Leo Howard: From the Mats to the Movies

Nate Lawson@NateLawsonCorrespondent ISeptember 8, 2009

G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra brought together an impressive list of actors and actresses, including Dennis Quaid, Channing Tatum, Robert Park, and Marlon Wayans. The film garnered high hopes and proved itself worthy of those heightened projections as it grossed well over $200 million.

While the cast may have been a solid list of actors, one kid on the cast stands out in a big way.

Leo Howard has been featured as the host of Disney Channel’s Leo Little’s Big Show, as well as gaining the lead roles in the movies Shorts and Logan. He has accomplished all of this in his acting career before even reaching the age of 13.

However, Howard’s love for acting is matched by yet another big part of his life—something that sets him apart from many who call the silver screen home.

For the past several years, Howard has been involved with a martial arts-based group called Side Swipe Performance Team. The team travels the country performing highly entertaining shows featuring the members using their backgrounds in martial arts.

Howard described it as “mixtures of all types of martial arts” and an “acrobatic mirage.” The team is headed up by Howard’s trainer, Matt Mullins, a man for whom he holds a great deal of respect.

“My instructor Matt Mullins is just the best guy in the world,” Howard said. “He’s  awesome.”

Howard began training under Mullins at a young age after his instructor made an exception by letting such a young participant into his class, and Howard has taken full advantage of the opportunity by staying as actively involved as possible.

“I’ve done all kinds of martial arts,” explained Howard. “I have my blackbelt in Shorei Ru. I’m doing Wu Shu. I do all kinds of different martial arts.”

With an impressive list of successes in the movie industry thus far, Howard has still made plenty of time for his love for martial arts, describing his interest as a “passion.”

At a younger age, Howard took his passion for acting and martial arts into consideration when he told his parents he wanted to be the next Chuck Norris. However, his goal has since changed from striving to be like Norris or Bruce Lee.

“Bruce Lee only played himself. Chuck Norris is a martial artist that does acting,” explained Howard. “I want to be an actor that does martial arts.”

In terms of acting, Howard wants to be like two of his favorite actors, Jack Nicholson and Anthony Hopkins.

While Howard has plenty of experience in martial arts, both he and his parents are not interested in a career as a mixed martial artist, as a fighter. However, he is interested in one of the arts many successful fighters use to be successful.

“I wanted to learn BJJ for a while now, just for fun. But I wouldn’t be a fighter,” stated Howard.

Though fighting in a mixed martial arts organization seems out of the question, Howard lists Brock Lesnar and Georges St. Pierre as two of his favorite fighters, in a sport he is beginning to really appreciate.

While he may be years away from attaining the fame of Bruce Lee, and several movies away from gaining the status that Chuck Norris has achieved, through his work in martial arts, Side Swipe Performance Team, and his face being shown on movie theatre screens across the nation, Howard is growing ever closer to his goal.

No matter the fame he gains or the awards he wins, Howard claims he will always remember his roots in martial arts.

“I would be nowhere without martial arts,” concluded Howard. “It’s a passion.”


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