Known for his preference for realistic choreography and unconventional fight scenes, Donnie Yen is one of the best martial artists and actors ever to do it. The father of two recently appeared in John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023) as Caine, but most of his fame came from his role in the Ip Man films. Here are some kickass Donnie Yen facts to help you understand why Michelle Yeoh considers him the fastest martial artist.
1. His Mother and Sister Are Also Martial Artists
Donnie Yen was born in Guangzhou, China, on July 27, 1963. Interestingly, his mother, Bow-sim Mark, is also a martial artist and a grandmaster at that! In fact, her influence saw Donnie Yen develop an interest and follow in her footsteps. Donnie Yen’s sister, Chris Yen, is also into martial arts; she appeared in the film Adventures of Johnny Tao: Rock Around the Dragon in 2007.
2. He Once Fought and Hospitalized 8 Men in Real Life
In 1990, in a nightclub, Donnie Yen was having a good time with his then-girlfriend, actress Joey Meng. A group of men took an interest in the actress and started harassing her. Donnie Yen politely told them to back off, but they insisted. Yen and his girlfriend opted to leave the pub, but the men followed them. A fight ensued, resulting in all the eight men in hospital.
3. Donnie Yen Fractured Mike Tyson’s Finger While Filming Ip Man 3
During the filming of Ip Man 3, the producers and directors feared Mike Tyson would forget the fighting choreography and injure Donnie Yen. Ironically, Donnie Yen fractured Tyson’s finger while blocking punches from him.
4. Donnie Yen Can Sing and Play Musical Instruments
Besides acting and martial arts, Donnie Yen can also sing and play several musical instruments, including the piano. His father, Klyster Yen, is a violinist, while his mother is a soprano, so it’s easy to see how Donnie Yen got and learned his skills.
5. He Made His Acting Debut in 1984
When Donnie Yen was 18, he returned to Hong Kong to visit his family. He coincidentally met Yuen Woo-ping, a martial arts choreographer and film director, with whom he auditioned as an action choreographer. In 1984, the filmmaker gave Donnie Yen his acting debut in “Drunken Tai Chi.”
6. Donnie Yen Is a Mixed Martial Artist
According to Donnie Yen himself, he is a mixed martial artist. True to his word, he has previously impressively displayed an array of martial arts techniques. He is well-versed in Wing Chun, Karate, tai chi, Hapkido, Taekwondo, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and more.
7. He Trained at the Same Facility with Jet Li
Jet Li, formally Li Lianjie, is a Chinese-born Singaporean martial artist. He is a global icon and is considered one of the best to ever do it. Coincidentally, he trained in the same facility (Beijing Sports Institute) with Donnie Yen – they first crossed paths here. They featured together in several films, including Once Upon a Time in China II (1992) and Hero (2002). The two are long-time friends.
8. Donnie Yen Can Perfectly Play Blind Character Roles
Another aspect that has stood out in Donnie Yen’s acting prowess is his ability to play roles where the characters are blind. In John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023), he perfectly plays Caine, a blind man who loses his eyesight in a tragic story. He was so outstanding that people asked if he was blind in real life. Donnie Yen also played Chirrut Imwe, a blind man with pale blue eyes, in the film Rogue One (2016).
9. He Speaks English with a Boston Accent
When Donnie Yen was two, he migrated to the United States and settled in Boston, Massachusetts, USA with his family. He went to school there and learned English. This explains why he speaks the language with a Boston accent.
10. Donnie Yen Can Cut and Gain Physical Masculinity Accordingly
In 2007, the incredibly strong and powerful Donnie Yen had to cut 14 kgs (30 pounds) to achieve the ideal weight of 54 kilograms needed to play Ip Man’s Wing Chun. The character emphasized more on techniques over strength, so he had to fit in.
Three years later and fresh from filming Ip Man 2, Donnie Yen was picked for Chen Zhen’s role in Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen, which was previously played by Bruce Lee. For that, he had to regain his masculine frame, which he did in no time. He cut weight again in 2015 for Ip Man 3 and then regained it for his Xiang role in XXX: Return of Xander Cage opposite Vin Diesel.
11. He Turned Down Various Acting Roles in His Career
Whether an upcoming or established actor, Donnie Yen has turned down some major acting roles that many other professionals wouldn’t. The most notable ones include Ziyi Zhang’s character in Rush Hour 2 (2001), Chen Lo in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider- The Craddle of Life (2003), and Poison Dagger in The Man with the Iron Fists (2012).
12. Donnie Yen Is a Collector of Sunglasses
From a young age, Donnie Yen has been a lover of sunglasses and an active collector. In an interview, he said he always looked up to Bruce Lee and imitated him by wearing sunshades to school. In 2018, Donnie Yen helped design a series of limited-edition sunglasses called DominiEYE. He was famous for his eyewear in various films, including Kung Fu Jungle (2014), Big Brother (2018), and John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023).
13. He Bought a Horse Called “Bad Boy”
Donnie Yen is also famous for his love for horses. Besides ridding and falling off many horses while filming, he bought a horse named Bad Boy from Australia. The horse had won three major races, generating worldwide interest from enthusiasts. Donnie Yen has also taken ambassadorial roles for horse racing events.