Jet Li

Hard to believe, but martial arts superstar Jet Li is 53 years old today. With 46 film credits to his name, and considering the fact that he only started making films at 19 years old when he stopped competing in wushu tournaments, that would mean that he’s averaged one-and-one-quarter films per year since he began. In 1993 alone, he appeared in six films, which is exhausting even to contemplate.

He’s mastered quite a few varieties of wushu, some with intense-sounding names straight out of martial arts lore, such as “Eight Trigram Palm,” “Praying Mantis Fist,” “Eagle Claw Fist,” and of course the terrifying “Supreme Ultimate Fist.” He won fifteen gold medals in martial arts championships — as a teenager competing against adults — which makes him an authentic bad-ass of the highest caliber.

These days, Li does more acting than fighting in his films, and he’s very focused on philanthropic causes, which include disaster relief, promotion of mental health, and suicide awareness. For Habitat for Humanity, he built homes in Thailand with President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn in 2009. And in 2010, Li was made the first Good Will Ambassador for the International Red Cross, an organization he has long supported.

Despite his hard-hitting movie roles, Jet’s a practicing Buddhist who does not believe that violence is the way to resolve conflict. On his official site he notes: “Every religion boils down to love, to a respect for all living things, to choosing peace over violence as a means of resolving a conflict. The essence is universal; it is only the means to the end that varies.”

No better way to celebrate a birthday than to remember how all living things are connected. Our deepest respect goes out to a fantastic performer and a true human being!