What I hadn't realized at the time is that the man in the video is none other than Michael Jai White. His breakout role was as Mike Tyson in the 1995 HBO film Tyson. But I remember him the most as Spawn, the first African American to portray a major superhero in a major motion picture.
Beyond being a great actor, he's also a very accomplished Martial Artist. He holds 7 black belts in Shotokan, Tae Kwon Do, Kobudo, Goju Ryu, Tang Soo Do, Wushu and Kyokushin. He started his training at the age of 8 and has studied under some renowned masters such as Shigeru Oyama, Eric Chen, and Eddie Morales. He achieved his first black belt at the very young age of 12 and won over 26 different titles, including titles from the US Open, North American Open, and the New England Grand Champion.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Michael spent most of his childhood in nearby Connecticut. The stark contrast of living between the impoverished Bridgeport and one of the highest per capita income areas in the US, Westport, helped to shape this Renaissance man who both did well in school and gained a reputation for being a fearless and tough street fighter. Graduating with honors from high school, he went on to complete college and teach junior high with a specialization on emotionally disturbed children. According to his official bio, he was originally torn between wanting to continue to help these children and pursue his growing passion for acting. Eventually, with the blessing of his students, he left teaching and became the accomplished actor he is today.
A direct quote from his official website, http://www.michaeljaiwhite.com:
Regardless of what I'm into I always want to be able to get on the training floor with anyone at any time. I am a Martial Artist, first. I apply my Martial Arts discipline, focus, strength, and spirit to my life as well as my acting work. It is a way of life. Life cannot physically or mentally put me through more than I have voluntarily traversed through Martial Arts training. I am ready for anything. From the "Mike Tyson" story to "Spawn," four to five months of rigorous filming at a time can't touch twenty years of sweat."
For his role in his 1999 film, Universal Soldier – The Return, he made a great short video highlighting some of his training techniques:
Some great tips from the video:
- Find your own private alcove to practice
- Don't do the same routine to train your body to adapt
- Physical action requires more work than pure bodybuilding training
- Know your range
- Nutrition (particularly water and proteins) are important to maintain your energy
- Do light and repetitive reps to not sacrifice speed