn’t like ballet.
1. Ryan Phillippe – Tae Kwon Do
Ryan Phillippe mostly lived in the shadow of his erstwhile wife Reese Witherspoon while he was still married to her, having his more well-known roles before and after his marriage to the actress. He appeared in the teen slasher film I Know What You Did Last Summer and the teen drama flick Cruel Intentions, in which his relationship with Witherspoon developed.
Of his early life, Phillippe shared that he was bullied as a child. His solution? Take up Tae Kwon Do. He’s now a tried and true black belt holder and even showed off his martial arts skills when he guested on the talk show Ellen.