Sports

The Best Martial Artists in History  

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
109.5k votes 16.9k voters 498.3k views 167 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
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26
Yang Lu-ch'an is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Dec. at 73 (1799-1872)
27
Miyamoto Musashi is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
marcel.hildering added Miyamoto Musashi
28
Hélio Gracie is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Dec. at 96 (1913-2009)
29
Masaaki Hatsumi is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
30
Bas Rutten is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
age 54
31
Lyoto Machida is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
age 41
32
Gichin Funakoshi is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Gichin Funakoshi
33
Cung Le is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
age 47
34
Randy Couture is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
age 56
35
Dan Inosanto is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Richard777 added age 83
36
Choi Hong Hi is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
37
Ronda Rousey is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
kylebairdsen added age 32
38
Chuck Liddell is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
age 50
39
Wong Fei Hung is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
CapoAssKickerMikey95 added Wong Fei Hung
40
Don the Dragon Wilson is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Don the Dragon Wilson
41
Frank Dux is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Richard777 added age 63
42
Ed Parker is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
Dec. at 59 (1931-1990)
43
Mirko Filipović is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
44
Joe Lewis is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
age 32
45
Zhang Songxi(Wu Dang)(张松溪) is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
xiaoli-song added Zhang Songxi(Wu Dang)(张松溪)
46
B.J. Penn is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
age 41
47
Sun Lutang(Xing Yi quan & ... is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
xiaoli-song added Sun Lutang(Xing Yi quan & Ba gua zhang & Sun Tai Chi)(孙禄堂)
48
Gordon Liu is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
CapoAssKickerMikey95 added Gordon Liu
49
Jose Aldo is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
50
Ken Shamrock is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Martial Artists in History
age 55