How Donnie Yen was Disciplined by His Mother as a Child

By on April 24, 2018 in NEWS

How Donnie Yen was Disciplined by His Mother as a Child

Donnie Yen‘s (甄子丹) martial arts skills were acquired through hard work and the rigorous teachings of his mother, Mark Bow Sim (麥寶嬋), who is a renowned wudang and taichi grandmaster. When he was nine years old, Donnie started learning kung fu from his mother. Due to her high expectations, she would physically discipline Donnie whenever he made a mistake as a child.

Every day at 5 a.m., Donnie would have to wake up and practice kung fu and stretching exercises before going to school. In his autobiography All About Donnie <問‧丹心>, Donnie recalled, “If there was the slightest mistake, my mother would grab the wooden sword and [beat] me.” Even today, Donnie would frequently joke to others, “My mother is a better fighter than me.”

Despite his mother’s strict teaching, Donnie realized that she had pushed his training to maximize his potential. His younger sister, Chris Yen (甄子青), is also an accomplished martial artist and film star.

When Donnie was 11 years old, his family moved to Boston. He learned kung fu at his mother’s martial arts school along with other children. Admiring Bruce Lee, Donnie became a very skilled fighter by the time he was 15 years old. Hitting a rebellious streak in his teenage years, Donnie started cutting classes in school and ran away from home. He even took a job as a security guard at a nightclub in a red-light district. Triads would sometimes frequent the nightclub and as Donnie saw his friends heading down the wrong path, he grew increasingly anxious about his own future.

When his mother offered to send him to train at a martial arts academy in Beijing, 16-year-old Donnie took that opportunity to start over again. He desperately wanted a change and was happy his mother made the arrangements for him to study in Beijing. Already possessing a strong foundation in martial arts, Donnie pushed himself even harder in Beijing. The training was rigorous, but Donnie found that he could achieve “superhuman” feats by making his core strength stronger.

Due to the transformative experience in Beijing, Donnie’s martial arts reached a higher level. From his mother’s strict upbringing, Donnie also developed incredibly hard work ethics which were invaluable in his film career. Donnie summed up the value of endurance by quoting a well-known Chinese adage, “The plum blossom is fragrant because it has emerged from a harsh winter (梅花香自苦寒來).”

Above: Donnie Yen with his parents.

Sources: All About Donnie; HK01

This article is written by Jayne for

2 comments to How Donnie Yen was Disciplined by His Mother as a Child

  1. m0m0 says:

    that’s quite something to get your child up by 5 am to practice kung fu. nowadays, parents can hardly get their children out the door b/c they are sticked to their ipads. kung fu is indeed a great way to mold on’es character in a good way.

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  2. coralie says:

    there’s a red light district in boston? O.o. how come I don’t know about this?

    from this article, it sounds like Donnie didn’t really acclimate to boston much. so he only spent about 5 yrs in the states and went back to Beijing to grow his career.

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