Profile of Ray Park

Name: Raymond Park
Date of Birth: 23rd August 1974
Height: 5’ 8” (1.75m)
Weight: 80kg
Birth Sign: Virgo
Country: GlasgowUK

Training Background

Influenced by Bruce Lee and the TV show “Monkey”, Ray began training in martial arts at the age of seven.

Initially training in Hapkido, Ray’s family moved across to the other side of London, and he began training in the Shaolin-based art of Nam Pai Chuan kung fu.

After four years training, Ray began learning the techniques and routines of the Northern Shaolin Chin Woo (Jingwu) kung fu school. The Chin Woo Association was established in the early 20th Century in Shanghai by the famous Master, Huo Yuanjia. The story of Huo Yuanjia and Chin Woo has been featured in the films “Fearless”, “Fist of Fury”, “Fist of Legend” and “Legend of a Fighter”, to name but a few.

After seeing Chinese wushu champion Jet Li in “The Shaolin Temple”, Ray decided he wanted to learn the same skills, and he began training with the Great Britain Wushu Team.

In 1990, aged just fifteen years old, Ray travelled to Malaysia. Chin Woo is one of the most popular martial arts associations in Malaysia, with many renowned masters. Ray spent three months training in Malaysia, returning six months later, to compete in the 1991 Chin Woo International Wushu Championships held in Kuala Lumpur. It was his first International Championship, and he won two silver medals.

Back in the United Kingdom, Ray began training and working in a gymnastics centre. Gymnastics training was perfect for the many acrobatic skills required by contemporary wushu. It is also one of the most difficult, but useful disciplines required to be a stunt performer, which Ray now dreamed of being. Ray trained every day in pursuit of his dream of being a wushu champion and a qualified movie stuntman.

Park went on to compete and win tournaments around the world, including the First World Wushu Championship in Beijing, the European Wushu Championships in London (where he won four gold medals and was crowned All-Round European Champion), the International Chin Woo Wushu Championships in Tianjin, China (winning two gold medals and a silver), as well as tournaments in Germany, Russia and Istanbul. In 1995, Ray became the highest-ever placed non-Asian athlete in the Taolu (wushu forms) at the Official IWuF World Wushu Championships in Baltimore, USA.

A rare video of Ray Park competing in the 1993 World Championships

Biography

Raymond Park was born in Glasgow, Scotland. At the age of seven he moved with his parents, younger brother and sister to the capital, London. Ray always wanted to be in the movies, to be like his heroes, but he was most inspired by martial arts. His father’s love of Bruce Lee films sparked Ray’s interest in martial arts, and he encouraged the youngster to train. Specialising in the traditional Chinese Northern Shaolin Chin Woo kung fu, Park moved on to master various other styles, most notably modern wushu. In 1991, at the age of sixteen, Ray became a member of the Great Britain Wushu team, competing in his first international tournament in Beijing, China, at the 1st World Wushu Championships. Ray was the first Wushu athlete from Great Britain and Europe to place in the top seven in the world. He went on to compete for Great Britain for another six years, winning several national, European and international championships.

In 1992, Ray began training in and coaching men’s gymnastics. In 1996, Ray’s Boys Gymnastics Squad won 1st Place at The London Youth Games.

Pursuing his dream of working in action movies, Ray’s work as a stunt double on the movie “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation”, brought him to the attention of the stunt team working on the first Star Wars prequel. His impressive skills won him the role of the film’s deadly bad guy, “Darth Maul”. The character proved to be one of the most popular in the franchise, and launched Park’s movie career.

Film Career

Highlights of Ray Park’s many acrobatic and weapons skills

In the autumn of 1996 Ray returned to the UK after three months’ training in Malaysia. As well as training in gymnastics and martial arts, Ray was training to become a qualified stunt performer. A stuntman working on the “Mortal Kombat” sequel had seen Ray practising his wushu and gymnastics, and asked if he would be interested in auditioning. The producers were looking for many different styles of martial arts for the film.

Initially playing one of the Reptiles, Baraka, Ray’s impressive martial arts skills and ability to perform all his own stunts, resulted in him being kept on the film and doubling for Rayden, played by James Remar. Ray wanted to promote Chinese martial arts, specifically wushu, and was allowed the opportunity to incorporate many wushu techniques into Rayden’s fight scenes.

In 1998 George Lucas began pre-production on “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace”. He was looking for someone exceptionally skilled with weapons to help illustrate a time when his Jedi and Sith characters were at the peak of their powers. Park auditioned for Lucas and the film’s producer, Rick McCallum, demonstrating his acrobatic wushu skills with the cudgel and sword. They were so impressed by Ray’s performance and “martial spirit”, that instead of casting him as a fight double, they gave him the role of the film’s bad guy, “Darth Maul”.

Lucas gave Park the creative freedom to develop his character’s choreography with Stunt Coordinator, Nick Gillard.

During his training in Malaysia, Ray had learned many one, two and three-person weapons routines, which was perfect for showcasing his wushu skills in the light sabre battles. The end fight scene proved to be the highlight of the film and Darth Maul became arguably it’s most popular character.

Park impressed Gillard with his versatility and variety of skills. When Gillard moved on to his next project, Tim Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow”, he took Ray with him, this time doubling for Christopher Walken’s Headless Horseman. Ray utilised his spinning and twirling sword skills, giving the Horseman’s deadly pairing of axe and sword an exciting and exotic flavour.

Ray’s experience on Star Wars made him decide to abandon his pursuit of becoming a stuntman, and instead pursue a career as an action star. He soon won the role of Toad, henchman to Sir Ian McKellen’s Magneto, in the first “X-Men” film. This in turn won him the role of Ross in the Antonio Banderas / Lucy Liu action film, “Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever”. It was the first role that Ray’s face hadn’t been hidden behind heavy character make up (or not there at all, as in “Sleepy Hollow”!).

Wanting to improve his acting skills, Park relocated to Los Angeles, and took on a variety of smaller roles. In 2009, he landed the role of one of his childhood heroes, Snake Eyes, in “G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra”, a role he returned to in the 2013 sequel. It was the perfect role for Ray’s martial arts, gymnastic and weapons skills.

Park continues to forge a career playing physical roles in some of the most iconic film, television and game franchises, and he has proven to be a fan favourite at film conventions globally.

The epic final fight from “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace”

Quotes

  • “Liam [Neeson], Ewan [McGregor] and me kept making the noises of the light sabres during our fight scenes. George [Lucas] had to keep telling us to stop!”
  • “Ray trains everyday, he’s dedicated to his art. He’s like a real life Jedi” – George Lucas
  • [On having to shave his head for the role of Darth Maul] “At first, I lost my confidence a little. I’m used to having my hair, but now you have this bald thing on top. Then I got into it. It was easy and free; I didn’t have to wash my hair. I just took a hot towel and buffed it to make it nice and shiny.”

Did you know?

  • In order to fund his training in the Far East, Ray coached gymnastics, did a paper round as well as babysitting!
  • Ray is highly proficient in many wushu forms and weapons including Changquan (Long Fist), Tan Tui (Spring Leg), Ditangquan (Ground Boxing), Fanziquan (Tumbling Boxing), Drunken Boxing, Monkey Boxing, Praying Mantis, single and double broadsword, straight sword, cudgel, spear, three sectional staff, guandao, whip chain and rope dart, to name but a few.
  • He is left-handed.
  • During his stunt training he learned how to breathe fire!
  • Performed all his own high falls, wirework and air ram launches on “Mortal Kombat”, “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” and “X-Men”.

Filmography

YearTitleRole
2014Future FightersHenry "Hank" Liddell
2014JinnGabriel
2013AvariceNathan
2013G.I. Joe: RetaliationSnake Eyes
2011Supah NinjasHarry
2011No Rest for the Wicked: A Basil & Moebius AdventureBasil Fox
2011NikitaBrandon
2010The King of FightersRugal
2010HeroesEdgar
2009HellbindersMax
2009G.I. Joe: The Rise of the CobraSnake Eyes
2009FanboysSecurity Guard
2008The Legend of Bruce LeeChuck Norris
2007What We Do is SecretBrendan Mullen
2006SlayerAcrobatic Twins
2006Potheads: The MovieMr D
2002Ballistic: Ecks vs SeverA.J. Ross
2000X-MenToad/Mortimer Toynbee
1999Sleepy HollowHeadless Horseman Double
1999Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom MenaceDarth Maul
1997Mortal Kombat: AnnihilationBaraka/Raiden Double

Image Gallery

Influenced by the movies of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, Glen began training in martial arts and gymnastics in 1995. He made his first of many visits to Malaysia and Singapore in 1998 to learn Chin Woo kung fu under the supervision of Master Teng Wie Yoo. Glen is the author of "The Art of Coaching" and "Fearless The Story of Chin Woo Kung Fu", and runs a kung fu & kickboxing school in Hertfordshire, England.

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