Michael Jai White, now 52 years old, is perhaps most famous for being the first African American to play a major comic book hero in Spawn (1997), but for MMA fans he is best known as an actor who has built his career around his martial arts. He began in jiu jitsu at age seven and has studied widely ever since, expanding his skill set through eight different styles of martial arts. White holds black belts in seven of those eight styles. White has used those skills in a run of fight films. Here are some some fun facts about those movies and the man himself.
In Blood and Bone (2009) legendary Hollywood stuntman Judo Gene LeBell is seen sitting in a chair in the hospital, an easily missed Easter egg for action movie devotees. Similarly, Karate master Fumio Demura is seen watching the final fight with Bob Wall, one of the founding fathers of martial arts in the United States.
Teaching has long been a part of White’s life. Before he became a professional actor, White taught students with behavioral problems for three years. This time in his life gave him a negative view of hip-hop, as he saw his students unable to differentiate between the fantasy and reality of the hip-hop stars they sought to emulate. He still teaches, at Victory Dojo in Burbank.
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Last night getting my Brother ready for his @bellatormma fight. Folks stop committing hip when you chamber for front kick. Keep hip back and thrust on impact. 60% more power and opponent can’t see your chamber. Video #2 I’m teaching the same technique to UFC champs @sugarashadevans & @twooodley at my house. #technique #Repost @adelkyokushin ・・・ Always amazing working with my brother @officialmichaeljai and learning from one of the best in martial arts ,Thank God he didn’t kill me with one of those kicks بعض التمارين مع أخي والتعلم من واحدة من أفضل في فنون القتال #martialarts #master#karate #kyokushin
Michael Jai White’s career has been heavily influenced by Mike Tyson. White’s first big role, back in 1995, was playing Iron Mike in the TV movie Tyson. When he later took over the role of George “Iceman” Chambers from Ving Rhames in Undisputed II (2006), he essentially was playing Mike Tyson all over again, as the character of Chambers was based on the heavyweight champion.
The makeup for Spawn was intense. It took four hours to get the actor into full costume, with a glued on bodysuit, irritating contacts that covered the entire eye, and a mask that restricted his breathing. White credited his martial arts training for his ability to handle the makeup, saying his training had given him a “strong will and unbreakable concentration.”
Could Michael Jai White beat up Bruce Lee? Out of all the dead people out there, none of them are evoked as a potential fight loser as often as Bruce Lee. Michael Jai White threw his hat into the hypothetical ring in 2016, saying he could trounce the martial arts legend—a move he came to later regret. He recently walked those comments back.
Ironically, White made his original claim in an interview about the fact he was cut out of Kill Bill (2003). Quentin Tarantino may have removed White from his movie, but he was equally on board with the idea that Bruce Lee really needs a posthumous comeuppance. A few days ago, White visited Lee’s grave—just to keep him on his toes.
Mike Perry might be happy to know that no less a personage than Steven Seagal says Michael Jai White is a laughable fighter. Looks like the professional UFC fighter would take that backyard brawl over the 52-year-old actor after all.