Sports

The Best Martial Artists in History 

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
Updated June 14, 2019 120.9k votes 18.8k voters 523.2k views 147 items

List Rules Only Martial Arts stars, MMA is fine. No boxers nor fictional characters.

The best martial artists in history are some of the most successful, most famous and toughest fighters to ever compete. These tough guys are UFC champions, movie stars and icons in the fighting world. Whether you're a fan of the Chinese greats like Bruce Lee, the MMA front-runners like Chuck Liddell or anywhere in between, it's hard to argue that all of these men are highly skilled in their various disciplines.

Martial arts is one of the widest classifications for combat sports out there. Typically, martial arts describes fighting styles originating in Asia but can describe everything from activities containing strike attacks like tae kwon do, karate, kung fu ad capoeira to grappling activities like judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and even sumo wrestling. It is perhaps the wide range of disciplines that makes mastering martial arts so difficult.

Action movie fans may enjoy seeing stars like Jackie Chan and Jet Li compete on the silver screen but some may not know that before these talented men were Hollywood favorites, they were leaders in the Chinese martial arts world. Bruce Lee is arguably one of the best martial artists ever and helped the sport gain popularity. In part, Lee opened the door for tough guys, such as Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris, to become some on-screen martial arts legends.

But there's much more to martial arts than what you see in movies. In modern times, the UFC, or Ultimate Fighting Championship, is the largest mixed martial arts (MMA) company in the world and is home to some of the best MMA fighters to ever compete. UFC Hall of Fame members such as Randy Couture, Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrocks have inspired younger fighters like Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre and Fedor Emelianenko to become some of the toughest professional fighters ever.

Is it fair to compare some of the greatest fighters like Bruce Lee to Anderson Silva without having the two men compete head to head? Maybe not but that's where you come in, folks. Tell us which fighters you think are the best in history by voting for your favorite, adding those not listed and re-ranking this list your way below!
list ordered by
1
Bruce Lee is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Dec. at 33 (1940-1973)
2
Yip Man is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Dec. at 79 (1893-1972)
3
Jet Li is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Age: 56
4
donnie yen is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
5
Jackie Chan is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Age: 65
6
tony jaa is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
7
Michael Jai White is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
8
Chuck Norris is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Age: 79
9
scott adkins is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
10
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Age: 77
11
Royce Gracie is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Age: 53
12
Morihei Ueshiba is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Dec. at 86 (1883-1969)
13
Georges St-Pierre is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
14
Wong Fei-hung is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
15
Jean-Claude Van Damme is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
16
Huo Yuanjia is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
bugs-bunny added Huo Yuanjia
17
Anderson Silva is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Age: 44
18
Masutatsu Oyama is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Masutatsu Oyama
19
Brandon Lee is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Barry Bird added
20
Jigoro Kano is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Dec. at 78 (1860-1938)
21
Masahiko Kimura is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Age: 35
22
Fedor Emelianenko is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
23
Steven Seagal is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Age: 67
24
Yang Lu-ch'an is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Dec. at 73 (1799-1872)
25
Bas Rutten is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Age: 54