5 Celebrities You Never Knew Were Black Belt Martial Artists
1. While not on official business as the President of Russia, Putin has been known to pursue some pretty masculine hobbies: Hunting, horseback riding, driving fast cars, swimming in freezing lakes… and training in Judo, which he started at age 11. Putin’s commitment is both surprising and admirable, having gained a 9th degree black belt in his chosen martial art. (That’s nine black belts!)
2. With all this tough-guy talk, it may come as a surprise that the blonde-haired blue-eyed actress Katheryn Winnick is in-fact a 3rd Dan black belt in Taekwondo. Best known as shield maiden in TV series Vikings, Winnick earned her first black belt at 13, and started her own school at 16. Talking to Vanity Fair of her success in both teaching and training in Taekwondo from a very young age, Winnick said “I never saw myself as this little girl. I saw myself as a very strong individual, and I could do anything.”
3. The late Paul Walker was inspired to take up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Mauy Thai after watching the first UFC Mixed Martial Arts fights. According to Walkers teacher, Ricardo Miller, Paul loved BJJ and practiced whenever he could, wherever he was in the world. One of his favourite moves was the bow-and-arrow choke, and he was also known to have a fierce guard game. Upon his untimely death, Walkers was awarded an honorary black belt in BJJ. This belt was presented by Miller to Walkers family and commemorated ten years of dedication and training.
4. Arnold , aka the ‘Austrian Oak’ in his bodybuilding days, ‘Arnie’ during his acting career and ‘The ’ during his political career, is an overachiever in every sense of the word. While filming Commando, applied his discipline in training to martial arts and was later awarded an honorary 1st Dan black belt in Taekwondo. Despite not undergoing formal training and ranking, his skill level is said to be roughly that of a 2nd Dan black belt.
5. Elvis , the King of Rock, trained in Kenpo Karate. ‘The King’ was introduced to Karate when he was drafted into the army in 1958 and this sparked an interest which was maintained for over a decade while training under various teachers. There is some controversy around the legitimacy of Elvis’s rank though; one rumour tells of a Cadillac being gifted to one trainer after he awarded Elvis his 8th Dan black belt! Nevertheless, Elvis did love karate and even wanted to make a documentary to bring it into mainstream western culture.
[The only way to get better is to practice – no Cadillac’s for us thanks!]
BONUS: Non black belt Celebrities that also defy expectation: