The music industry is full of jacked, mean-mugging bros, but take away their entourage and security detail, and how many can really walk the walk? In the case of these 10 musicians, all they need is an excuse.
From electronica to Kabbalah to everything in between, Madonna has never been afraid of trying new things. And back in 2005—while married to once-promising filmmaker (and avid martial arts practitioner) Guy Ritchie—she trained in Shotokan Karate. She would eventually earn her black belt before turning her attention to vitamin B12 or curly fries or whatever the hell Madonna was into for five minutes at a time.
A huge fan of MMA, Bif Naked has become a dedicated student of Sun Hang Do, an ancient Korean martial art.
Kylie Minogue has been an unstoppable juggernaut since the late ’80s, even if North American exposure to the Aussie singer has been mostly limited to “The Locomotion” and “Can’t Get you Outta My Head.” Minogue also happens to be well-trained in Taekwondo. In fact, it is that same extensive training that got Minogue the part as Cammy in noted box office abomination Street Fighter: the Movie.
Nelson is, of course, known as a country music legend, a brilliant song writer and a legendary smoker of astronomical amounts of weed. So how did the “On the Road Again” songsmith celebrate his 81st birthday? Giant bong-cake? Whiskey guzzle-a-thon with Merle Haggard? Nope. Nelson was awarded his 5th degree black belt in Gong Kwon Yu Sul in his home state of Texas.
Shopping lists and suckerpunches aside, Glenn Danzig would rather you not laugh at him. Although his cornball approach to metal has put Danzig directly into the aforementioned tough-guy rock star stereotype, he’s not someone you’d like to find hell with. Since 1992, Danzig has studied Jeet Kune Do, the hybrid martial art and philosophy made famous by Bruce Lee. The former Misfits singer trained under legendary trainer Jerry Poteet (himself a former student of Lee’s).
Due to his often idiotic political rants, Dave Mustaine also finds himself on the opposite list: Rock stars whose asses you want to kick. But the poodle-haired Megadeth frontman is a black belt in both Taekwondo AND Ukidokan Karate. Messing with Dave Mustaine is a surefire way to Wake up Dead.
One of the many voices of the flower child generation, Joan Baez is ostensibly what lorazepam sounds like, so it might be surprising that she’s is also synonymous with a straight-up ass-kicking. That’s right, the singer of “The Night they Drove Ol’ Dixie Down” is also a black belt in Aikido, the ancient martial art that made Steven Seagal famous. And while there are no tales of Baez-borne smackdowns, Aikido only served to embolden her rebel spirit. In an interview with the Washington Post, she said “I don’t care an eyedrop about the criticism… Aikido is carrying over into my life. A few years ago I would have been waking up at night. Not now.”
David Lee Roth
While there are many who’ve tried, few ’80s rock stars fit into a spandex unitard quite like Diamond Dave. In fact, what made the guy so svelte is the same thing that allowed him to be a non-stop aerial-split, jump-kicking blur on stage. No, it wasn’t amphetamines (though probably also that). Roth has a variety of belts in Kung Fu, Jeet Kune Do, Karate and even knows how to swing a sword.
Maynard James Keenan
The Tool frontman is one of prog-metal’s true renaissance men. Keenan actually went to art school funded by the United States’ G.I. Bill, which would be like Miles Davis attending Julliard from funds he received as a soldier of fortune. On top of that, Keenan is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which he studied under Rickson Gracie. For those not in the know, the Gracies are the Allman Brothers of kicking the living shit out of people. Keenan actually undertook his training as a result of numerous stalkers and harassment he’d experienced from fans. Just how skilled a fighter is he? In the below video, a fan (clearly in over his head) jumps on stage at a Tool show, which really pisses off Keenan. Not missing a step, Maynard executes a gorgeous hip-toss and then proceeds to choke him the fuck out without stopping the song.
Yes, Poison were ridiculous. Yes, they had song titles like “Unskinny Bop” and looked like really pretty salamanders. It doesn’t matter. Like Keenan, drummer Rikki Rockett began training in Brazillian Jiu Jitsu in direct response to a 1999 incident where he was attacked at knifepoint. Shortly afterward, he began training under legendary coach Renato Magno and earned a second degree black belt. Rockett has pursued BJJ all the way up to competition, which nobody else on this list has done. So humbling has Rockett’s training been that he actually took to the comments section of the below video to constructively criticize his own performance while at the same time congratulate his opponent. Rockett stated: “I blew it after I did the roll out from the guard. I should have kept my base and went north/south. Joao is a good guy and it was a great learning experience. Joao deserved the points.”