Every martial art tends to venerate its founder. Those of us who grew up on a diet of martial arts movies and shows attribute almost supernatural powers to the old school masters. For example Chuck Norris can solve a rubix cube in one turn. Its true, I read it on the Internet. Bruce Lee can apparently defeat anybody at anything. His surviving students claim that if he had wanted to, he would have been one of the top three boxers in the world, and that he was really a great grappler, he just never taught it to anyone. No matter how you look at it, we had a time where there were some really great martial artist wondering the world. The question is always asked, how good a fighter were these men really. We hear about how awesome they were, how fast, how deadly, but who did they ever fight? So I’ve compiled a list of famous martial artists and their respective fighting records.
Let no man pick on Chuck Norris (Born March 10, 1940). Personal favorite of mine. However, his record as a fighter is not as shiny as fighter isn’t as grand as fans might hope. His fighting career spanned from 1964-1974. He competed in karate and tang soo do competitions of the time. At this point of time, karate matches in this country were point sparring i.e. one hit and they award a point and restart the fight. That said, they did not wear any kind of pads, and the rules were kind of weird. There seemed to be more contact allowed, and there is one match that Norris won with an Ippon Seoi Nage (shoulder throw). Wikipedia lists his record as being 183-10-2. Other sources give other numbers, but the smallest I could find was 65-5. Sadly Mr Norris never competed in full contact matches. They only got started in the 1970s and at that point he was too involved with his movie career.
Bruce Lee (born November 27, 1940) might be the most well know martial artist of all time. However as a fighter, there is really not much to say. After saying this, I know that there are a thousand Lee worshipers waiting outside to beat me up. Sorry guys, didn’t say he couldn’t fight, just that there is reliable records. All I can find is an in school amateur boxing competition in Hong Kong, where he defeated a British armature boxing champion, a full contact match where he knocked out a karate black belt in a YMCA hand ball court, and his very controversial fight with Kung fu master Jack Man Wong. Joe Lewis said Lee was more of a teacher and actor then a fighter, and in all the training they did together, they never sparred.
Steven Seagal (born April 10 1952) is a seventh degree black belt master in Aikido. He was the first westerner to operate a Aikido dojo in Japan. A whole generation of Americans grew up on his movies. However, there are no credible records of him fighting anyone. Now that isn’t totally surprising. Aikido doesn’t encourage fighting in its students. So no fights for Seagal.
Ivan Gene LeBell (born October 9, 1932) is a former American Judo champion, instructor, stunt performer, stunt coordinator, and professional wrestler, worked on over 1,000 films and TV shows. Also worked with all of the above martial artist at one point or another. He won the national Judo Championships in 1954 and 1955. LeBell participated in the first televised mixed martial arts fights in the United States on December 2, 1963 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The fight featured LeBell facing former top ranked middleweight boxer Milo Savage, whom LeBell choked out in the fourth round. For his fight record, its really hard to call it. He said at on point about about his Judo wins, “I had won over 200 trophies, and if I cashed them all in, they wouldn’t make a single house payment.” so I am only going to count his national fights and his MMA match.
Helio Gracie, (Born October 1, 1913) co founder of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. His name has been made famous by the fighting of his sons and the use of BJJ in the UFC, but he had a professional fighting record of his own. Because of the weird way the Brazilians did things, such as a lack of time limits, and rules like fights couldn’t go on past 2am, he ended up with a surprising number of draws. He also never won a match with striking. Every victory was a submission, not really all that surprising. He holds the record for the longest fight ever, three hours and forty minutes…
Born September 10, 1917, Kimura is best known for defeating Helio Gracie and having the ude garami joint lock named after him in BJJ. He fought around the world and accepted challenges from any body. He got in trouble for issuing dan rankings to martial artist he met in Brazil, and had his rank frozen at 7th degree. This doesn’t count towards his fight record, but he also did a one hundred man randori, where he fought one hundred 2 minute judo matches in a row against other judo black belts. This inspired his friend Mas Oyama (a karate master) to add this as a tradition in Kyokushin karate (only they call it the hundred man kumite).