Top 5 Badass Martial Arts Movie Stars From The 70’s And 80’s


For those in their 30’s, you’ll understand.  For those who are older, you’ll probably pay no mind, and for those younger than 30, well…prepare to be schooled on the most badass kung-fu / ninja / karate / Choo-choo and woo-woo movie stars of all-time.  Behold:

#5 JIM KELLY

He can say “Ninja” because he’s black

If you know Jim Kelly from anything, it’s his role as the token black guy in Enter the Dragon (shown left).  He eventually got all killed in the movie, but was awesome the whole way through…nearly upstaging Bruce Lee himself as the most wanted to see character on-screen. His success in Enter the Dragon convinced some fat American directors that he was the Black equivalent of Bruce as far as the martial arts movie movement was concerned, so they decided to make him his own star in such movies as:

  • Blackbelt Jones 1 & 2
  • Black Samurai
  • Blaxploitation
  • Three the Hard Way

…I’m not 100% sure that last one isn’t a porno…anyway, you get the theme of his movies…kick ass and be black.

He had decent punches and kicks that came accompanied with that eighties “WHAH-THACK!” with every blow.  Coincidentally, every “WHAH-THACK!” was followed by a wiseassy – and of course, black themed – crack.  If you’re good at talking trash in any aspect of your life, you probably got it from Blackbelt Jones.

BEST QUOTE FROM BLACKBELT JONES:

Pinky:  “Who the fuck hit me?”

Black Belt Jones:  “Batman, muthafucka!”

INTERESTING FACT:  Like many you’ll see on this list, the martial arts movies mostly died out, so careers sunk.  Jim is no exception.  Realizing this, he applied himself and is currently trying his hand at becoming a professional tennis player.  That’s 100% serious.  “WHAH-THACK!”

#4 BOLO YEUNG

Bricks no hit back

Bolo Yeung is what Godzilla made to get back at Japan.  You remember this gigantic Asian from such films as Enter the Dragon (again), and Bloodsport.

Bolo has been a staple in martial arts films for decades, and he alway plays the bad guy with a bad attitude with badder-ass moves. I mean look at him…he can’t play a good guy….not exactly the face the damsel in distress wants to see when she’s freed…she wants rescued not raped.

He always seemed to move methodically like he knew what you were going to do before you did, or until he got you into some sort of squeezy position where he would just use that enormous Asian strength to crush you.

His ass kicking is so good that he hardly has any lines in his movies.  Take for example Enter the Dragon, he says “HRWRAH!” whenever he is spoken to, then just kills people.

BEST LINE FROM ENTER THE DRAGON: “HRWRAH!” ….like 3 or 4 times.

INTERESTING FACT: Bolo got his breakout role in Bloodsport because of his actions in Enter the Dragon. He got his spot on Enter the Dragon because his new friend Bruce Lee invited him to co-star in it.  He met his friend Bruce Lee while shooting a commercial for Winston Cigarettes.

#4 CHUCK NORRIS

The greatest ginger ever

Ok, ok…yes, you know Chuck Norris.  No, I’m not going to go over his “facts”…you can read them here if you’d like.  I choose instead to blow your mind with real facts about ol’ Chuck:

First of all, as of this writing, he’s 72 years old and still doing infomercials for some weird bench-press-pullup thing while still looking 50 as ever.

Secondly, he invented his own martial art named Chun kuk do.  Normally I’d go off on what a bunch of horseshit that is, but allow me to explain that Chuck has trained under Ed Parker, Gene LeBell, Bruce Lee (which he starred with in Way of the Dragon) and the Machado family.

For those “in the know”, that’s a pretty sweet pedigree.  For those that have no idea who those guys are, having that kind of training by that group of people is the equivalent to eating the best steak ever and getting simultaneously handjobbed by Marilyn Monroe and Jennifer Aniston while getting photographic proof of aliens all at the same time.

Chuck has more black belts that you can count, and they’re mostly from the people who invented whatever the belt is in, and he has been in movies ranging from kung-fu to walking around Texas kickin’ ass with wranglers and roundhouse kicks.  He’s the Delta Force, man….the Delta Force, and he tells it like it is…

BEST QUOTE ABOUT REAL LIFE: “Some of the most miserable people I know are some of the richest people in America.  They are the most miserable people I’ve ever seen” ~ Chuck Norris

INTERESTING FACT: Coincidentally, Chuck Norris does live in a round house.  (Come on, I had to put one in there).

#2 SHO KOSUGI

“I’m here for the position of ‘Boot-to-ass coordinator'”

My favorite 3 films about ninjas in the 80’s are Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, and Ninja III: The Domination.  Sho Kosugi was a ninja in every single one.  He was the ninja of the 80’s.

Sho wasn’t just limited to ninja movies, however, he also played bit parts in The Bad News Bears Go To Japan and uncredited role in The Godfather: Part II. In fact, he was such a badass that he played himself in Ninja Assassin and Flash Challenger.  How awesome do you have to be to get to the point where someone hires you to play yourself and yourself’s part is a ninja?

Sho also had this deal that I always loved called Ninja Theater.  He would show little kids how to use throwing stars and extremely sharp swords against enemies.  After the day’s lesson, he would bow respectfully to the viewer as if to say, “You’re welcome, child, now run forth and kill”…here’s a little taste:

…and in case you didn’t have all the sweet weapons that Kosugi had…you know, in case of an attack from ninjas that look like their moms dressed them, you could order them through Kung-Fu magazine…most weapons sponsored by – you guessed it – Sho Kosugi.  In short, Sho made movies that turned little kids into ninja fanatics, then sponsored the weapons for kids to order, then came up with an instructional theater so they could kill correctly and efficiently.  BOW TO YOUR MASTER!

BEST MOVIE QUOTE FROM NINJA III: THE DOMINATION -“Only a ninja…can destroy a ninja”

INTERESTING FACT: Sho came back for a brief stint in the 90’s with a Ninja-fitness program.  It had a couple of episodes before being cancelled after people realized that it didn’t show you how to disappear in puffs of smoke or jump over walls.

 #1 BRUCE LEE

“Stupid air, I got you now”

If you don’t know who Bruce Lee is, you probably have trouble figuring out how to squeeze a boob as well.

Bruce Lee brought martial arts to mainstream America.  His style (Jeet Kune Do) became hugely popular to movie stars and the masses alike. He’s the one that taught us to “be like wataaaa!!”.

Bruce caught a lot of shit from Hong Kong because he came over here to spread the secrets of the martial arts to…well…white people, basically.  Over time and over fame, Hong Kong accepted him once again as their main claim to fame.  He’s so renowned that he falls into an almost mythical figure…I mean, EVERYONE knows who he is.

His most famous movie, Enter the Dragon has spawned many famous rip-offs and is well-known for the director telling Bruce to slow down as the cameras couldn’t catch his speed…really.  Bruce, having never been told to slow down, was unable to.  So they sped the cameras up during his fight scenes and still had a hard time.

His other most noteworthy claim to fame was his one-inch punch.  he would literally hold his fist one inch away from someone’s chest and be able to blow them off their feet and onto their backs without pulling back.  You can see that here.

The thing that separates Bruce from the rest is that he wasn’t just a movie star that had some training.  He was an innovator and his movies – as awesome as they are – couldn’t hold a candle to watching Bruce give demonstrations of push-ups on one thumb, powerful side kicks, his one-inch punch, and people trying to spar with him…check it out:

Notice what he’s doing there?  Stopping the knee with low kicks?  Isn’t that what has become popular in MMA in the last 10 years?  Bruce was doing it 40 years ago.

BEST QUOTE FROM ENTER THE DRAGON: “Not thinking, not yet dreaming.  Ready for whatever may come.  When my opponent expands, I contract; when he contracts, I expand.  When there is an opportunity, ‘I’ do not hit, ‘it’ hits all by itself”

INTERESTING FACT: Bruce never liked to kick high.  He felt it left you vulnerable and the risk wasn’t worth the reward.  So until moving to the U.S., he rarely kicked high (notice he doesn’t in the sparring video).  Chuck Norris taught him high kicks and he used them in his movies for the “flashiness”.  Ironically enough, he is well-known for his high kicks

…and making “Whachaaawwww!!” sounds.



Categories: "Top" lists, EVERYTHING (in no particular order), Humor, Jiu Jitsu and Judo

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6 replies

  1. One of the facts you chose to ignore about Chuck Norris is that, before he was ever in a movie, he was world Karate Champion 6 times in a row. No else one has ever done that.

    Next, He never trained under Ed Parker. Elvis did, but not Chuck Norris. Nor did he “invent” his own style. The name, Chun Kuk Do means “Universal Way.” What he has done was modify the Korean system Tang Soo Do with techniques from other systems. His attitude has always been, “show me something that works better than what we’re doing and we’ll change.

    One of the things he taught me was that, any system that has been around for a while (centuries) must have something to recommend it. If not, its practiti9oners would have all been killed long ago. Improvements can be made to anything at any time. Ignoring those will live you playing second-rate catch up.

    • …next time maybe add “nice article” somewhere in there. I’m sure you’d understand if someone just picked apart one section of one of your articles. Appreciate the feedback though.

      • I only picked on the part I actually have personal knowledge about. I have no idea how much, if any of the rest was factual. I do know that I personally heard Chuck Norris say that no one trained harder than Bruce Lee. I think most of the stories of his prowess are true.

        It was an interesting article and probably contains a good proportion of facts. If nothing else, it was entertaining to read. That puts it ahead of 90+% of all other internet articles pertaining to martial arts.

  2. No Sonny Chiba? NO SONNY CHIBA?

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