A Muay Thai master whose formidable martial arts skills have dazzled action lovers in such films as Ong_Bak and Tom_Yum_Goong (aka The_Protector), Tony Jaa was first inspired to take up fighting when, at the age of 15, he first saw director Panna_Rittikrai's classic action film Born to Fight. A breathtaking martial arts masterpiece that proved to Jaa there were indeed opportunities for a young action star in Thailand, Born to Fight would inspire the impressionable viewer to begin training harder than ever before. Nicknamed Tony Jaa by Ong_Bak director Prachya_Pinkaew (the "T" in Tony stands for Thailand, and the "Jaa" is the actor's Thai nickname), the talented martial artist is better known in his native Thailand by the name Jaa Panom.
A native of the rural Surin province which is located some 200 kilometers northeast of Bangkok, Jaa took a cue from his Muay Thai-boxer father and began training at the age of ten. It was shortly thereafter that a Jackie_Chanmovie prompted young Jaa to begin a rigorous training regiment that would instill him with the deadly dexterity of his cinematic idol, with a subsequent, junior-high-school viewing of Born to Fight offering a vivid vision of a future in film. Granted permission by his father to seek out Rittikrai and ask permission to become the filmmaker's student, Jaa traveled to the nearby Khon Kaen province to meet the man who could make all of his dreams come true. It was over the course of the next three years that Jaa truly immersed himself in the film industry, rapidly rising through the ranks from water boy to best boy while constantly practicing martial arts during his down time. When Jaa graduated from senior high and Rittikrai recommended that the rising star refine his skills at the University of Physical Education in Sarakam Province; a stint studying Taekwondo, Bushido, Ju-Jitsu, gymnastics, and stick- and sword- fighting at the school provided just the kind of well-rounded education needed to expand his skills and take his career to the next level. Weekend training sessions withRithikrai soon convinced the veteran and star that his young protégé had the skills to truly shine on the big screen, with an invitation to join Rithikrai's skilled stunt team offering Jaa the irresistible opportunity to finally merge the artistry of film with the beauty of martial arts.