This is kind of a complicated question since there actors that have trained in various fighting disciplines for years and know how to throw a punch, a kick, and know how to evade and block as well. But if one is simply asking if an actor trained to fight in a movie is effective, then the answer is a quick and hard no, since they’re being trained to perform a dance of sorts, one that doesn’t involve any real contact and therefore has a different goal in mind. One thing that people need to think about when comparing an actor to an actual fighter is that a fighter, someone trained to hurt people for sport or for survival, has a very different goal in mind. Fighters know that it’s not all about flash and looking good during a fight. Sometimes the most effective moves in a fight are the simplest and most direct that don’t really look good on film. An actor that’s been trained to fight for a movie isn’t bound to be that effective in a street fight unless they’ve taken their training to a different level and know how to react in an actual fight. On the streets, there isn’t a director yelling ‘cut’ or ‘action’ and the rules are pretty different. In short, there are none. In a sanctioned bout the rules are still different, be the person standing at the end and you’ll be declared the winner.
There are several actors that have performed a good deal of training outside of the movies and are likely very effective against someone that might try to hurt them. Mickey Rourke was an actual boxer, Keanu Reeves has been training diligently for years since The Matrix, Ed O’Neill from Married With Children has trained with world-famous Gracie’s in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and several other famous names have put in the work to become effective fighters. Chuck Norris is a name that some have thought, in the past, was something of a fake, but he’s been proven to be quite skilled, as have Jean Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren, who ended up sending Sylvester Stallone to the hospital during Rocky IV when Sly told Dolph to hit him for real. The muscles and impressive physique that many stars have aren’t always just for show since many of them do know how to fight and have been keeping up with their skills over the years. But some of them are hard to really believe since they might train for a movie, but apart from that, it’s likely that they couldn’t throw a punch or perform a hold of any sort to save their life.
Stating that no single actor knows how to fight despite their training is way too dismissive. One name in particular that gets a lot of people talking, and sometimes in heated tones, is Bruce Lee, especially when Lee’s real-life is mentioned and how he was seen as more of an actor and fight choreographer than a true fighter. One thing about Lee is that he was an avid student of anatomy as many have stated, and as a result, he knew where to hit a person, how hard, and what would happen. Anyone with a working knowledge of anatomy can figure this much out though since it’s likely that the average person knows that a human body can be damaged, but won’t know just how to do so. For instance, the amount of pressure needed to break certain bones, disrupt organs, and even dislocate certain joints, is something that many folks might have no knowledge of unless they’re physicians, and even then the knowledge isn’t all that common to a lot of people since it’s not the intention for those in the medical field to cause any damage, even if they have to possess a working knowledge of how to recognize and diagnose various injuries. Bruce Lee was the kind of guy that would study the human body and how and where to hit it to maximize damage, but the biggest argument is whether or not he was an actual fighter or if he was just a glorified action star.
Stating that actors such as Jackie Chan and Jet Li and even Jason Statham can in fact do some serious damage is pretty easy since all three of them have been training for quite some time. Those that have made their way into movies such as UFC’s Randy Couture, Mike Tyson, Gina Carano, and several others have no doubt studied and trained extensively and know just what they’re doing. But there are plenty of actors that train for a role and end up losing that knowledge after not using it for so long. Assuming that every actor that learns how to fight is a deadly fighter is kind of hilarious, but thinking that some of them really know what they’re doing is easy since one can look them up and figure out that yes, they have been in a couple of scrapes in their lives. A real fight isn’t like what is seen on screen though, since the main goal is to be standing at the end, no matter what one has to do.