John Wick director Chad Stahelski recently appeared on an episode of The Joe Rogan Experience and he explained how the film’s star Keanu Reeves found his experience training Jiu-Jitsu for the series. Reeves actually already had a plenty lengthy background in martial arts even before the film series began, as he’s been practicing martial arts for film use since he first starred in ‘The Matrix’ back in 1999. He’s well-known as being one of the most hard-working actors in the business and he’s had more dedication to understanding and performing martial arts in film than most celebrities ever do. He’s also known as a genuinely nice person and in fact, a recent charity auction saw the signed John Wick exclusive gi sold for a healthy amount.
Stahelski explained that they had work to do before they even started teaching Reeves the techniques he would end up using in the film. When it came time to start shooting the first John Wick film, their first task was to physically prepare Keanu Reeves for all the Jiu-Jitsu and Judo techniques he’d be performing:
“He was coming out of a couple of films so he hadn’t been, like he wasn’t in fight shape. You know how it is, you can’t just jump back in. So we gave him like 3 to 5 weeks with some of the trainers we found to get into shape. Cut weight, got himself back in, stretched, you know that kind of… got back to where he was on ‘The Matrix’ and then we stuck him with the fight teams and the stunt guys.”
It might surprise lifelong martial artists to find out that it didn’t actually take that long to get Keanu Reeves into shape for the first John Wick film and teach him all of the Jiu-Jitsu and other martial arts he needed to know:
“I think we had him within 3 months. That was probably the shortest one we did, that was about 3 months to get him into that shape and teach him all the Aikido stuff and Aiki-Jitsu…”
There have now been four John Wick films and the amount of Jiu-Jitsu training that Keanu Reeves has had for those films must make him pretty experienced by now. He’s actually spent quite a lot of time training alongside veteran coach Dave Camarillo during his time working on the films. Stahelski explained some of the obvious difficulties that Reeves had in learning the art:
“The Jiu-Jitsu is the new thing for him. Probably not the most physically demanding but you know how it is, when you’re not used to using your hands and feet. I mean I’m sure you remember the first time you transitioned to Jiu-Jitsu, it’s like ‘Oh, it looks easy’ but yeah…”
The full clip from the episode of The Joe Rogan Experience with John Wick director Chad Stahelski where he explains how Keanu Reeves found training Jiu-Jitsu for the film series was uploaded to the podcast’s official YouTube channel: