Done And Dusted: 30 Best Martial Artists Of All Time

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Done And Dusted: 30 Best Martial Artists Of All Time

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022 by inckredible

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Martial Arts is considered to be among the extensive classifications for fighting sports out there. Basically, martial arts describe the fighting style of Asia. 

Still, it can describe every activity that consists of strike attacks like Kung Fu, Karate, Taekwondo, to grappling activities like Jiu-Jitsu, Sumo Wrestling, Judo, and more. It’s the wide range of martial arts that makes it so difficult. 

Everyone worldwide loves seeing these martial artists. Action movie fans love watching martial artists like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.

But there’s more to martial arts in the modern world now. People skilled in martial arts compete against each other, and people love watching MMA fighters like Royce Gracie.

The best martial artists in history are one of the most famous, toughest, and successful fighters ever to compete. These tough and strong people are icons, MMA fighters, and movie stars in the fighting world. 

We are going to list down the 30 best martial artists of all time. But beware! There are hundreds of martial artists that could be mentioned.

30 Best Martial Artists Of All Time

1. Bruce Lee

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Bruce Lee is considered to be the kung-fu king who has the cardiovascular capacity of a sportsman with the muscles of a bodybuilder. 

Everyone knows about Lee’s famous one-inch punch. On top of that, he performed the finger and thumb push up, leaped eight feet in the air to kick a lightbulb, and inflated his lats like a cobra. 

Lee trained himself in Wu-style Tai chi ch’uan, boxing, and dancing. He developed a hybrid martial art called Jeet Kune Do, also known as Way Of The Intercepting Fist. 

He was ahead of his time and remained a benchmark in the art for all to see. Lee always hit fast and hard, then danced out of the combat field, always efficient and lethal. 

2. Yip Man

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Yip Man was one of the best and an expert in Wushu and Wing Chun. 

He was a great role model and an excellent teacher. Many of his students expanded his influence in China and beyond by teaching his art to people around the world. 

Bruce Lee and Grandmaster William Cheung are two of his known students who had a significant influence in the world because of him. 

Yip Man was dedicated to the preservation of his technique and art. He understood that martial art isn’t just about fighting but also about self-respect and internal value. 

Many people around the world also came to know about him because his life has been told in many movies. ‘IP Man’ is one of the movies that turned him into a cult hero.

3. Jackie Chan

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Everyone in the world who likes watching martial arts movies knows about Jackie Chan. 

The actor has starred in many Hollywood movies, which for quite obvious reasons, have been a hit. That includes the iconic Kung Fu movie Drunken Master and famous comedy Rush Hour.  

Jackie Chan helped bring Asian martial arts to mainstream Hollywood with his slapstick comedy and acrobats. He is also famous for his fast-paced martial arts. 

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Chan has practiced Wing Chun, Hei Long, Hapkido and Judo, and infused them into his own choppy and tight style. 

4. Jet Li

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Li Lianje, famously known as Jet Li, is a former wushu champion. 

Li became a national coach while he was still in school. The martial artist was so good at martial arts and a prodigy that President Nixon asked him to be his personal bodyguard. 

He was known all around China, and after conquering the country, he entered Hollywood. Lethal Weapon was the breakthrough to his success. 

Li’s flowing kickboxing is all about control, speed, and power. He also derived the name Jet Li from his martial art style. 

Jet Li’s truly an example to be followed. You can see his devotion and dedication in his performance. 

5. Tony Jaa 

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The martial art star Tony Jaa was raised in rural Thailand, where he watched martial arts movies and practiced in his rice paddy field. 

He mastered Jiu-Jitsu, Krabi Krabong, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, Aikido and Judo. 

Jaa is only 5ft 6in, but his punches are for sure lethal. His combat style is fluid, acrobatic, awe-inspiring, and lightning-fast. 

Unlike the other icons like Bruce Lee, Yip Man, who are of the older generation, Jaa is the martial art superstar of this generation. 

Tony Jaa is also a movie icon. Every martial art fan has watched Ong-Bak and has appreciated Jaa’s fascinating ultra-realistic stunts. 

6. Donnie Yen

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Yen is a Hong Kong actor who is a mixed martial artist, and an actor is known worldwide for his work in the movie IP Man. In case you haven’t, it’s the biopic of Bruce Lee’s master Yip Man. 

Part of the reason why Wing Chun, the combat style which is all about short-arm blows, blocks, and deflections, got popularised is because of Yen’s portrayal of Yip Man in the movie. 

It is all the more remarkable when you especially consider that it only took nine months for Yen to learn the technique.

Every one of Yen’s movies is very interesting, and he pulls it off every time because of his acting and martial art skills. 

7. Chuck Norris 

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Chuck Norris has trained initially and practiced the art of Tang Soo Do and achieved the black belt status in the same art.

Not only does he have a black belt in Tang Soo Do, but he has black belts in Judo, Taekwondo, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. After learning all the martial art styles, he made his own fighting style called Chun Kuk Do. 

Norris also had an excellent Karate career where he participated in different tournaments from 1964 till his retirement in 1974. He won about 30 tournaments, and his tournament record is 183-10-2.

He’s also known for his acting career. Norris earned fame for fighting Bruce Lee on-screen and for casting in ‘Walker, Texas Ranger.’ 

8. Jigoro Kano

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Jigoro Kano was a Jiu-Jitsu expert who focused on throws. 

Kano was the one who invented Judo. He infused Jiu-Jitsu style into one, and then it came to be known as Judo. His style of Judo is known as Kodokan Judo, and it’s still practiced today. 

Judo was dangerous, and Kano had to remove some of its lethal moves to teach the martial arts in schools.

By 1911, Judo was incorporated as part of Japan’s educational system through his efforts. Later, Judo was also included as a part of an Olympic sport in 1964.

9. Mas Oyama 

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Mas Oyama was known to be a spectacular practitioner who fought and regularly won in tournaments from his youth. He was the one who invented Kyokushin, Karate, or Full Contact. 

During his lifetime, he participated in various demonstrations in the United States, fought bulls, and invented the 100-man Kumite, which is a series of ninety seconds to two minutes non-stop fight. 

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Oyama was able to complete the hundred-man Kumite over three days, and he survived all the battles.

His training also included martial arts like Boxing and Judo. 

10. Royce Gracie 

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People have been wondering for years about which martial arts is the best. They contemplated Taekwondo, boxing, Taekwondo, and more. 

In 1993, Royce Gracie changed everyone’s perceptions of martial arts. 

Royce Gracie conquered three of the first four Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) tournaments. He accomplished it by using the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which his father had invented. 

With his wins, Royce changed martial arts. It’s a fact that mixed martial arts is out in the world today because of him. 

Today, almost all the high-level fighters practice the art that his father invented. Royce also became an influence in the martial arts world.

11. Gichin Funakoshi 

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Gichin Funakoshi is the father of Shotokan, a Karate style that is widely practiced in today’s world. Funakoshi was the Fifth dan in Karate before he died.

In his famous book ‘The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate,’ you can see Funakoshi’s influence as the book describes his philosophies on training and Karate. The Niju Kun, which means 20 principles, is the basic foundation for the Shotokan Karate pupils. 

According to Funakoshi, the teachings of Karate were more than martial arts and stretched beyond the school’s walls. Plus, the people who practiced Karate were overall better people.

12. Helio Gracie

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Helio Gracie was unlike his brothers, who knew Kodokan Judo, and Mitsuyo Maeda taught them. Gracie was fragile, less athletic, and powerful than his siblings.  

Because of his weak athleticism, he began to modify the martial art so that it would require less strength. Gracie ended up inventing the famous Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. 

Gracie, during his lifetime, won many few-rule and no-rule matches. But he indeed became influential when he pressed Masahiko Kimura, the judo expert, in a fight. 

Later in life, his son Royce Gracie adopted the art and was able to prove the style’s worth by winning the first three out of four UFC championships. 

Helio Gracie received a 10th-degree red belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the highest-grade belt anyone has ever received. 

13. Sammo Hung

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Sammo Hung is considered to be one of Hong Kong’s new waves that brought back the martial art genre in the 70s and 80s. He is also called ‘dai goh dai,’ which means biggest big brother.

Hung started his professional career as a child actor and is now one of the famous producers, directors, and respected fight choreographers for icons like John Woo and Jackie Chan. 

Hung is a famous figure who starred in the iconic movie ‘Enter The Dragon’. He has a circular scar on his face, resulting from being attacked in a nightclub, which might signify that he must have been feared by people back in his youth. 

14. Vidyut Jammwal

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Vidyut Jammwal is an Indian martial artist who’s famously known for his movie ‘Commando.’ He’s an actor and a stunt performer and has worked in many Hindi action films.

Jammwal is an accomplished martial artist trained in Kalaripayattu, which is an ancient martial art form.

The Indian media has titled him as India’s New Age Action Hero, which has helped him in getting known worldwide and has given him many opportunities.

He also took the initiation to teach the art form to working professionals and college-going girls. 

15. Steven Seagal

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The Michigan-born Steven Seagal is a martial artist, actor, musician, producer, and screenwriter. 

Seagal is not only known for his martial arts but also famous for being a musician as well. His famous songs have been featured in the movies he’s acted in, including ‘Ticker’ and ‘Fire Down Below.’

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Steven Seagal began his career as a martial art instructor. He’s also recognized worldwide as one of the best martial instructors.

He has also joined the armed forces as the sheriff was very impressed by him. 

While Seagal was in the force, he taught the deputies marksmanship, unarmed combat, and martial arts.

16. Jean Claude Van Damme

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Jean Claude Van Damme started his martial art career at the age of 10. Clause’s father enrolled him in a Shotokan Karate school, and his martial art style consists of Kickboxing and Shotokan. 

He earned the black belt in Karate at the age of 18. 

Van Damme started lifting weights which improved his physique and helped him to win many titles. Among the most famous titles he received was the title of Mr. Belgium Bodybuilder.

Later he learned more martial art forms and debuted with his action film, ‘The Quest.’ 

Claude has received many great appreciations and compliments for his action films because of his martial art stunts.

17. Johnny Tri Nguyen 

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At the age of 9, Johnny Tri Nguyen participated as a martial artist in the national team of the US. Nguyen’s a famous martial artist, film actor, action choreographer, and stuntman.

Johnny is mainly active in the film industry and has acted in films, choreographed stunts in American movies, and performed stunts in many Vietnamese films.

He rose to fame as a stuntman in Hollywood movies with movies like Jarhead and Spider-Man 2. These films opened many opportunities for him.

18. Wesley Snipes

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Wesley Snipes is an American film producer and martial artist. He’s considered to be one of the best martial artists.

Snipes holds a fifth-degree black belt in Shotokan Karate and a second-degree black belt in Hapkido that has made him be known as one of the best.

Wesley started his martial art training at the age of 12, and he made his debut as an actor in ‘Wildcats.’ Later, he appeared in many films and shows, and it was a role in ‘New Jack City’ that gave him countless opportunities.

19. Bolo Yeung

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The Cantonese Bodybuilder Bolo Yeung is familiar with martial arts like Wing Chun and Tai Chi.

The martial artist has always been someone with badass charisma because of his crushing bones.

He has been cast in many villainous film roles because of his downturned mouth and muscular physique. He starred and has trained with Bruce Lee and Jean Claude Van Damme.

20. Michael Jai White

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Michael Jai White is an actor who’s proficient in various martial arts styles. Since childhood, he has studied art and holds black belts in Goju Ryu, Taekwondo, Shotokan Karate, Kyokushin, Tang Soo Do, Wushu, and Kobudo.

He has showcased and flaunted his skills in various films and is among the deadliest actors in the Hollywood industry.

White showcased his martial arts skills in movies like Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown, Undisputed 2: The Last Man Standing, Exit Wounds, and Universal Soldier: The Return.

White has also worked as an action film choreographer and stuntman because of his martial arts knowledge.

21. Cynthia Rothrock

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22. Jim Kelly

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23. Kara Hui

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24. Iko Uwais

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25. Ti Lung

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26. Michelle Yeoh

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27. Anderson Silva

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28. Jacky Wu

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29. Georges St. Pierre

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30. Scott Adkins

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Conclusion

These are the martial artists that we have included in our list. Many could have made a list, but these are the ones that have made their impact worldwide. These martial artists are a force that you’ll never wish to mess with.

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