What Martial Arts Does Jet Li Know? (Jet Li Fighting Style)

Photo by Robert Scoble

Are you wondering what martial arts Jet Li knows?

In this article, we’ll examine the martial arts Jet Li knows, Jet Li’s fighting style, and whether Jet Li can fight in real life.

What Martial Arts Does Jet Li Know?

The martial art Jet Li knows is wushu, and within wushu, Jet Li knows long fist, tumbling fist, eagle claw, tai chi, baguazhang, xing yi quan, and some southern Chinese martial arts – all for the purpose of demonstration (taulo).


Wushu is an umbrella term for many forms of Chinese martial arts (kung fu) which are practiced for the purpose of full-contact combat sport (sanda) or as a demonstration of techniques and forms (taolu).

Wushu-taolu practitioners are known as stylists rather than fighters and go on to learn several traditional Chinese martial arts such as those mentioned above. Also part of wushu-taolu, Jet Li trained in the use of the Jian and Daoshu, and some other traditional kung fu weapons, both short and long.

Jet Li practiced only taolu, which he started at the age of 8. He won his first championship and a gold medal at the age of 11, which secured his position with the Beijing Wushu Team to travel globally and compete.

His ability was outstanding and he became the All-Around National Wushu Champion for five consecutive years before retiring at 18 years old due to a knee injury. For Li, this was a blessing in disguise as he soon after entered the film industry.

Let’s take a look at the four main wushu martial arts Jet Li learned and used for wushu-taolu purposes.

1. Long Fist (Changquan)

Long fist is the most difficult wushu event, which Jet Li started learning at 8 years old. Long fist emphasizes performing techniques based on flexibility, speed, and power, and it represents a full extension of kicking and punching techniques, as well as large circular movements.

2. Tumbling Fist (Fānziquán)

Tumbling fist emphasizes attack and defense with the hands in very fast and short wushu routines. 

The punches are delivered in an unpredictable manner with the intention of leaving an opponent unable to read them and react. Power is generated from the hips and sideways attacks are common. The quirkiness of tumbling fist is what makes it great for demonstration.

3. Eagle Claw (Ying Zhao Pai)

Eagle claw is a derivative of Fānziquán and is mostly known for its grappling, consisting of joint locks and takedowns. In terms of striking, it focuses on pressure points and long-range strikes and uses a lot of aerial jumps and sweeps to attack.

4. Tai Chi

Another form of kung fu, tai chi was introduced into the wushu system by the Chinese Communist Party because it’s considered an internal martial art focused on developing one’s self. It combines physical training with meditation and self-reflection for a multitude of health benefits.

Studies have shown that tai chi can act as relief for those suffering from depression, high blood pressure, arthritis, and heart disease.

Also part of tai chi is weapons training, two of which are the dao and jian which Jet Li performed with.

Jet Li has practiced tai chi for 37 years since 1987 when he was 24 years old. Tai chi can therefore be considered his main martial art outside of his formal wushu career as a competitor.

5. Baguazhang

Baguazhang, translated to eight trigram palm, is a martial art featuring kicks, punches, grappling, weapons training, and throws. Baguazhang is characterized by constant movement, circular footwork, and the ability to fight while moving.

Baguazhang includes a full array of kicks, strikes, throws, grappling, and the use of many weapons. Much like tai chi, Baguazhang is fundamentally focused on the development of the chi/qi and can therefore be considered meditative.

With its focus on continuous flowing motion, Baguazhang was perfect for helping Jet Li perfect his movement when it came to performing – especially with his weapons training.

6. Xing Yi Quan

Xing yi quan was designed to defeat an opponent in the shortest time possible as it was intended for use in mass wars. It’s characterized by direct, straight, and explosive attacks. 

Of all the wushu martial arts Jet Li learned, xing yi quan would be the art most applicable to real-life fighting because of its efficiency. However, it would have also helped in his explosiveness and movement efficiency during his wushu competitions.

What Is Jet Li’s Fighting Style?

Although Jet Li never fought competitively, he definitely had a unique fighting style in his movies.

Jet Li’s fighting style revolved around dynamic and expressive movements, unmatched ferocity, great athleticism, and clean, powerful, and direct attacks. 

His fighting style therefore mostly resembles long fist (Changquan) and xing yi quan, which is unsurprising given long fist was the first wushu martial art he started learning at 8 years old and how xing yi quan was developed for ending fights as quickly as possible which is very useful in movies.

His fighting style also features a lot of weapon-fighting in his movies, resembling the elegance and performance of the weapons-based wushu competitions he’d competed in.

Overall, Jet Li’s fighting style throughout his movies varies a lot because he’s been in so many different martial art films with many different styles. 

However, for the most part, his fighting style resembles his elegant and expressive wushu-taolu performances, mixed with long fist and xing yi quan for his offense.

Can Jet Li Fight in Real Life?

No, Jet Li can’t fight in real life. He spent the early years of his martial arts lifestyle from 8 to 19 training in various styles of northern Chinese kung fu for the purpose of wushu-taolu, a demonstration-based sport performing the various forms and techniques he’d learned.

And while it seems Jet Li has put this martial arts background to use throughout his movies, they’re very similar to wushu-taolu because he’s not actually fighting. He’s simply performing kung fu techniques with different choreography in each scene and movie.

Since Jet Li stopped competing in wushu-taolu at the age of 18, he hasn’t learned any other martial arts and has only continued his tai chi training for the mental clarity and peace it gives.

Jet Li has said he’s never had to use his martial arts background in real life, and he believes martial artists shouldn’t train to become better fighters but rather to better understand themself and attain inner peace.

Also, Jet Li has had a lot of health issues since 2010 such as hyperthyroidism, and the medication is causing him to become overweight and slower. So, even if Jet Li could fight from an early age until he was 47 years old in 2010, he definitely can’t now at the age of 60.

To Conclude

So, ‘what martial arts does Jet Li know?’

Jet Li’s main martial art is wushu, and within wushu he knows long fist, tumbling fist, eagle claw, and tai chi. Collectively, learning these martial arts made Jet Li one of the great wushu-taolu competitors both armed and unarmed, winning 5 consecutive championships from 12 to 17.

You may also be interested in reading about the best martial arts actors and the martial arts Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee knew, as well as their fighting styles.

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