Tony Jaa is a martial artist and martial arts movie actor from Thailand.
Tony Jaa (Profile) – Episode 117
Today’s episode is about one of the most loved martial arts actors working today, Tony Jaa.
Hi. Guess what? It’s time for another episode of whistlekick Martial Arts Radio, and this is episode 117, and it’s our long-awaited profile of the amazing Tony Jaa.
I’m whistlekick’s founder but I’m better known as your host, Jeremy Lesniak. whistlekick, if you don’t know, makes the absolute best sparring gear, apparel, and accessories for practitioners and fans of traditional martial arts. I’d like to welcome the new listeners and thank everyone that’s come back again.
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So, today we’re talking about Tony Jaa. When his name pops up, people think about the Ong Bak movies and his unique martial arts choreography. But how did he get started? What makes him tick? Well, I’ll tell you.
Tony Jaa was born in Thailand, 1976, and used several names before taking his English name, Tony. The most popular of them being the name he started using in Thailand in conjunction with his movie career, Jaa Phanom.
He was raised in a rural area by his parents, who herded Elephants. As a kid, he watched martial arts movies and fell in love with the genre, specifically Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li, though he’s also named Donnie Yen as an inspiration.
“What they [Chan, Lee, and Li] did was so beautiful, so heroic that I wanted to do it too. I practiced until I could do the move exactly as I had seen the masters do it.”
At 10 he started training in Muay Thai at the local temple. He later enrolled in a Physical Education college where he studied martial arts and other disciplines. He spent some time competing in Muay Thai, retiring with a record of 5-0. He holds black belt rank in taekwondo and Wushu.
We know that many of our martial arts movie heroes had skills, but how many of them can we look at something as concrete as a fight record? And if you’ve ever seen Muay Thai, you know just how brutal it can be.
Before his acting career, Tony was a notable stuntman, with his two most famous appearances coming in 1997 with Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, where he doubled for Robin Shou, who played Liu Kang and then doubling for Sammo Hung in an energy drink commercial where he somersaulted from an elephant’s tusks onto its back. Unfortunately, that video doesn’t seem to be available online.
We did find a bizarre commercial Tony Jaa appeared in where he seems to be endorsing fruit. It’s odd, but you can see it in the show notes, whistlekickMartialArtsRadio.com
Through his stunt work, Tony Jaa and director Panna Rittikrai developed an interest in Muay Boran, the predecessor to Muay Thai, and decided they’d make a movie about it. Though they spent 4 years training and working on the film, they were only able to put together a short showcasing Jaa’s skills. They showed it to a number of people, including movie producer and director Prachya Pinkaew.
It was this introduction that ultimately led to Ong BaK, and catapulted Tony into the limelight. He did all of the stunts for the movie without any mechanical assistance or CGI – just real martial arts and acrobatics.
During the scene where he’s on fire and fighting, he was actually on fire:
“I really had to concentrate because once my pants were on fire the flames spread upwards very fast and burnt my eyebrows, my eyelashes and my nose. Then we had to do a couple more takes to get it right.”
Can you imagine? Having your hair burned and still needing another take? Sounds painful. But that’s why Tony Jaa does what he does, and I host this show.
His films caught the eye of one his idols, Jackie Chan, who pushed hard to have Tony Jaa included in Rush Hour 3. Talk about praise, Jackie said of Tony:
“I gave the director videos of Tony Jaa because I think Tony Jaa is the most well-rounded of all action stars,”
The role was his, but he turned it down because he was shooting Ong Bak 2.
2014 saw his most star-studded role when he appeared in Dolph Lundgren’s film, Skin Trade, alongside Michael Jai White & Ron Perlman. There’s a great fight scene in the film between Tony and Michael, and we have it in the show notes.
His next role will be in the 2017-scheduled film XXX: The Return of Xander Cage. His character is named Talon, but that’s all we know at this point.
Tony’s social media is full of images of him living life – showing his travels and experiences around the world, as well as a lot of great photos and videos of him kicking and doing other moves.
It’s easy to see why Tony Jaa is such a fan favorite – he’s an excellent martial artist with a fresh style in his movies and a genuine personality that makes you feel like he could be your friend.
If you want to be a guest on the show or maybe you have an idea for a show topic, go ahead and fill out the form on the website. And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter so you can stay up on everything we do. You can learn more about our products at whistlekick.com, like our new blue sparring, that you can get at whistlekick.com or on Amazon.
That’s all for today, so, until next time, Train hard, smile, and have a great day.