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The 5 Most Intimidating Martial Artists of All Time

Take a look at your shelf of classic movies. Depending on your taste and your definition of the word classic, you probably own a film with at least one of these intimidating martial artists in it. With so many martial artists out there, how do you decide which ones are the most intimidating? Movies and martial arts books were little help, and the web offers few reliable resources. So, we came up with a simple test to decide who made the cut. Ask yourself this question:

"How would you feel if you were trapped on a desert island with one of these martial artists?"

After mulling over dozens of terrifying tough guys, we decided on these martial arts mavens:

Steven Seagal. To be fair, Steven Seagal is a little past his glory days. Some people might argue that he does not actually know any martial art to speak of. On the contrary, Seagal was pulling off a form of mixed martial arts in the movies and on television before it was popular. That makes him a case study for the martial arts books, and someone to be feared on your desert island.

Bruce Lee. This man brought popular martial arts to the masses. He made it real on screen, and his films feel like he might enter the theater and beat up all the bad guys sitting next to you. Lee’s legacy inspired countless people to follow in his footsteps, including a couple of the other people on this list. Realistically, the fear of Lee coming back to kick mediocrity’s butt has inspired more greatness than any of the martial arts books ever will.

Jet Li. Prolific, lightning quick and dreadfully accurate, Jet Li has proven that you can make a living almost entirely on fear. Any time his name appears on a poster or DVD cover, you instantly know that someone gets put in their place in the movie. His roles are just and almost always intimidating. Li is quiet and unassuming, so he probably incites the most fear in the desert island test category.

Chuck Norris. Few martial artists of the twenty-first century have created more intrigue and hype than the venerable Chuck Norris. In addition to living it up as Walker Texas Ranger for years, Norris has inspired an entire catalogue of larger-than-life jokes turned fact. So how intimidating is Chuck Norris? Despite his paternal demeanor, he is the real thing. He even owns a martial arts school called Chuck Kuk Do. Would you mess with him?

Jackie Chan. All joking aside, Jackie Chan is a seriously talented martial artist. If you have ever seen Rumble in the Bronx, then you know what he is capable of. Try jumping off a building onto another building’s balcony and see where you land. Chan is explosive and daring, almost always performing his own stunts for his movies. Besides his softer side that includes singing and making bad jokes, Chan is the real thing.

Of course, you can make up your own mind on this topic. Deciding which of these verifiable butt kickers is the most intimidating is even tougher. If you look across the combined work of each, you will find the answer. Chuck Norris became a pop culture icon on accident, largely thanks to the Internet, so he cannot win. Chan is intimidating, but he is too lovable. After all, he has acted in comedies, too. Our winner, and the only fighter on our list with a gold-plated reputation, is Bruce Lee.

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