How Daniel Wu balances body and mind with martial arts

Global Business

Chinese-American actor and martial artist Daniel Wu has performed in more than 60 films in Asia. His new U.S. show “Into the Badlands” was recently renewed, and he has a huge role in the film “Warcraft” that opens in theaters today.


In this edition of Inside & Out, Mark Niu catches up with Wu as he prepares for the Hollywood grind by balancing body and mind. Studies have shown that martial arts can help improve concentration as well as reduce high blood pressure and stress.

In Oakland, California, Wu stays in shape physically and mentally before filming for season two of “Into the Badlands” begins.

He’s trained in Shaolin Kung Fu, Wushu, Muay Thai, and western boxing. Five days a week, he works out for two-and-a-half hours.

But his body has suffered in his 41 years. He’s had numerous injuries, including an ACL tear. That’s why he’s now focusing on Martial Arts Yoga — which keeps him flexible, efficient, and fully aware of his body and mind.

“What I’m really trying to do in my practice now in the downtime when we’re not shooting the season is getting my body limber and ready,” Wu said. “That’s why I do a lot of the yoga practice – so that I’m fully aware of my body and have body control.”

Daniel Wu on the importance of spirituality in martial arts:

His trainer Matt Lucas, who owns Open Matt said that Wu is one of the best students.

“I’m trying to get across changing the mind from a goal-oriented mind to a longevity oriented mind,” Lucas said.

“I feel all great martial artists know how to punch and kick, but the idea is get deeper to where the kicks don’t erode your body, where the techniques actually expand your body and don’t erode it away.”

Wu said that when he first practiced martial arts as a child it had a greater spiritual element.

“My first teacher Y.T. Chaing always made sure that we practiced meditation that we learned about how to eat during different times of the year, different seasons, what foods are good for you and what are not, and also teaching us how to do Chinese brush painting,” Wu said. “…to be a good person in this society and that was the spiritual side of it to me.”

Daniel Wu on how he overcame injuries in his martial arts practice:

After he spent more time studying martial arts, he viewed it more as a sport which divorced it from history and tradition, he said.

“Wushu, especially modern wushu especially is almost like a gymnastics floor routine. The spiritual side is not really there, we don’t practice medication,” Wu said.

“Now that I’m older now I’m going back to that, because I feel that there’s a huge value in all of that.”

Wu said that he’s had to overcome injuries such as a torn ACL.

“I’ve seen a lot of my mentors, Jackie Chan and Jet deal with chronic pain and injuries,” Wu said. “So I pulled myself away from the martial arts completely and I didn’t really even practice martial arts for a while until probably two or three years later and I was slowly getting back into it. I realized that martial arts doesn’t have to be about these crazy fancy kicks and all that there’s a whole system there and it’s more about health and well being.”

On the set of Into the Badlands, Wu is the only actor in the main cast with a martial arts background, so they regularly look to him for advice.

He offered some basic martial arts advice to CCTV America: “Don’t straight, do a cross hook. What I wanna do is sell that reaction. No matter how good that punch is the reactor doesn’t react, then it’s worthless.”

Daniel Wu on his career as an actor and martial artist:

Starring as an evil orc in the movie Warcraft, Daniel Wu’s has literally had a transformative year. As executive producer, and star, of Into the Badlands, the actor smashed through bad guys and Hollywood barriers.

Daniel Wu on importance of diversifying martial arts practice:

Wu plays Sunny, the show’s conflicted hero – a rarity for Asian Americans, made rarer by the fact that he’s in a romantic relationship. Wu says Into the Badlands has been the hardest work of his life—having to double duty with drama scenes and fight scenes more complex than anything on U.S. television.

Daniel Wu on how he played an orc:

“The orc I play is the most evil, he’s a kind of leader of all the orcs, in the script it said he’s the not only the ugliest, but the oldest orc. This character, he’s constantly in a horse stance, he’s crouched over the whole time,” Wu said.

“Good thing I’ve done hours and hours of horse stance training when I was a young kid. Because that’s what I was doing the whole time, walking like that walking in a crouch and walking like this orc.”