10 Skills Keanu Reeves Learned For Movie Roles

There’s a certain amount of dedication that an actor will put into their movies, and Keanu Reeves has learned a lot of different skills for the many roles he’s played. Known for The Matrix and John Wick franchises full of incredible fight choreography and stunt work, he’s spent grueling hours with experts and mentors in order to make it look like his characters know exactly what they’re doing. At the same time, many of the skills he’s learned he’s retained for decades, either applying them to future roles, pursuing them as hobbies, or even just as a means to decompress between projects.



Like Tom Cruise doing his own stunts for Mission: Impossible or learning to fly a fighter jet for Top Gun, Reeves takes every role seriously and wants the finished product to reflect the amount of respect and dedication he has for the story. The physicality of his performance is always reflected in the commitment he has to learn the necessary skills, whether they involve wielding a katana like water in 47 Ronin or carving water on a surfboard in Point Break. His reputation for learning new skills for roles is only rivaled by his humbleness during the process, with Reeves innovating action movies that revolutionize the genre.

10 Keanu Reeves Learned How To Fight With A Japanese Sword For 47 Ronin

Kai wielding a sword in 47 Ronin

47 Ronin was a box office bomb, but Reeves didn’t walk away from the film without something to show for it. In an interview for Men’s Journal with his costar Hiroyuki Sanada, whom he reunited with for John Wick: Chapter 4, Sanada explained how he helped train Reeves to use a samurai sword for the role of Kai in exhaustive drills over the course of several weeks. Sanada felt this experience of bonding with Reeves on the set, who spoke of his new role in John Wick often, helped him get the part of Shimazu, Manager of the Osaka Continental, and mentor who helped John Wick become an elite assassin.

9 Keanu Reeves Became An Archer For 47 Ronin

Kai (Keanu Reeves) firing a bow and arrow in 47 Ronin

Part of learning how to fight like a samurai for 47 Ronin involved more than just learning how to wield a katana with grace and precision. Samurai also commonly used a bow and arrow for ranged attacks before they engaged in close combat fighting, and Reeves took up archery in order to look convincing shooting a bow and arrow. Reeves had to fire an arrow with accuracy in all kinds of weather, including rain, to accurately convey a samurai’s unyielding focus, particularly in the face of the insurmountable odds faced in the true 47 Ronin story.

8 Keanu Reeves Studied Bushido For 47 Ronin

Keanu Reeves wields a sword

In the same interview for Men’s Journal, Sanada illustrated how he coached Keanu in Bushido, the ancient samurai code of honor. “I taught him how to sit, stand, wear the obi belt, and hold the sword like us,” he explained, and it’s clear that Reeves took his work seriously. Given that the movie incorporated so many elements of Japanese history and culture, combined with modern American blockbuster sensibilities, it was essential that Reeves honor the Bushido heritage by being as authentic and genuine as possible.

RELATED: Keanu Reeves’ Favorite Movies From His Career Aren’t What You Expect

7 Keanu Reeves Learned Judo And Jujitsu For John Wick

John fights the Shinobi in John Wick Chapter 3 Parabellum

Keanu Reeves has become renowned for his martial arts abilities, particularly in the John Wick franchise where they’re employed constantly in dynamic action sequences. As carefully crafted fight scenes devolve into thrilling bouts of survival, Reeves’ assassin does a lot of grappling, and according to Black Belt Mag, he learned Judo and Jujitsu specifically for John Wick, both of which feature close contact with an opponent. While not as concise or stylized as some of the other martial arts forms he uses for entertainment purposes, they convey the brutality and power that Wick has, often willing to do whatever it takes to win.

6 Keanu Reeves Learned Karate and Kung-Fu For The Matrix

Keanu Reeves in a Dojo, holding his hands up

While the Wachowski Sisters and stunt-coordinator-turned-director Chad Stahelski developed a completely revolutionary way to incorporate martial arts into Western action movies for The Matrix, the cinematic moves came from a basis in karate and kung-fu, both of which Reeves learned for his role as Neo. In the near future, Neo downloaded the martial arts skills and then used them against Morpheus in sparring sessions that often defied reality and gravity. The “I know kung-fu,” line became one of the best quotes from The Matrix while also affirming the time and dedication Reeves put in to make sure he looked competent as The Chosen One.

5 The Matrix Reloaded Required Keanu Reeves To Learn 200 Martial Arts Moves

Keanu Reeves and Hugo Weaving in Matrix Reloaded

If it was impressive that Neo downloaded karate and kung-fu into his consciousness in The Matrix, then it was really impressive what Reeves accomplished for its sequel The Matrix Reloaded. He learned a combination of over 200 martial arts moves in order to effectively portray Neo going up against evolved programs like Agent Smith, as well as the twins. Neo has evolved into a much better fighter and has abilities that make him similar to a superhero, and Reeves was willing to do whatever it took to ensure Neo was convincing.

4 Keanu Reeves Learned To Surf For Point Break

While portraying an FBI agent infiltrating a group of bank robbers led by Patrick Swayze in Point Break, Keanu Reeves developed a passion for surfing. The film includes quite a lot of surfing sequences among the gang, and Reeves needed to know how to get into a wetsuit, wax his board, paddle out, and carve waves like Bodhi and his crew. It’s a skill that ended up becoming a passion, and the actor continued to pursue surfing in Hawaii as well as Southern California.

3 Keanu Reeves Took Up Horse Back Riding For John Wick

For the thrilling horse chase through the streets of New York City in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Reeves had to learn to ride through an urban environment, but the opening sequence of John Wick: Chapter 4 saw Reeves galloping across the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan at an even higher speed. In a recent interview with Esquire, in order to prepare for John Wick’s most fast-paced horse chase yet, Reeves had to get comfortable riding faster than he ever had before so that he could do the horse stunts himself. After embracing the thrill of the stuntwork, he became interested in horse riding as a general hobby.

2 Keanu Reeves Learned Gun-fu And General Stunt Training For John Wick

John Wick kneeling and pointing a gun in John Wick

The John Wick movies are known for their particular weapons handling which, in the hands of John Wick and all the other assassins, is known as “Gun-fu.” According to ScreenRant, Reeves not only learned this highly stylized way of wielding various guns, but he learned it at an extremely competitive level. He went through weeks of rigorous weapons handling training at gun courses to the point where the actor could be considered as good as top marksmen who compete at an expert level.

1 Keanu Reeves Does All His Own Driving Stunts For John Wick

Keanu Reeves in John Wick Chapter 2 driving a car

Around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, John Wick participates in one of the most unique action sequences in recent cinema; a car chase and a gunfight in the monument’s chaotic roundabout. As cars and bullets fly past him, Wick drifts around and around trying not to hit other vehicles or get hit himself, though his efforts aren’t successful. According to Top Gear, Keanu Reeves learned how to drift and take sharp corners at high speeds just so that the director could use as much footage possible of him performing the driving as opposed to a stunt driver.

Source: Top Gear, Esquire, Men’s Journal, Black Belt Mag

Leave a Comment