Showcasing the 16 Top Martial Artists in the World


Martial arts have been a common fixture on the silver screen. But ever wondered who are the top martial artists in the world as of now? Join us to be in the know of things.

Martial arts are a self-defense skill or sport, typically originating from the Far East. You use them to defend yourself or attack, depending on the situation. Martial arts help develop self-discipline, an active lifestyle, and better reflexes while also boosting your confidence and self-expression. Even cultures across ages have relied on martial arts to train kings, soldiers, warriors, and noblemen.

Types of Martial Arts

The variety of martial arts is astounding as every country has a native combat style. Karate, judo, boxing, wrestling, taekwondo, and kickboxing, you name it. With globalization, some new forms of martial arts continue to evolve that typically blend traditional and innovative techniques. However, you can broadly categorize them as hard martial arts and soft martial arts, depending on the force, intent, time, and principles used in armed or unarmed combat, whether to attack or defend.

1. Hard Martial Arts

Hard martial arts include some intentional beatings tactically to make the opponent give up. They involve attack and defense though, the focus is on violent attacks. Simply put, you block your opponent’s strike while also responding with similar or greater power, aggression, and precision.

In hard martial arts, your counterblows should be damaging enough to physically hurt the opponent into submission. They, require you to be agile and powerful at the same time. Examples include karate, kickboxing, and other martial arts with a profound element of violence.

2. Soft Martial Arts

Soft martial arts apply less aggressive tactics to prompt the opponent to surrender. Here, you dodge the opponent’s blow, instead of blocking it. To this end, you move away from the attacker, usually in a circular motion, while keeping an eye on the attacker and anticipating his/her moves. That helps you decide the time and position to launch the counterattack to subdue the opponent.

Unlike hard martial arts, soft ones do not intend to hurt. Rather, the focus is to discourage the attacker from attacking anymore. The force applied in counterblows is minimal. It’s all about taking control through defensive techniques without intending to hurt the opponent. Any damage to the attacker is incidental. Wrestling and Aikido are prime examples of soft martial arts.

While hard martial arts are all-physical, the soft ones also have a spiritual and mental side. So, don’t be surprised if some of the top martial artists in the world swear by soft martial art forms.

16 Top Martial Artists in the World

No one can stay immune to the lure of martial arts and martial artists, not even cinema. There’s even a dedicated martial art genre in contemporary cinema with growing viewership. So, if you adore martial artists, here’s a comprehensive list of the top martial artists in the world.

1. Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee

  • DOB: 27 November 1940
  • Death: 20 July 1973 in Hong Kong
  • Height: 1.72 m
  • Born in: San Francisco, California, USA
  • Spouse: Linda Lee Cadwell

Who else but Bruce Lee?

He was a Chinese-American martial artist famous for his astounding moves, agility, and powerful performances. But martial arts is not the only reason why we know Bruce Lee. He was an actor, director, poet, philosopher, instructor, and inventor all rolled into one. How’s that for versatility?

Lee was not only the best martial artist in the world but an icon with a lasting legacy. As a side note, Hollywood studios were initially apprehensive about casting Asians as the leads. Bruce Lee broke that glass ceiling and paved the way for the likes of Jackie Chan and Jet Li to leave their mark.

Bruce Lee died on 23 July 1973 at 32. The stated cause of death was a medication he used for headache relief. However, for many, the stated cause was just a coverup. Such is Lee’s popularity, the Government of Puerto Rico designated Aguadilla City as his home in Puerto Rico (1998).


They credit him with inventing the “Jeet Kune Do,” a mix-martial art form, blending Kung Fu, boxing, and fencing. Lee’s “be like water” quote reflects his philosophical bent while his writing and poetry reveal his astuteness. The world remembers Lee as much for his pioneering contributions to martial arts and cinema as for breaking stereotypes and culturally connecting East to West.

Body of Work

His notable directorial work includes Hong Kong, a worldwide hit and a cult movie in the martial arts genre. As an actor, he featured only in five flicks, including Game of Death (1978), Enter the Dragon (1973), The Boss (1971), Way of the Dragon (1972), and Fist of Fury (1972).


Bruce Lee was the topic of several documentaries that celebrated his genius, iconic status, and legacy. These include Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Birth of the Dragon, and more.

Awards & Recognitions

  • The Asian Award: Founder’s Award (2013)
  • Hong Kong Film Award for Star of the Century (2005)
  • Martial Arts Industry Association Australia: Lifetime Achievement Award (2011)
  • Ethnic Multicultural Media Academy (EMMA): Legend Award — London (2004)

2. Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan

  • DOB: 7 April 1954
  • Height: 1.74 m
  • Hailing from Hong Kong
  • Spouse: Joan Lin

Jackie Chan is second on the list of the top martial artists in the world. His slapstick acrobatic fighting techniques make us laugh while his incredible moves leave us awe-struck. Jackie was trained in Wushu and Hapkido techniques and uses them to full effect in his movies. However, his fighting style also has elements of acrobatic gymnastics, Jiu-Jitsu, and Taekwondo.

Chan is among the select few to perform his own stunts, often exposing himself to grave danger. Over the years, he has endured everything, from a broken eyebrow bone to collapsed shoulder and spinal damage. But nothing could deter him, not even age. At 68, he’s super fit and busy doing what he does best – making us drool with stunning action sequences and physical humor.


If Bruce Lee pioneered the Hung-Fu cinema in the west, Chan mainstreamed it. He stands tall as a popular pop icon and a role model for his hard work, humbleness, and integrity in public life.

Body of Work

The actor began his career in the 1960s and, on the last count, has featured in 150-plus movies. He even featured in the movie, Hong Kong, directed by Bruce Lee. Some of his notable movies include The Karate Kid, Rush Hour, The Foreigner, Police Story, Drunken Master, Rumble In The Bronx, Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow, Big and Little Wong Tin Bar, and so on.


In a long prolific career, awards and recognitions have come thick and fast for Jackie, including:

  • Academy Honorary Award (2016)
  • Hong Kong Film Award for Best Film (1989)
  • People’s Choice Award for Favorite Action Movie Actor (2011)
  • Golden Rooster Award for Best Actor (2005)
  • IIFA Special Award for Global Impact (2000)

3. Vidyut Jammwal

Vidyut Jammwal

  • DOB: 10 December 1980
  • Height: 1.8 m
  • Hailing from: Jammu, India
  • Spouse: Nandita Mahtani

Vidyut Jammwal is an Indian martial artist who has set the silver screen on fire with his hourglass body and some impossible stunts. Born in December 1980, Jammwal is an expert in kalarippayattu, a popular martial art originating in South India. Jammwal redefined the action hero with his out-of-the-world moves and athleticism. It’s not for nothing they call him the New Age Action Hero of Bollywood, one of the top martial artists in the world, and one of the sexiest men alive.

While Jammwal is seen decimating everything on the silver screen, he is well-mannered and kind in real life. His obsession with martial arts keeps him motivated to push the boundaries of action cinema.

Body of Work

He debuted with the TV series, CID in 1998 but had to wait till 2011 to bag the leading role in the movie, Force. There has been no looking back for him thereon. He went on to feature in commercial successes like the Commando franchise, Baadshaho, Anjaan, Junglee, Khuda Hafiz, Billa 2, and more. The actor also featured in two music videos, Tumhe Dillagi and Gal Ban Gaye.

Recognitions and Awards

  • Stardust Awards (2012)
  • FICCI Frames Awards (2012)
  • Filmfare Awards (2012)
  • IIFA Awards (2012)
  • SIIMA Awards (2013)
  • Zee Cine Awards (2014)
  • Jackie Chan Action Movie Awards

4. Jet Li

Jet Li

  • DOB: 26 April 1963
  • Height: 1.68 m
  • Hailing from: Beijing, China
  • Spouse: Nina Li Chi (Present)

Jet Li is Li Lianjie’s stage name, who’s a Chinese-Singaporean actor, director, and martial artist. He has a solid background in martial arts, being a Wushu champion in Beijing and later a Wushu teacher in the Beijing Wushu Team – all before turning 19. The icing on the cake – Li started training just 3 years before clinching his first national championship trophy in Wushu. However, unable to resist the lure of action cinema, he retired from the training team at 18 and, as they say, the rest is history.


A four-decade-long acting career and credentials in Wushu make him one of the world’s best martial artists. His movie franchisee, The Shaolin Temple, triggered the revival of the legendary Shaolin Temple in China. As a side note, the monastic order is the cradle of Kung Fu.

Body Of Work

Li made his silver screen debut with the Chinese movie, Shaolin Temple in 1982. He featured in a few critically-acclaimed and commercially successful ventures like the Fist of Legend (1994) and the Once Upon a Time in China series (1991–1993). However, Li took “Lethal Weapon” (1998) to jump into the Hollywood bandwagon. Two years later, he finally established himself as the male lead with “Romeo Must Die.”

Awards and Nominations

  • Golden Horse Film Festival
  • MTV Movie Awards
  • Hundred Flowers Awards
  • Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards
  • Hong Kong Film Awards
  • Shanghai Film Critics Awards
  • Asian Film Awards

5. Jean-Claude Van Damme

Jean-Claude Van Damme

  • DOB: October 18, 1960
  • Height: 1.77 m
  • Hailing from: Sint-Agatha-Berchem, Belgium
  • Spouse: Gladys Portugues

Born on October 18, 1960, in Belgium, Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg (Jean-Claude Van Damme) took up martial arts at 11 and the passion has grown ever since. After a rigorous 4-year training at Centre National de Karaté, Van made his way into the Belgian Karate Team. Riding high on some remarkable performances, he helped himself to 44 titles between 1976 to 1980, including the European Karate Championship in 1979. In 1982, he quit martial arts to pursue a career in cinema.

Armed with martial arts assets, stunning looks, and commendable agility, Van Damme struck gold with his initial movies that were low-budget affairs. However, it was the 1994 release, “Timecop” that shot him to superstardom. A few years down the line, his career went down a spiral with some box-office duds like Derailed (2002) and In Hell (2003). His failed marriages didn’t help either.

Body of Work

Bloodsport (1988) was his debut flick, followed by Cyborg. Moving forward, he starred in Kickboxer (1989), Lionheart (1990), Death Warrant (1990), Double Impact (1991), Universal Soldier (1992), Nowhere to Run (1993), Hard Target (1993), Timecop (1994), Street Fighter (1994), Sudden Death (1995), The Quest (1996), Maximum Risk (1996), and more.

6. Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris

  • DOB: 10 March 1940
  • Birthplace: Ryan, Oklahoma, United States
  • Height: 1.78 m
  • Spouse: Gena O’Kelley (m. 1998), Dianne Holechek (m. 1958–1988)
  • Trained in: Karate, Taekwondo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Judo, Tang Soo Do, Chun Kuk Do

Carlos Ray Norris was introduced to Tang Soo Do, a local martial art technique, on an Air Force assignment in Korea. Upon returning home, he moonlighted as a karate instructor and trained the likes of Steve McQueen and the Osmonds. In an impressive fighting career, he claimed prestigious titles, including The National Karate Championships (1966), All-Star Championships (1966), World Middleweight Karate Championship (1967), and All-American Karate Championship! 1967). With a fight record of 65-5, Norris could walk into any list of the top martial artists in the world.

Body of Work

On Steve McQueen’s insistence, Norris ventured into cinema with a minor role in the spy flick, The Wrecking Crew in 1969. Three years later, he played the antagonist in Way of the Dragon at Bruce Lee’s invitation. What followed was a string of self-produced low-budget action flicks like A Force of One (1979), An Eye For An Eye (1981), and more. After featuring in a series of studio movies, Norris’s breakthrough success came with Canon studio’s Missing in Action (1984) and its two sequels. Other successful ventures like Invasion USA and The Delta Force were also with Canon.

However, Norris’ most notable, critically acclaimed work was the Code of Silence (1985). By the 1990s, he moved to the small screen to feature in “Walker, Texas Ranger,” aired from 1993-2001. He featured in The President’s Man trilogy in the early 2000s, which was his last venture as the protagonist. we saw the last of him in Sylvester Stallone’s “The Expendables” in 2012.


We remember Norris for portraying protagonists with superlative fighting skills who believe in solving issues without resorting to violence. Also, Chun Kuk Do, a mixed martial art form based on conventional taekwondo techniques, is his brainchild.

Awards & Honors

  • BMI Film & TV Awards (1997, 1998 & 1999) for Walker, Texas Ranger
  • Golden Boot Awards (2001)
  • Lone Star Film & Television Awards (1997)
  • MovieGuide Awards (2000)
  • ShoWest Convention, USA (1992)
  • Special Award International Box Office Star of the Year (1982)
  • Star on the Walk of Fame (1989)

7. Wesley Snipes

Wesley Snipes

  • DOB: 31 July 1962
  • Height: 1.75 m
  • Hailing from: Orlando, Florida, USA
  • Spouse: Nakyung Park

Wesley is a film producer, and an actor, besides being one of the top martial artists in the world. Born and bred in Bronx, NY, Snipes started training when he was 12 and went on to claim the 5th-degree black belt in Shotokan Karate and the 2nd-degree black belt in Hapkido. As if that wasn’t enough, his passion for martial arts led him to train in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Kickboxing, Capoeira, and Shotokan.

With solid credentials in martial arts and a chiseled body, Snipes caught the eye of an agent and landed a role in “Wildcats” (1986). A year later, he featured in Michael Jackson’s smash hit, “Bad” and the popular sitcom, “Star Trek.” His career skyrocketed in the 90s & 00s, thanks to profitable ventures like the Blade trilogy. But come 2008, his movies started tanking and he ended up serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence for tax evasion. That virtually brought the curtains down on a remarkable career.

Body of Work

His body of work is extensive, including movies like New Jack City (1991), Blade trilogy (1998–2004), The Expendables 3 (2014), White Men Can’t Jump (1992), Demolition Man (1993), Passenger 57 (1992), The Player (2015), and U.S. Marshals (1998). Most of these films fared well at the box office and generated decent reviews as well. He also has been a regular fixture on TV.

Awards and Nominations

Snipes was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award in the Best Supporting Male category for “The Waterdance.” But it was his role in One Night Stand that fetched him the Volpi Cup Award. Other recognitions include CableACE Awards, MTV Movie Awards, Image Awards, Gold Special Jury Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, and Hollywood Walk of Fame.

8. Toshiro Mifune

Toshiro Mifune

  • DOB: April 1, 1920
  • Death: December 24, 1997
  • Birthplace: Seitō, Japanese-occupied Shandong
  • Resting Place: Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan
  • Height: 1.74 m
  • Years active: 1947–1995
  • Spouse: Sachiko Yoshimine

Such was the popularity of Toshiro Mifune, he and Japanese cinema were synonymous in the 1950s and 60s. Born in Tsingtao, China, he returned to Japan, the country of his ancestors, at 21 to join the Japanese Air Force in WW2. In 1947, he came in contact with director Akira Kurosawa to form a formidable duo that delivered 16 movies back-to-back. Mifune mostly portrayed sword-wielding samurais with an intense, manly disposition while staying emotionally honest.

Body of work

Mifune kickstarted his acting career with “These Foolish Times II” in 1947. Soon, he teamed with director Akira Kurosawa to come up with Drunken Angel in 1948, which was the first among the 16 ventures they delivered together. Released in 1950, Rashomon shot Mifune to fame, making him the face of Japanese cinema. The collaboration ended with Red Beard (1965) after which he produced multiple movies and even directed one. The western audience took a liking for him in the sitcom, Shogun (1980). If things had panned out well, he could have played Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid (1984).


Toshiro Mifune comes across as one of the top martial artists in the world with an undying charm, machoism, and, of course, fighting abilities. He was an intense actor who could portray any role effortlessly. However, he is remembered for putting Japanese cinema on the world stage.

Awards & Honors

  • Volpi Cup for Best Actor (1961, 1965)
  • Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon (1986)
  • Order of the Sacred Treasure, Japan Govt. (1993)
  • Moscow International Film Festival (1973, 1977)
  • Hollywood Walk of Fame (2016)

9. Donnie Yen

Donnie Yen

  • DOB: 27 July 1963
  • Height: 1.73 m
  • Hailing from: Yuexiu District, Guangzhou, China
  • Spouse: Cissy Wang

When Donnie Yen burst onto the scene in the late 80s, Kung Fu dominated the martial art genre in movies. He just shattered it by introducing and mainstreaming Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Born on 27 July 1963 in Guangdong, China, Donnie took a liking for martial arts at an early age, which led him to experiment with a variety of styles like tai chi, kickboxing, boxing, judo, wushu, jeet Kune do, Hapkido, karate, wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Muay Thai, Taekwondo, and Wing Chun.

Donnie was one of the leading action movie actors in his heyday and one of the top martial artists in the world. If you search for the highest-paid actors in Asia, you may find Donnie Yen on the list, perhaps after Chan and Li. When Donny wasn’t bamboozling villains on the silver screen, he was busy producing and directing movies, and choreographing gravity-defying action sequences.


He introduced mixed martial arts (MMA) in Asian cinema through his choreography styles in the 2000s.

10. Tony Jaa

Tony Jaa

  • DOB: 5 February 1976
  • Height: 1.72 m
  • Country of Birth: Thailand
  • Other names: Jaa Phanom, Phanom Yeerum, Thatchakon Yiram
  • Spouse: Piyarat Chotiwattananont

Tony Jaa, born Tatchakorn Yeerum, kicked off his celluloid career as a stuntman and rose through the ranks to evolve into a bankable action star. Trained in Muay Boran, Jaa came up with a short film in collaboration with Panna, which showcased his martial art skills. His mainstream cinema debut happened through Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior (2003) where he played the protagonist.

The sequel to Ong Bak hit the screens in 2008 to receive a decent response from critics and common folks alike. Even Jaa’s role model, Jackie Chan took notice of him and recommended him for a role in Rush Hour 3. Scheduling conflicts prevented us from admiring two of the top martial artists in the world sharing the silver screen. What a shame! Guess what? Chan called Jaa the most well-rounded of all action stars.” And, that’s some compliment coming from the legend himself.

Body Work

Jaa has been featured in Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior (2003), Ong Bak 2: The Beginning (2008), Tom-Yum-Goong (2005), Furious 7 (2015), SPL II: A Time for Consequences (2015).

11. Johnny Trí Nguyễn

Johnny Trí Nguyễn

  • DOB: 16 January 1974
  • Birthplace: Binh Duong, Vietnam
  • Height: 1.81 m
  • Spouse: Cathy Viet Thi (m. 2000–2008)
  • Nationality: American, Vietnamese
  • Trained in: Wushu, Kung Fu, Tai chi, & Aikido

Hailing from Vietnam, Johnny Trí Nguyễn has martial arts engrained in his DNA. At 9, he migrated to the US where he furthered his training in Wushu and competed in some major tournaments with a decent success rate. His performance earned him the US Wushu team membership. Like some of the best martial artists in the world, Johnny started his showbiz career as a stuntman. With looks to die for and established martial art credentials, his transition into an actor was always on the cards.

Body of Work

After doing stunt work in the Mortal Combat series, Johnny graduated to playing double in Spiderman 2. Come 2005, the world saw Johnny on the silver screen opposite Tony Jaa in The Protector. However, the East, which is the hotbed of martial arts, took notice of him in the 2007 release, The Rebel. His next venture, Clash released in 2009, making him a dependable action star. In later years, he was a part of some Indian blockbusters like 7aum Arivu and Irumbu Kuthirai.


Johnny’s legacy is a ‘work in progress.’ But with the kind of talent he has, we can expect some great things from him. While Johnny is an absolute superstar in Vietnam, he is yet to prove his mettle in Hollywood.

12. Steven Seagal

Steven Seagal

  • DOB: 10 April 1952
  • Height: 1.93 m
  • Hailing from: Michigan, United States
  • Spouse: Erdenetuya Seagal

Make way for another versatile man, Steven Seagal. The trained Aikido practitioner can develop screenplays, produce movies, write lyrics, and create music while beating the hell out of bad guys on screen. He is also an accomplished guitar player and lyricist with his lyrics featuring in some of his movies, including Fire Down Below, Ticker, etc. Seagal was late to start his martial art career but caught up pretty quickly to emerge as one of the top martial artists in the world.


Acting, martial arts, and music are not the only things he was involved in. Steven Seagal also joined the Air Force in the 1980s. And, during his stint, taught his deputies martial arts, marksmanship, and unarmed combat.

Body of Work

He debuted on celluloid with “Above the Law” in 1987. That was followed by Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, Under Siege, On Deadly Ground, Executive Decision, The Glimmer Man, Fire Down Below, The Patriot, Ticker, Half Past Dead, Today You Die, Maximum Conviction, Code of Honor, The Asian Connection, and Sniper: Special Ops.

13. Iko Uwais

Iko Uwais

  • DOB: 12 February 1983
  • Birthplace: Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Height: 1.68 m
  • Years active: 2007 onwards
  • Spouse: Audy Item ​(m. 2012)​
  • Trained in: Silat Harimau (Tiger Style)

This cute Jakartan can use martial arts to good effect on the celluloid and off it too. Born as Uwais Qorny with martial arts in his blood, Iko walked away with the National Champion title in 2005, aged 12. In 2007, he bumped into Gareth Evans when he was in Indonesia for a documentary. Impressed by his charm, screen presence, and ability to execute gravity-defying stunts, the Welsh film Director cast him in Merantau. With that, began the journey of one of the most gifted martial artists.

Body of Work

Merantau saw the light of day in 2009, receiving decent reviews and even the ActionFest 2010 award for the best film. Upon earning a five-year contract from Evan’s production house, Ika quit his job and focused entirely on cinema. Two years later came The Raid: Redemption, perhaps Ika’s best work to date. That was followed by a sequel, The Raid 2, and a cameo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Triple Threat hit the theaters in 2019, where Ika shared the screen with stalwarts like Tony Jaa and Tiger Chen. His latest offering, Fistful of Vengeance (2022) did reasonably well at the box office.

14. Bolo Yeung

Bolo Yeung

  • DOB: 3 July 1946
  • Birthplace: Guangzhou, China
  • Height: 1.68 m
  • Trained in: Tai Chi, Wing Chun
  • Years active: 1970 to 2017

No other bad guy in the martial art genre is as feared and ferocious as Yang Sze. He played the antagonist to two of the most iconic martial artists across generations – Bruce Lee and Jean-Claude Van Damme. He excels in Tai Chi, Wing Chun, intimidating people, and crushing bones that put him in the league of the top martial artists the world has ever seen. Not to mention he had a great muscular body, which landed him the Mr. Hong Kong bodybuilding title for 10 years on the trot.

Body of work

History credits Bruce Lee with introducing Yang to the silver screen in “Enter The Dragon.” The character he played, Bolo, was so successful that he assumed it as his screen name. In the next two decades, Bolo was a part of several successful ventures but pathbreaking success came only in 1988 with “Bloodsport”, starring Van Damme. Made on a shoestring budget, the movies minted it.

As the Damme-Bolo friendship florished, we saw the duo again in the 1991 release, Double Impact. Bolo successfully broke the villain’s tag and established his versatility in later ventures, playing the good guy in the Shootfighter series, Fearless Tiger, and more. With age catching up, Bolo took a partial retirement with only a cameo in Blizhniy Boy: The Ultimate Fighter to his credit in the 2000s.


While he was credited as Yang Sze in certain movies, the everyday movie-goer remembers him as Bolo, a deadly badass guy ready to kill at the drop of his hat. In a way, he redefined villainy.

15. Phillip Rhee

Phillip Rhee

  • DOB: 7 September 1960
  • Birthplace: Seoul, South Korea
  • Spouse: Amy Rhee (m. 1990)
  • Height: 1.77 m
  • Trained in: Hapkido, Taekwondo, Kendo, Boxing

Meet Phillip Rhee, the envisioner of the “BEST of the BEST” film franchise and a celebrity martial art trainer. Born in Seoul, he spent his growing years in San Francisco mastering Hapkido, Taekwondo, Kendo, and other martial art styles. With a 7th-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and 3rd-degree in Hap Ki Do and Kendo, he just bolstered his claim to be among the top martial artists in the world. At 20, Rhee was a part of the US Taekwondo Team, which took on the South Korean national team in a prestigious tournament. And, that inspired the theme of the cult series, “Best of the Best.”

Body of Work

Rhee got the break in 1977 in The Kentucky Fried Movie: Klahn’s Guard. The 8th decade was a busy period for him, as he starred in Firefight (1983), Furious (1984), Crime Killer (1985), LA Streetfighters (1986), Hell Squad (1987), and Silent Assassins (1988). By 1989, Rhee was ready with Best of the Best, a movie he wrote and produced. In the next decade, three sequels to the movie hit the silver screen Best of the Best 2 (1993), Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back, and Best of the Best 4: Without Warning (1998). Another notable venture came in 2015, Underdog Kids.


Despite limited success as an actor, Rhee is one of the world’s leading martial artists and trainers. Among his celebrity students are politicians, businessmen, and media personalities.

Female Top Martial Artists in the World

If you think martial arts is an exclusively male territory, think again. Some incredibly agile and skilled females have forced their way into the male bastion. They have shattered the glass ceiling to emerge as martial arts icons with a tremendous global fan following. Think of them as an inspiration for millions of females seeking self-empowerment through martial arts. So, let’s celebrate their legacy with a detailed list of the female top martial artists in the world.

16. Cynthia Rothrock

Cynthia RothrockMake way for the “Queen of Martial Arts Cinema.” Born as Cynthia Ann Christine Rothrock in 1957 in Delaware, Cynthia took up martial arts at 13. In years to come, she achieved black belts in Tang Soo Do, Tae Kwon Do, Wushu, Eagle Claw Kung Fu, and Northern Shaolin Kung Fu. In Tang Soo Do, she even went on to clinch the 8th Degree Black Belt.

At 24, she emerged as the World Champion in both Forms and Weapons categories. Guess what? She retained the title for four more years on the trot (1981 – 85). Cynthia helped herself to the “Grand Master” title in 5 events after excelling in 4 out of 5 combat events. No competitor could get the better of her in 100+ Forms events, a record that still stands.

Body Of Work

After exiting the competition scene as a champion, Cynthia pursued her celluloid career in Hong Kong. Her debut flick, Yes Madam (1985), was a smash hit where she shared the screen with Michelle Yeoh. Her stint in Hong Kong lasted for 3 more years and 7 movies. In 1988, she headed towards Hollywood to star in 24 Hours to Midnight, alongside Stack Pierce.

Later, she featured in 60+ B-Grade martial art Hollywood flicks. Her notable ventures include China O’Brien, China O’Brien 2, Guardian Angel, Honor & Glory, No Retreat, No Surrender 2, and Prince of the Sun. She made her television debut in 1996 with Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, in the episode “Not Fade Away”. A year later, she was also a part of the TV movie, The Dukes of Hazzard: Reunion!


If you wish to pursue martial arts yourself or want your kid to do so, these top martial artists in the world in 2023 are an inspiration. These men have kept us awe-struck with their splendid moves, agility, athleticism, and other traits that define martial arts. Whether it’s Bruce Lee or Tony Jaa, they have risen through the ranks, thanks to their focus, dedication, and hard work.

If we haven’t included your favorite artist in the list, feel free to tell us in the comment box below.

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