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Top 10 Sensei Masters in Movies and TV

VO: Dan Paradis
Script written by Max Lett. Watch your stance grasshopper. Join as we count down the Top 10 Sensei Masters in Movies and TV. For this list, the movie masters we’ve chosen must train students in martial arts or an equivalent physical/spiritual fighting style. These sensei have proven to be intelligent and powerful mentors for their students, and have played an important role in their respective works. Special thanks to our users Mrtermanati, umidontno040394, Alexander David Bourns, monsterben, Phillip Mathew, madre1997, raintalonx and Oatus for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Max Lett.

Top 10 Sensei Masters in Movies and TV

Be careful, young grasshopper. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down the Top 10 Sensei Masters in Movies and TV.

For this list, the movie masters we’ve chosen must train students in martial arts or an equivalent physical/spiritual fighting style.

#10: Iroh
“Avatar: The Last Airbender” (2005-08)

Who better to teach an angsty young man the art of manipulating fire than his tea-drinking, zen proverb-spouting uncle? Though Iroh may not look like much in his old age, he once went by the name The Dragon of the West, a fierce and nearly unbeatable general. Time and loss softened Iroh and made him a calmer person and he uses his experience to teach Prince Zuko self-control.

#9: Pai Mei
“Kill Bill: Vol. 2” (2004)

When the world is made up mostly of highly trained super assassins, it’s important to get a proper education in self-defense. The eponymous Bill sends his loyal swordswoman to Pai Mei in order to teach her the art of kung fu. Pai Mei, however, is no pushover and even goes so far as to rip the eyes out of those who disobey him. But on the plus side, if you do train with him, you may get to learn the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, the martial arts’ most fatal blow, so y’know, there’s that.

#8: Huo Yuanjia
“Fearless” (2006)

In an attempt to restore his family’s honor and follow in his father’s footsteps, Huo started his ass-kicking kung fu career as a hot-headed fighter ready for action, taking on all comers in super cool one-on-one martial arts matches. Loosely based on the real-life Chinese martial artist, Jet Li’s Huo Yuanjia soon learns an important lesson about self-control when he oversteps his bounds and accidentally kills a guy. More deaths follow, which change him; he goes on to become a martial arts master and teaches his art to all who wish to learn, all while learning more about himself and life in the process.

#7: Henri Ducard / Ra’s al Ghul
“Batman Begins” (2005)

Not all is what it seems when your sensei is a ninja master. When Bruce Wayne begins his training with this mysterious individual he first knows as Henri Ducard, things go pretty smoothly - and he gets to wear lots of really cool ninja gear. But things go sour when it turns out that his instructor is actually Ra’s al Ghul and is trying to teach him to lead an army of assassins to take out Gotham city. Taking issue with this, Bruce takes things one step further by dressing up like a bat and ultimately defeating his master.

#6: Master Splinter
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” franchise (1987-)

Sometimes your sensei is a wise old man from a faraway land who has come to teach you about self-discipline and self-defense. Sometimes your sensei is a giant mutated super rat and you’re a teenage mutant ninja turtle. Splinter doesn’t only kick all kinds of ass but thanks to his training in the art of ninjutsu, he’s able to show his young half-shelled sons how to use their powers for good. He also shows them how to protect New York from the evil Foot Clan and Shredder.

#5: Leung Bik
“The Legend is Born - Ip Man” (2010)

Ip Man is a big name when it comes to kung fu and martial arts in general. This movie, loosely based on the real-life Wing Chun grandmaster’s story and his rise to fame, also focuses on the characters that came into his life and shaped his art. One such man is Leung Bik, an old pharmacist who not only shows Ip Man a thing or two about kung fu, but also shuts him down for being a little too ambitious when the occasion arises. Interestingly, the real-life son of Yip Man, Ip Chun, plays Leung Bik.

#4: Beggar Su Hua Chi / Sam Seed
“Drunken Master” (1978)

Jackie Chan is no stranger to the world of crazy old kung fu masters – just check out “Snake in Eagle’s Shadow” - but the one he encounters this time around needs to sober up. Cause Sam Seed is known for paralyzing his students. Soon, however, Beggar So proves himself to be a great sensei who teaches Chan’s Freddy Wong a thing or two about self-defense and respect. He’s even got his own secret style of martial arts! In short, Beggar So is pretty much your classic martial arts master and he serves as a good template for the archetype in films to come.

#3: Senzo Tanaka
“Bloodsport” (1988)

Jean-Claude Van Damme is at it again in this late ‘80s martial arts flick in which he pretends to be American while putting in little effort to sound like it. In “Bloodsport,” Van Damme as Frank Dux is trained by the mighty Senzo Tanaka; a Ninjutsu master who agrees to teach him after the latter attempts to steal his priceless katana. They become fast friends when Senzo ultimately trains Dux to use all his senses in order to defeat an opponent, and the sports movie eventually became a cult hit.

#2: Yoda
“Star Wars” franchise (1977-)

Along every hero’s journey, there comes a time when a wise old man versed in ancient mysterious arts must teach you how to use magic and wield a laser sword. While the Yoda we know and love in the original trilogy was little more than a puppet with a strange accent, he was soon revised into a lean green flipping machine ready to battle the Emperor himself in the prequels. Take him or leave him, Yoda definitely knows how to train eager young padawans.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- The Master
“Big Stan” (2007)
- Master Roshi
“Dragon Ball” (1989-96)
- Shifu
“Kung Fu Panda” (2008)
- Ujio
“The Last Samurai” (2003)
- Mori Tanaka
“3 Ninjas” (1992)

#1: Keisuke Miyagi
“The Karate Kid” (1984)

Mr. Miyagi’s brand of martial arts training through boring tasks may seem pointless and ineffective, but when the chips are down at least you’ll know how to deliver a wicked kick to some guy’s face. Whatever, no one likes the Cobra Kai, anyway. Always ready with a piece of advice and armed with some of the best karate skills around, Miyagi goes on to share two more adventures with Daniel San until people stopped believing Danny was a teenager. Hilary Swank then became the Next Karate Kid, followed by Jaden Smith getting the rebooted role in the 2010 flick, training under the tutelage of Jackie Chan, who played a completely different master.

Do you agree with our list? Who’s your favorite on-screen sensei? For more ass-kicking Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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