When you think of the great female martial art stars, names like Kara Hui, Angela Mao, Moon lee, Yukari oshima and Michelle Yeoh will come to mind. But in the past few years, a new fighter as emerged and she is showing the world just how good she is, her name is Jeeja Yanin.
Name: Yanin Vismitananda / JeeJa Yanin / JiJa Yanin
Thai: ญาณิน วิสมิตะนันทน์
Birthdate: March 31, 1984
Birthplace: Bangkok, Thailand
Height: 162 cm
Jeeja has been labeled the female version of Tony Jaa, with her high impact martial art scenes and stunt work, but also you can tell she is a big fan of Jackie Chan, performing stunts very similar to “Rumble In The Bronx” in the movie Chocolate (Factor fight scene). The movie “Chocolate” was released in 2008 and since then she as gone from strength to strength starring in movies such as Raging Phoenix (2008), Jak Ka Ran (2011) and also The Kick (2011).
At this moment in time she is currently working with superstar Tony Jaa on his latest project Tom Yum Goong 2, which i am very excited about as i know a movie with both these two in will be a big hit with kung fu fans all over the world. Also in the works is Chocolate 2, if you have yet to see this movie or Jeeja in action, take a look at this clip from Chocolate.
Jeeja holds a 3rd Dan Black belt in Taekwondo, she also uses Muay Thai in her movies which is always great to watch on screen with the power it brings, elbows, knees and powerful kicks (The first last of Muay Thai). In the movie Raging Phoenix, we also get to see her perform Drunken Boxing, again something she would have taken from her idol Jackie Chan (Drunken Master).
She as also spoke about being compared to Tony Jaa in the past, when she was first making the movie Chocolate.
“Yes, people compare me to him a lot, but I would like to set things straight,” said the actress who has studied taekwondo since she was 11 years old.
“I am not as good as he is. He is my trainer, and I’m just his student. I have all the respect in the world for him.”
Jeeja might have go on to live an ordinary life if it were not for Prachya Pinkaew, Thailand’s leading martial arts director. He was so impressed with her fighting skills when she auditioned for a supporting role in another film, that he wrote this script to show off her ability.
Prachya’s “Ong Bak” when released in the US in 2003, it debuted at number 17 at the box office and earned 1.33 million dollars in its opening weekend.
His follow-up three years later, “Tom Yum Goong,” did even better, landing at number four in its opening weekend and grossing more than five million dollars, making it the most successful Thai film released in the US market.
“Then foreign distributors asked if I had a female actress who could star in an action film,” Prachya said. “So the search began.”
At first he wanted to use Zhang Ziyi,but then Jeeja walked into his office and he knew this was the right person.
“But then we got Jeeja, who has no sex appeal at all,” he said. “So we had to come up with something to compensate for that.”
So what does the future hold for Jeeja Yanin? Well as i mentioned earlier, she is now filming Tom Yum Goong 2 with Tony Jaa and also Chocolate 2. It would be good to see her move away from this style and head to Hong Kong style of action, maybe choreographed by someone like Sammo Hung, who used a lot of female fighters back in the 70’s – 90’s in his movies.
Her favorite films are Mortal Kombat, Always: Sunset On The Third Street and The Godfather.
She was discovered by Prachya Pinkaew in 2003.
Vismitananda was born in Bangkok, Thailand, Her mother Prasita Vismitananda and her father Pawadol Borirak is a businessman and died when his daughter was 17. She has older brother, Nantapong “Jeed” Vismitananda. She is mainly of Thai descent, with some English, and Burmese ancestry.
I will leave you with another clip from Chocolate, the factory fight scene, watch out for the Jackie Chan trademark movements she pulls off, of course not as good, but good enough.