How Diana Lee Inosanto trained ‘Spy’ actress in the Filipino martial arts Kali  

With actress Melissa McCarthy: Her tennis background helped. Photos courtesy of Diana Lee Inosanto

With actress Melissa McCarthy: Her tennis background helped. Photos courtesy of Diana Lee Inosanto

“Spy” actress Melissa McCarthy’s skills juggling knives and frying pans is the latest handiwork of stunt performer Diana Lee Inosanto, a martial arts instructor named after her godfather, the great legend, Bruce Lee.

Diana is the daughter of California-born Dan Inosanto, a stuntman-actor and a well-known instructor of Jeet Kune Do and Filipino martial arts. Dan, a Filipino American black belter, trained under Bruce Lee, and later became his close friend, and, according to reports, a pallbearer at his funeral. At his Inosanto Academy of Martial Arts in the Los Angeles community of Marina del Rey, he continues to teach a variety of fighting styles while promoting a unique combination of Jeet Kune Do and Kung Fu believed to have been developed by Lee.

Diana’s mother, Sue Ann Reveal, is an American. She has three other siblings. She is married to fellow martial arts professional, Ron Balicki, who studied in her father’s school. Diana and Ron have two sons.

In her blog, Diana writes about training McCarthy her martial arts moves for the comedy flick “Spy.” In this Paul Feig film, McCarthy plays the reluctant detective Susan Cooper who gets assigned to work undercover in pursuit of an unlikely arms dealer. And here is where the actress shows off her newly acquired skills with punching, blocking, and kicking.

“I trained her in the areas of Kali and I used Jeet Kune Do concepts to help her memorize her difficult fight scene — it was a 2 ½-minute fight sequence! Not easy for someone with no martial arts training. But, I learned from my father how to tap into other people’s physical backgrounds. Thus, I knew she had a tennis background, and through JKD concepts, I knew how to tap into this background and carry her through her fight scenes with tennis associations.

“Overall, the drills from Kali helped me immensely in training Melissa, and I believe that’s why she could pick up her routine in a short amount of time. Best part of it all, her sheer desire to work hard.”

Diana said it was an “honor” working with the top-rated TV’s “Mike & Molly” actress.

“I could not have had such an opportunity without stunt coordinator, J.J. Perry,” she writes. “In a climate like Hollywood, it is very hard for women to move up the ladder in directing, producing, stunt coordinating, etc., and training the elite of Hollywood is no exception. So, I was very lucky to have people that believed in me and saw past my gender.”

The Torrance-born Diana is a true Hollywood insider. She has worked in the film industry for many years and in various capacities as actor, producer, director, writer, stunt coordinator, and fight choreographer. She said growing up with a martial arts background has prepared her for a career in “male dominated” Hollywood.

“I am grateful to the filmmakers of ‘Spy,’ and that wonderful woman, who magically puts a smile on people’s faces, Melissa McCarthy,” writes Diana. – Cristina DC Pastor

Practicing with real knives

Practicing with real knives

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