Jackie Chan Martial Arts (Background and Styles)

actor Jackie chan at an event wearing black

Jackie Chan, popularly regarded as the comic king of martial arts, has a deep background in martial arts which has allowed him to craft a unique fighting style for himself in the movie industry.

He is undoubtedly one of the most respected stars in the kung fu movie genre due to his martial arts expertise and comic approach.

Chan has starred in dozens of action movies during his over 40-year-old career with most of the films showing his martial arts skills.

While the movie genre is crowded with talented martial arts actors, only Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan stand out as the biggest of them all.

Although, as an actor, he was initially marketed in the same mold as Lee, he eventually took a different path and succeeded in developing his own kung fu brand.

Chan now has a reputation for a specific style of fighting that combines Chinese martial arts, wild stunts, acrobatics, and the ability to use anything around him as a weapon.

Jackie Chan Martial Arts History

Born in Hong Kong, Jackie Chan’s martial art journey started with his father when he was little.

His dad, Charles Chan, would wake him up early in the morning where they would practice kung fu together.

His father believed that teaching his son kung fu would help build his character, strength, courage, and patience.

When he was 7 years old, his father took a job as the head cook at the American embassy in Australia.

And since he could not take him along, he enrolled him in the China Drama Academy, which was a Peking Opera School run by Master Yu Jim-yuen.

Chan lived there for the next 10 years.

During his time at the school, he rigorously learned singing, acting, acrobatics, and martial arts.

He particularly excelled in acrobatics and martial arts and eventually became part of the “Seven Little Fortunes” (a performance group made up of the school’s best students) gaining the stage name “Yuen Lo” which is in homage to his master.

Chan became close friends with fellow group members Yuen Biao, and Sammo Hung, and the three of them later became known as the Three Dragons or Three Brothers.

After making an entrance into the film industry, Chan along with Sammo Hung got the chance to train in hapkido under grand master Jin Pal Kim where he eventually attained a black belt.

Although Jackie Chan appears to be proficient in different martial arts styles, he only has a black belt in Hapkido.

He graduated from the China Drama Academy when he was 17.

Every year, many Hong Kong movies were made, and they were always looking for strong, young stuntmen.

Chan took these jobs which soon earned him a reputation for being fearless. Jackie would try anything.

He was forced to go to Australia to live with his parents when the Hong Kong movie industry began to fail.

He then secured a job in a restaurant on a construction site, which was where he got the name “Jackie.”

A man had trouble pronouncing the name “Kong-sang” and began calling him “little Jack” which soon became Jackie.

Jackie soon found Australia and the construction work difficult and boring.

One day, he received a telegram from a man named Willie Chan who ended up becoming his manager and best friend.

This was in 1976 when Jackie was 21 years old.

He was soon on his way back to Hong Kong to star in “New Fist of Fury.”

Willie Chan took control of Jackie’s career once he returned to Hong Kong.

Today, Jackie owes his success to Willie.

Sadly, the initial movies were not very successful. This was because Jackie’s talents were not being used properly.

Jackie became a star only when he was able to contribute his ideas.

Chan brought humor to martial arts movies.

His first successful movie was “Snake in Eagle’s Shadow” which became a huge hit.

This was then followed by another blockbuster “Drunken Master”.

“Fearless Hyena”, his first ever directing job was also a big hit.

Jackie eventually ended up in the United States to make the movie “The Big Brawl” which was unsuccessful.

Next came “Cannonball Run” which was successful in Japan and the US but not in Hong Kong.

This discouraged Chan and he went back to Hong Kong to continue making action-comedy movies he was already famous for.

Jackie went back to the States in 1985 to make “The Protector” which also became a flop, forcing him to leave the US once again.

He didn’t return until after 10 years when he successfully made “Rumble in the Bronx.”

This was followed by “Rush Hour,” “Shanghai Noon,” and “Rush Hour 2.”

At this stage, his dream of being a superstar in America was achieved, and Chan went on to practice all the martial art skills learned over the years in his movies.

Jackie Chan Martial Arts Styles

Jackie knows different martial arts styles. Some of them include kung fu, hapkido, karate, wing Chun, boxing, and others.

He has a background in many different martial arts and is proficient in most of them.

Although it might be difficult to give a definitive list of all martial arts styles learned by him, these above styles however remain his most recognized.

Chan’s style cannot be defined by a single martial arts discipline, and he has described his martial art style as “chop suey” which means “everything”.

He was quoted on Quora saying;

“When I was young, I learned Southern Style, Northern Style. After that, I learned Wing Chun, Hapkido, karate, boxing…all kinds of things. So my style is chop suey: everything.”

Jackie Chan

Over the years, he has managed to put together his style by borrowing elements from all the different fighting styles.

Hopefully, this answers those wanting to know the kind of martial arts practiced by Jackie Chan.

Here are some of Jackie Chan’s martial arts styles.


Jackie Chan trained hapkido under legendary South Korean instructor grandmaster Kim Jin Pal.

He learned this art alongside his friends Angela Mao, Sammo Hung, and Carter Wong.

Since hapkido incorporates a bit of everything including striking, wrestling, throws, and weapons training, this was truly the perfect martial art for him to learn.

Hapkido is perfect for the big screen due to the chaos of fight scenes and the variety of martial arts styles often used.

Although Kim Jin Pal awarded Jackie Chan his hapkido black belt, the year it was awarded remains unclear.

According to him, flying kicks are his favorite hapkido techniques which perfectly align with martial arts emphasis on athleticism and flair.

Kung Fu

If you are a follower of Jackie’s movies, you need not be told about his expertise in kung fu.

Jackie is said to have learned both the southern and northern Shaolin kung fu.

His kung fu skills have been on display in many of his successful movies including the legendary “Drunken Master” film.

Kung Fu is undoubtedly one of the most ancient martial arts in the world, and a close study of a fight between someone trained in southern style kung fu versus northern style shows an apparent difference between them.

Wing Chun

Jackie Chan’s incredible wing Chun skills are on display in the movies “The Big Brawl” and “Rumble in the Bronx”.

Since wing Chun belts aren’t awarded in legitimate schools, it is unknown how long Chan has been learning the art.

Regardless of this, you can see that Chan sure knows what he is doing and can perform wing Chun to a high level.

Jackie Chan likely learned Wing Chun from wing Chun expert and friend Leung Ting, who has been photographed with him several times.

Ting was the last student of Yip Man (Ip Man), which explains why Chan’s wing Chun’s technique is so good.

Also, Chan has explained that he learned both Southern and Northern Shaolin kung-fu early on in his career.

And while wing Chun is not exactly the same as the northern and southern styles, there are many similarities.


Jackie Chan is also known for his proficiency in Karate.

This is evident in the epic movie “Karate Kid” where the Okinawan Karate style was used.

He has sometimes stated that he does not fully know karate but can perform the moves due to his background in other martial arts.

However, while he might not be an expert in Karate, he sure has a good level of proficiency in the art.

Chinese Opera

Jackie Chan’s career has clearly been influenced by Chinese opera, even though it is not a martial art.

The truth is, without this style and formal training, it is very unlikely that we would know the name Jackie Chan and the numerous films he has appeared in.

During Jackie’s time at the Peking opera school, he learned acrobatics, choreography, singing, acting, fight movements, and even martial arts.

These skills are evident in his stunt work and ability to put on an entertaining fight sequence in front of a camera sometimes through the use of various objects as weapons.

Proof of this can be seen throughout his career where he uses household objects such as chairs and broomsticks to defend against attackers.

People in the west may see this as a soft and unreal martial art.

However, it is well known that Chinese stuntmen and fight scenes are in full contact to look realistic.

It is not uncommon to get hit in the face or fall from a tall building without any support.

Jackie Chan’s extensive list of injuries throughout his career further proves this.


Other less documented martial arts practiced by Jackie Chan include boxing, judo, taekwondo, and jiu-jitsu.

It is unknown where Chan trained these martial arts or what rank he holds.

However, with the number of movies that he has featured in, you can see his expert application of techniques from these various martial disciplines.

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