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Martial Arts Styles of the Rich and Famous

Chuck. Jackie. Seagal. We've seen these guys in countless movies and television shows--they've made their reputations as kings of the martial arts movies. But which martial art did they choose, and why?

Chuck Norris

Chuck's ascension to martial arts legend began in the 1960's while serving overseas in the U.S. military. As an airman in the U.S. Air Force, he was stationed in Korea and took up the art of tang soo do, a Korean kicking and punching art. Upon returning to the United States, he began competing professionally. Beginning with his grand champion win at the 1966 National Winter Karate Championships in San Jose, CA, he blazed through the tournament circuit, eventually retiring undefeated as the first professional world middleweight karate champion.

After retiring from competition, Norris turned to full-time teaching, growing his chain of schools to 32 franchises. A series of business problems led to the failure of that venture, and Norris was again looking for work. Steve McQueen, legendary actor and Norris' fellow student under Bruce Lee, talked him into pursuing an acting career. Norris had already acted in small parts, including the climactic fight scene of Return of the Dragon, but it wasn't until 1977's Breaker Breaker! where he got his first starring role.

Norris has always supplemented his core tang soo do style with training in other arts. Along with fellow competitors Mike Stone and Joe Lewis, he took jeet kune do lessons from Bruce Lee to improve his fighting skills. Recently, Norris has trained with the Machado family in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and earned his black belt in the tough ground grappling art--no small feat for a guy who just had his 60th birthday.

Steven Seagal

Steven Seagal is another martial arts star that really has a serious martial arts background. As a young man, Seagal saw Morehei Ueshiba, founder of aikido, demonstrate the flowing, throwing art in a class. He was hooked. Seagal ended up living in Japan for 15 years, married his instructor's daughter, and became one of the highest-ranking gaijin (foreigners) in aikido.

Seagal also holds black belt rank in kenjutsu, combat with the Japanese sword, and has trained in karate, judo, and jujitsu as well. Seagal began teaching aikido in Japan, breaking traditions as one of the first non-Japanese to start his own school. He continued teaching in Hollywood upon his return, which led to his movie career. Seagal is now becoming known as the leader of a Buddhist religious sect.

Jackie Chan

The Jack's back with a new U.S. movie, and his popularity has never been higher. Known for his flashy acrobatic grace and physical comedy genius, Jackie Chan delights audiences with his unique style of cinema. Jackie is one of the most popular martial arts movie stars around.

What's not as well known is that Jackie's core martial arts style is the Korean art of hapkido. You would think that the star of kung fu classics like Drunken Master and Dragon Lord was a kung fu stylist, but Jackie himself admits that's not true. Jackie states in a Black Belt Magazine article that his only true martial arts training came from Jin Pal Kim, a hapkido instructor and stuntman in Hong Kong movies. Of course, Jackie learned a lot of kung fu from his years in Peking opera. Many kung fu styles are very practical; emphasizing low kicks and strong punches that aren't as photogenic as a spinning hook kick or a jumping side kick. Hapkido, with its spinning high kicks, looks great on film and thus proved to be a worthy style for Jackie to study.

For more information on these martial arts of the rich and famous, consult the following Martial Arts Net Libraries:

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