How many black belts does Donnie Yen really have

When it comes to working martial arts actors, Donnie Yen is one of the biggest names in America these days. The guy is stacked and moves with that type of grace that many martial artists only hope to one day master. On top of that, he's dedicated to his roles. He isn't another Jean Claude Van Damme, whose fame came mostly from his ability to use his body. Yen has actual acting talent. Though, up until 2008, his wasn't the most common name.

When the film Ip Man was released, Yen really hit the road to popularity. The world could see that Yen was destined to star in many kung fu films to come, though the Chinese-born action star at one point claimed Ip Man 4 would be his final film in the genre, as the South China Morning Post reported in November 2019. That turned out to be false — he had several more lined up, including Mulan, for example. But what's Donnie Yen's martial arts background actually look like? Does the movie star even have a black belt?

So many martial arts, so few black belts

There's something you have to understand about black belts: most martial arts don't have them, and in fact, most martial arts don't tend to have belt systems at all. Sure, plenty of the more popular ones like Karate, Taekwondo, and Jujitsu do, but they're in the minority. You can't judge Donnie Yen's kick-buttery from black belts alone.

Yen started training in the martial arts as a child when, according to Men's Journal, he spent most of his time at one of three places: the weight rack, the boxing gym, or his mother's martial arts school. That's right: His mother was a Tai Chi and Wushu master, and Yen started his training with her. "I would be out on the street wearing boots and my winter coat, kicking signs and lamp posts," Yen told Men's Journal. "I would do a jump kick, then drop down to a full split, on ice, just to test how well my body was able to control the motion."

As part of his preparation for a film role, Yen is known to bring in experts to help him train in whichever martial arts discipline he'll be using. When you see Yen portraying a martial artist in a film, you can bet that he knows the art. Black belt or not.