Martial Artist, Actor
Jim Kelly was born on May
5, 1946 in Paris, Kentucky. He grew up there,
but later moved to San Diego, where he devoloped
an uncanny athletic ability in high school. He
was a gifted athlete that was involved in sports
such as track and field, football, and basketball.
He was also voted most inspirtational junior high
athlete in the entire city of San Diego, and was
pursuing a football career, but decided otherwise
after leaving the University of Louisville as a
Shortly after leaving University of Louisville, Kelly moved
to Lexington where he began his study of the
martial arts under acclaimed instructor of Shorin-Ryu
karate, Parker Sheldon. It was that decision that
would cement his star status. In 1971, Kelly proved
he was an excellent fighter, by capturing the 1971
International Middleweight Karate Championship.
Realizing that he had a potential career in the
martial arts, Kelly
opened a karate studio.
His recognition as a champion fighter gave him the opportunity to
appear in a movie called "Melinda"
in 1972. The part wasn't big, but it led to other
offers. Six months later, Kelly was flown out to
Hong Kong to showcase some of his fighting techniques
to Warner Brothers. Kelly had
no idea he'd be getting a part in one of the biggest
martial arts films in cinematic history. Kelly
was asked to play 'Williams' in a movie co-starring
Bruce Lee, and it was that role that brought him
'star status'. Enter the Dragon's huge popularity,
largely due to Bruce Lee, showed that fans were
eager to have a new kung fu hero.
Jim Kelly made his first appearance in the
lead role in the film Black Belt
Jones with Robert Clause, the director of Enter
the Dragon and then in 1976 he starred in The Black Samurai,
directed by genre veteran Al Adamson.
He went on to make several other films which include Three the
Hard Way, Hot
Potato and Death
Dimension. Kelly retired after a string of low
budget movies. His last appearance, in 1982, was
in a movie called One
Down, Two To Go.
athlete than actor, Kelly retired from the screen
to pursue a successful career in professional tennis.
Jim Kelly still gets offered roles in movies,
but simply says that he 'just doesn't dig the scripts'.
He wouldn't mind acting again, but he wants the
roles to be respectable. He's also very proud of
the movies he did, and doesnt want to spoil that
image. So where's Jim Kelly now? He's almost 58
years old, and can still be considered one of the
best 'ass kickers' in the history of cinema. He's
made various appearances and done interviews,
most recently at the Alamo Drafthouse. He is currently
grappling and is developing his own style of hybrid