James Bennett

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The Next Martial Arts Action Star by Sara Fogan

Age: 29

Home Base: Los Angeles Where You've Seen Him: Doing stunts in Jackie Chan's The Medallion and helping out at the 1st Annual Black Belt Martial Arts Festival Martial Arts Experience: Second-degree black belt in kenpo, European karate titleholder, 15 years in boxing.

James Bennett is a martial artist on a mission: He knows he's going to be the next martial arts action star—just ask him, and he'll be happy to tell you—so he's out to prepare himself for show business. The funny thing is, after listening to his spiel, it's easy to believe he has what it takes to make it in Hollywood.

"I started karate because I'd seen a lot of Bruce Lee movies and wanted to fight like that," Bennett says.

He threw his first kicks and punches when he was 5. His parents, concerned because he was getting into fights, signed him up. "If I was going to fight, they wanted me to fight where I was allowed to fight," he says.

When he was training in his native Ireland, discipline was the order of the day. For example, during one class, his sensei punished him for looking over his shoulder while standing at attention, he recalls. The 6-year-old was ordered to stand in a corner for an hour, holding his arms out horizontally. "I was sore, but if I dropped my arms, I wouldn't be allowed to go back," he says.

That incident and all the ones that followed served only to temper the steel that is James Bennett today. They forged him into one of the toughest martial artists you're likely to meet, and he's dedicated himself to passing along as much of that discipline to his American students as

James Bennett Martial Arts

society will permit.

"I don't teach the way people want to be taught; I teach the way I was taught," he says. "To get better, you've got to push yourself at all times. If you don't, you're going nowhere fast. And that's true in all aspects of life, not just the martial arts."

That brand of discipline, coupled with his martial arts skills and work ethic, will no doubt stand him in good stead in Hollywood. In fact, they already have. While he was filming stunts on the set of The Medallion, Bennett caught the attention of fight coordinator Sammo Hung. During a tête-à-tête, Hung offered the Irishman some showbiz advice: "Don't be ordinary; be extra-ordinary."

"And he was right," Bennett says. "You have to be extraordinary. There's no substitute for hard work." >•<

For more information about James Bennett, visit http://www.blackbeltmag. com and click on Community, then Black Belt authors.

You have to be extraordinary. There's no substitute for hard work.

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