Li Lian Jie (born April 26, 1963), better known by his stage name Jet Li, is a Chinese martial artist, actor, film producer, wushu champion, and international film star who was born in Beijing, and has taken up Singaporean citizenship in 2009.
After three years of intensive training with Wu Bin, Li won his first national championship for the Beijing Wushu Team. After retiring from wushu at age 17, he went on to win great acclaim in China as an actor making his debut with the film Shaolin Temple (1982). He went on to star in many critically acclaimed martial arts epic films, most notably the Once Upon A Time In China series, in which he portrayed folk hero Wong Fei-hung.
Li’s first role in a Hollywood film was as a villain in Lethal Weapon 4 (1998), but his first Hollywood film leading role was in Romeo Must Die (2000). He has gone on to star in many Hollywood action films, most recently co-starring in The Expendables (2010) with Sylvester Stallone, in The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) with Jackie Chan, and as the title character villain in The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor (2008) opposite Brendan Fraser. He also appeared in the Hong Kong film Ocean Heaven (2010), directed and written by Xue Xiaolu.
Li was born Li Lian Jie in Beijing, People’s Republic of China. His father died when he was two years old, leaving the family to struggle on its own, with Li being the youngest of two boys and two girls.
Li was eight when his talent for wushu was noticed at a summer course at school, and he began his practice there. Li participated in the sport of wushu in the non-sparring event. He began his wushu on the Beijing Wushu Team, an athletic group organized to perform martial arts forms during the All China Games. His coach was renowned wushu-coach Wu Bin, who made extra efforts to help the talented boy develop. He even bought food for Li’s family because they could not afford to buy meat, which was essential for the good physical condition of an athlete. As a member of the team, he received wushu training and went on to win fifteen gold medals and one silver medal in Chinese wushu championships, where, despite his young age, he competed against adults. According to Li, once, as a child, when the Chinese National Wushu Team went to perform for President Richard Nixon in the United States, he was asked by Nixon to be his personal bodyguard. Li replied, “I don’t want to protect any individual. When I grow up, I want to defend my one billion Chinese countrymen!” which earned him much respect in his homeland.
Li is a master of several styles of wushu, especially Changquan (Northern Longfist Style) and Fanziquan (Tumbling fist). He has also studied other arts including Baguazhang (Eight trigram palm), Taijiquan (Tai chi), Xingyiquan (Shape intent fist), Zuiquan (Drunken fist), Yingzhaoquan (Eagle claw fist) and Tanglangquan (Praying mantis fist). He did not learn Nanquan (Southern fist), because his training focused only in the Northern Shaolin Styles. He has also studied some of wushu’s main weapons, such Sanjiegun (Three section staff), Gun (staff), Dao (Broadsword), Jian (Straight sword) and many more.