Kobe Bryant Karate

These superstars in other sports can attribute some of their success to martial arts training.

Many professional athletes have supplemented their training by practicing a variety of different martial arts styles. The full-body workout, coordination development, and stress outlet of martial arts training is appealing to them. This list breaks down the top five non-combat athletes to practice martial arts based off of their achievements in their sport. The rankings are not determined by each athlete's martial arts abilities.


Honorable Mention: Andre Tippett

Andre Tippett New England Patriots

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This Pro Football Hall of Famer cannot be excluded from this list. The long-time New England Patriots linebacker was a 5-time pro bowler with 100 career sacks. In addition to his decorated football career, he is a sixth degree black belt Uechi-ryu karate and is certified by the Okinawa Karate-Do Association. He competed in sport karate as a member of the prestigious Trans-World Oil team and even owns a martial arts school that he opened during his NFL career.

5. Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson

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The Lefty is widely regarded as the second-best golfer of the Tiger Woods era. Mickelson has trained in Kung Fu and Tae Kwon Do, which he claims has helped him significantly improve his balance, flexibility, and core strength. His five major golf championships, including a remarkable three green jackets from The Masters Tournament, lands him at number five on this countdown.

4. Herschel Walker

Herschel Walker Dallas Cowboys

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The 1982 Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL running back trucks his way into number four on the list. He may be the most accomplished martial artist of these athletes, holding a fifth degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a 2-0 professional record in mixed martial arts. Both of his professional MMA bouts were Strikeforce promotions and he won both fights by TKO. In addition to his impressive football career that landed him in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999, he was also an olympian in 1992 as a member of the United States bobsleigh team.

3. Shaquille O'Neal

Shaquille O'Neal Los Angeles Lakers

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Is there anything The Big Aristotle hasn't done? His four NBA championships, 15 All-Star Game appearances, and Most Valuable Player award in 2000 make him a slam dunk for this list. Shaq began training in mixed martial arts at Jonathan Burke's Gracie Gym the same year as his MVP season. He was trained in boxing, Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, and wrestling, ultimately resulting in a boxing match that he lost to Oscar De La Hoya.

2. Kelly Slater

Kelly Slater Surfing

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Kelly Slater is widely regarded as the greatest professional surfer of all time. He has been crowned the champion of the World Surf League a record 11 times, including a streak of five consecutive victories from 1994-1998. He is both the youngest and the oldest surfer to win the World Surfing League men's title, a testament to his longevity and consistency. Outside of surfing, Slater is a practitioner of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The blue belt has been a great advocate for BJJ, even stating that parents should "put their kids in Jiu Jitsu classes before any other sport".

T-1. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers

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The late, great Kobe Bryant was the obvious choice for number one on this list. The Black Mamba was a five-time NBA champion, 18-time All-Star, and was MVP of the league in 2008. Kobe's career was one of the greatest masterpieces in the history of basketball, and he transcended the game with a generation of kids shouting his name as wadded-up pieces of paper approach the trash can. Kobe attributed some of his famous Mamba Mentality to his study of Jeet Kune Do. He compared martial arts to basketball in that one must have "fundamental skills available so you can react in any situation". Although Bruce Lee seems to have nothing to do with basketball, Kobe drew great inspiration from the martial arts legend and applied Jeet Kune Do philosophies to his legendary game.

T-1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Los Angeles Lakers

www.nba.com

After much consternation from our readers, I realized that I foolishly forgot Kareem-Abdul Jabbar in the first edition of this list. Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA's all-time leading scorer, holds six NBA championships, six MVP awards, and was a 19-time All-Star. In addition to his legendary basketball career, he trained directly with Bruce Lee and starred with him in Game of Death. Any student of Bruce Lee who was also one of the greatest athletes of all time deserves a spot on this list. The only question that remains is: was Abdul-Jabbar's hook shot or hook kick more lethal?

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Bruce Lee Enter the Dragon
d2e111jq13me73.cloudfront.net / Enter the Dragon/ Warner Bros.
Bruce Lee really did have the Midas touch when it came to training. Most people think Bruce was advanced and complicated, but he was the master of simplicity. He was not worried about doing the jump-up flip spin-around back kick. Not sure if there is one. But by the time you land, Bruce would just throw a simple kick or punch to knock you down as you landed to the ground. However, that is the point. Simplicity is often overlooked because of the coolness and the latest and greatest workout when simplicity produces the most significant effect. Super complicated does not mean superior. This is actually reverse in fact. We see super complex exercises that don’t need to be. Truthfully, if an exercise or method is not straightforward in its approach, then it probably is not good.
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Woodley Paul 2
Photo Courtesy: CBS Sports

Tommy Fury, half-brother of heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, has withdrawn from his upcoming bout with undefeated YouTuber-turned-boxer Jake Paul due to injury, per ESPN. The match was supposed to be contested at 192 pounds for eight, three-minute rounds on December 18. Thanks to former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, the show must go on.

Woodley, who was defeated by Paul via controversial split decision in August, will seek redemption on short notice. The announcement of the rematch comes less than two weeks before the event takes place. According to Paul, Woodley will receive a $500,000 bonus if he is able to land a knockout. However, Paul doesn't expect this to happen, claiming that he is going to "punish" the 39-year-old mixed martial artist.

The Woodley-Paul grudge match is not the only exciting fight on the Showtime pay-per-view card, as ESPN's #3 ranked female boxer Amanda Serrano will take on Miriam Gutierrez in the co-main event. There will also be another celebrity matchup between 3x NBA All-Star point guard Deron Williams and 5x NFL Pro Bowl running back Frank Gore, who will duke it out in a heavyweight bout.

A social media sensation versus a former MMA world champion. Two world class lady warriors. A former professional basketball player versus a member of the NFL 2010's All-Decade Team. Who will have their hand raised that night? Stay tuned for more news and updates about the event from Black Belt Magazine, both here on our website and on social media.

Instagram post from Tyron Woodley:



Karate training
Shutterstock / Kzenon

I have a confession to make: I’m a romantic for cheesy martial art movies.

One of my favorite things to watch in kung fu cinema is a teacher tortu–er, training a novice student. Of course, it is easy to see how we fit in the script. Regardless of our level, it is important to have a mentor who can help guide us properly in our training.

A big part of our growth as people and martial artists is finding the correct ways to be challenged and to promote our depth of understanding. While that duty often is seen as only befalling on the person you study under, there are various things we can consciously do to mix up our training to glean better benefits.

Check out these methods and you’ll soon be able to add new levels of realism to your training and find any hidden holes in your techniques!

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