Does Keanu Reeves Know Martial Arts? (Yes, Here’s Which)

Photo by Governo do Estado de São Paulo

Are you wondering what martial arts Keanu Reeves knows?

In this article, we’ll look at the martial arts Keanu Reeves knows, his background in each, what Keanu Reeves’ and John Wick’s fighting styles are, and Keanu Reeves’ martial arts belts.

Keanu Reeves Martial Arts: The Arts He Knows

Keanu Reeves, famous for his roles in action-packed films like “The Matrix” and “John Wick,” is not just a talented actor but also a trained martial artist.

His martial arts training has been instrumental in his portrayal of action roles, where he can perform his stunts and live the role.

In short, Keanu Reeves knows 8 martial arts and practiced them in the following order:

  1. Karate
  2. Combat shooting
  3. Kung fu
  4. Krav maga
  5. Judo
  6. Brazilian jiu-jitsu
  7. Aikido
  8. Kali (Eskrima)

Here’s a closer look at the 8 martial arts Keanu Reeves has trained in and the timeline of his training.

1. Karate

Photo by Martin Rulsch

Keanu Reeves’s martial arts journey began in the 1980s when he started practicing karate in his early 20s. 

Karate is a martial art emphasizing direct and powerful kicks and punches, as well as explosive movement and distance fighting. 

During the 1980s Keanu Reeves was in 14 movies, but it wasn’t until 1991 that he was in his first action movie, Point Break. He followed this up with another action movie in 1994, Speed.

His prior karate experience helped Reeves land these action roles, and karate also helped him develop physical and mental health, and the focus and discipline required to learn more martial arts in the future.

2. Combat Shooting

A large part of Keanu Reeves’ skillset in his movies is his ability to use guns and mix them with hand-to-hand martial arts, especially in The Matrix and John Wick franchises.

His first taste of combat shooting and using weapons came before his 1991 movie, Point Break, where he worked with the LAPD SWAT.

Most recently, in preparation for John Wick 3, he spent over 1000 hours with Taran Butler, one of the best 3 gun-firing champions in the world.

This is why every time you see Keanu Reeves shooting in any movie, he looks very skilled and comfortable because he’s put the work in.

3. Kung Fu

In preparation for his 1999 role in The Matrix, where Neo downloads kung fu into his mind, Keanu Reeves trained in Kung Fu for the first time.

Keanu Reeves and most of the cast went through months of intense kung fu training under the guidance of famous martial arts choreographer, Yuen Woo-ping, to prepare for the fight scenes.

However, Keanu Reeves has said he only knows ‘movie kung fu’, as he’s never consistently trained in kung fu for years at a time or worked with elite kung fu practitioners.

He’s only learned kung fu in short periods before a movie, and it was always learned with choreography and stunts in mind, rather than advancing competitively.

However, even learning the fundamentals of kung fu has been especially useful to Keanu Reeves. 

Most of the striking Keanu Reeves displays in his movies is very kung fu based. Kung fu techniques focus on blocking, parrying, and deflecting an opponent’s strikes, and using short, direct, and speedy strikes against them.

Much later, Keanu Reeves continued working alongside Yuen Woo-ping and started working with stuntman Tiger Chen before the filming of Man of Tai Chi in 2013.

Here, he further refined his kung fu and started to learn tai chi, one of the most popular forms of kung fu recognized for its slow and graceful movements.

4. Krav Maga

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Keanu Reeves also trained in krav maga for The Matrix. Krav maga is an Israeli martial art designed for self-defense and taught to the Israel Defense Forces. 

It emphasizes striking and grappling and focuses on using whatever techniques are necessary for self-defense against an aggressor.

It teaches practitioners how to protect themselves against common forms of assault such as punches, kicks, and chokeholds, and students also learn how to disarm an aggressor successfully.

Some of the most effective self-defense techniques it teaches are groin strikes, eye pokes, and headbutts. 

Keanu Reeves uses many krav maga techniques such as these in his action movies, as he’s often running from aggressors and fighting in self-defense.

5. Judo

It wasn’t until many years later in 2013 that Reeves moved on to study judo under the guidance of world-renowned Bjj black belt Rigan Machado.

The Machado family are cousins to the famous Gracie family and are one of the most skilled Brazilian jiu-jitsu families of all time.

At the age of 47, Keanu Reeves started learning judo in preparation for the first John Wick movie, released in 2014.

Judo is a grappling martial art, focused on standing clinches and the ability to throw or trip an opponent to the ground with explosiveness, leverage, and slick technique. 

It also teaches ground grappling in the form of positioning and submission techniques.

The majority of throws and trips from the standing position you see in his movies are judo-based techniques, especially in the John Wick franchise.

This made judo one of the best martial arts for Keanu Reeves to learn as its techniques are so often used in action and martial arts movies. 

As his opponents are clothed, judo’s very applicable as judokas wear a gi (uniform) when training and grab it to perform many techniques.

Eric Brown, a fight choreographer for the John Wick movies, turned Keanu Reeves into a judoka in preparation for every John Wick movie.

For the first John Wick movie, he trained in judo for 4 months and was presented with an honorary black belt by three-time judo Olympic champion, Nomura Tadahiro.

However, as good as Keanu Reeves is in judo, it isn’t a real black belt, says nothing about his skill level, and is essentially just a publicity stunt to draw attention to the John Wick franchise.

6. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

In addition to judo, Reeves also trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu (Bjj) in 2013 under Rigan Machado. Bjj emphasizes ground grappling and submissions to finish or control an opponent.

Reeves has stated that practicing Bjj is an excellent way to keep in top physical condition and protect oneself in potentially dangerous circumstances. 

This is true as Bjj techniques can be successfully used by people much smaller than their aggressor, thus making it a great self-defense martial art.

Bjj also improves his composure and focus while filming action sequences, as a large part of Bjj is about remaining patient and understanding when to explode or use a technique at the right time.

Keanu Reeves is technically only a beginner in Bjj as he’s only a white belt, which is the very first belt awarded. 

This is because he’s only training for a few months before a movie due to his focus on his acting rather than martial arts progression.

He notably trained Bjj again in 2018 in preparation for John Wick 3 as the movie used a lot more Brazilian jiu-jitsu than the first two movies in the franchise.

7. Aikido

Another martial art Keanu Reeves learned while preparing for the John Wick movies was the Japanese martial art of aikido. 

Aikido emphasizes redirecting the energy of the person you are fighting against through the use of timing, leverage, and especially wrist manipulation to effortlessly throw enemies.

Keanu Reeves trained a lot in aikido before John Wick 3 and 4 because these movies had him using a lot of elusive movement, footwork, and wrist locking/manipulation.

He learned most of his aikido in 2018 from Johnathan Eusebio, one of the fight choreographers and stuntmen for John Wick 3. Despite his training, Keanu Reeves is only a white belt in aikido, which is the first belt awarded.

8. Kali (Eskrima)

Photo by Mr Colling

John Wick was seen practicing with a knife, nunchucks, and axes before the filming of John Wick 2 and 3, as knife fighting was present throughout these movies.

Knife fighting is a skill he learned from the Filipino martial art Kali, which teaches weapon-based fighting with sticks and knives, and how to use these learned techniques with improvised weapons.

What is Keanu Reeves’ Fighting Style?

Keanu Reeves’ fighting style is mixed martial arts (MMA) because he’s using so many different techniques from varying martial arts.

In The Matrix movies, for his striking, Keanu Reeves uses a lot of karate techniques such as front kicks, roundhouse kicks, side kicks, and spinning back kicks.

He combines this with kung fu which he downloaded into his brain, deflection and blocking opponent’s strikes and using short speedy punches and chopping strikes in close quarters.

Keanu Reeves’s fighting style also incorporates weapons, as he uses a jian and two sai in Matrix Reloaded, skills likely learned from Kali.

What Is John Wick’s Fighting Style?

The main movie Keanu Reeves had to train in martial arts for was the John Wick franchise.

John Wick’s fighting style throughout the four movies is mixed martial arts (MMA) because he uses and mixes many different martial arts to create his unique fighting style.

The base martial arts John Wick knows and mixes to create his fighting style are judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, aikido, karate, and kung fu.


In terms of striking, John uses karate and kung fu, much like he does in The Matrix.

For kicking, most of the techniques are karate style and thrown from a longer range, such as front kicks, roundhouse kicks, and side kicks.

Of the two, John Wick uses more kung fu style movement and striking because it better blends with his judo base which requires him to be close-quarters in order to initiate trips and throws.

The kung fu he uses allows him to parry strikes, catch strikes, block effectively, redirect the opponent’s energy, and use short, rapid, direct punches, chops, palm strikes, back fist strikes, and elbows.


For grappling, John Wick uses judo for trips and throws from the standing position, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu for submissions and changing positions on the ground.

Some of the judo techniques (trips and throws) he commonly uses are the ouchi gari, uchi mata, nidan-kosoto-gari, tai otoshi, seoi otoshi, harai goshi, yoko guruma, koshi nage, and osoto gari – but he uses a lot more.

For Bjj, Keanu Reeves uses spider guards, submission escapes, scrambles, cross-sleeve into a lasso, standing ude garami (entangled arm lock), flying arm bars, and bow and arrow chokes.

In the third and fourth movies, John Wick’s fighting style incorporates a lot more aikido (for grappling) as he more often fights multiple opponents at once. He’s also on the run so he doesn’t have time to hang around.

Aikido’s seemingly effortless way of using wrist manipulation, timing, leverage, and elusive movement allows John Wick to easily decapacitate opponents by flipping them and attacking their joints (so many arm breaks), while also easily evading an opponent’s attack one after the other.

Also part of his fighting style is disarming opponents, which is a skill also taught in aikido.


As he’s often carrying a gun, Keanu Reeves joked about John Wick’s fighting style being gun-fu, a mix of combat shooting and kung fu, the main striking style used in the movie franchise.

Using kung fu and being close-quarters while also using a gun was chosen as John Wick’s fighting style as it makes for more interesting and engaging fight choreography.

Kali (weapons fighting)

Mixed with his aikido, kung fu, and karate fighting style, John Wick also integrates a lot of weapons into his fighting style. His main skill is knife fighting, which are skills learned from Kali.

The fast reaction time and close-quarter composure needed for knife fighting also align with his kung fu skills.

John Wick often passes opponents’ attacks and redirects their energy (wing chun), uses capture and cut-outs, and mixes in both karate and kung fu for blocking and parrying before slicing or stabbing with a knife.


John Wick’s fighting style also includes ninjutsu, as he’s very competent in throwing knives and other weapons like axes (tomahawk).

John Wick also uses ninjutsu grappling techniques such as the oni kudaki (shoulder lock).


Keanu Reeves mixes a lot of judo, Bjj, kung fu, gun-fu, karate, and aikido to create his own unique style of mixed martial arts fighting.

Is Keanu Reeves a Black Belt? (Keanu Reeves Martial Arts Belts)

Despite his extensive training in various martial arts, Reeves does not hold a traditional black belt in any martial art. 

He was awarded an honorary black belt in Judo by three-time judo Olympic champion, Nomura Tadahiro, for how he’s spread martial arts through his training and movies.

Keanu Reeves Martial Arts Belts

So while Keanu Reeves isn’t a black belt in any martial art, he does hold the following martial arts belts.

  • Brazilian jiu-jitsu: white belt
  • Aikido: white belt

Ultimately, while Keanu Reeves has trained in many martial arts, he’s only training in them for his movies.

He’s in training for a few months and then doesn’t revisit that martial art for years, meaning there’s no way for him to move up the belt rankings in any martial art. 

Advancing a belt rank requires years spent consistently practicing for dozens of hours per month, rather than short bursts every few years or so.

The Bottom Line

So, ‘does Keanu Reeves know martial arts?’

Yes, Keanu Reeves knows 8 different martial arts as he’s trained in them for his action roles. The martial arts Keanu Reeves knows are karate, combat shooting, kung fu, krav maga, judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, aikido, and Kali (Eskrima).

Keanu Reeves’s martial arts journey is a testament to his dedication, discipline, and passion for his craft.

His training in various martial arts disciplines such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, karate, fung fu, aikido, and krav maga has not only enhanced his performances in action-packed roles but also contributed to his personal growth and well-being.

Reeves’ martial arts training underscores the importance of versatility in martial arts, as each martial art has its unique strengths and focuses which can be blended to create epic fight scenes.

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