Most Influential Martial Artists of All-Time

People today tend to think of martial arts as a tool to make action sequences look great in the movies. Hollywood has a great deal of guilt in the emergence of this image. Even if at the beginning, it had a great part in popularizing martial arts through movie productions.

But if back in the day, sportsmen were advanced to the state of actors, today most on-screen fight scenes are created using ropes, green screens or even CGI. Said sportsmen, who are known to most only because of their movie roles, were often top athletes and martial artists of their time, with a great influence on their sports as a whole, like the ones below.

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee is, to this day, one of the best-known and most influential on-screen martial artists. His movies contributed a lot to the popularity of martial arts as a whole and helped emerge personalities like Chuck Norris. But his role in the world of martial arts was far more important than just making them more popular.

Bruce Lee was clearly one of the top 10 sportsmen of all-time. Aside from being a sportsman, he was also an innovator. His Jeet Kune Do style represented a new direction in martial arts, focusing on practicality rather than form. His influence can be felt even today; UFC president Dana White called him "the father of mixed martial arts."

Chuck Norris

Emerging on screen as an antagonist to Bruce Lee in "The Way of the Dragon" started a long and fruitful acting career for Chuck Norris. Most people know him as the badass military type fighting his way through hordes of the Vietcong or as the Texas Ranger always on the side of the law. Few people know, in turn, about his past as a martial artist.

Chuck Norris originally trained in Tang Soo Do, a Korean martial art, but he also obtained the black belt status in Tae Kwon Do, Judo, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He even formulated his own style, Chun Kuk Do. Until his retirement from sports in 1974, he won at least 30 tournaments and held the title of the World Professional Middleweight Karate Champion for six years.

Yip Man

Yip Man is perhaps best known for many by the Hong Kong movies that bear his name (his part was played by Donnie Yen, another well-known martial artist). He was a Wing Chun master who has trained many great martial artists of the time. His most famous student was the above-mentioned Bruce Lee. His contribution to the world of martial arts goes beyond training many masters in his time, though: he was the one to leave behind the written history of Wing Chun. His memory is immortalized by the "Yip Man Tong," a museum at the Foshan Ancestral Temple in Guangdong, China.

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