Jackie Chan helps the young star become a martial arts hit

By Paul Chi
November 29, 2009 11:00 AM
Credit: Jasin Boland

The boy’s got chops!

Learning the moves of a true martial arts fighter, Will Smith’s youngest son Jaden Smith is proving he has what it takes when he stars opposite Jackie Chan in a remake of the 1984 classic, The Karate Kid, due in theaters June 11.

“I trained every day for four months with Master Wu [the film’s fight coordinator],” Jaden, 11, tells PEOPLE as he takes on his first leading role as an American boy named Dre Parker who moves to China. “We did a lot of stretching.”

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Jaden mastered front kicks and upper blocks through his hard work ethic and dedication, says Chan, 55, who plays maintenance man Mr. Han – an unlikely friend to Jaden’s character. “He took the training very seriously. I was very impressed with him,” he adds.

While filming in Beijing, including atop the Great Wall of China, Chan was more than a martial arts mentor to his young costar. “Jackie taught me to ask, ‘My left or camera left?'” says Jaden on learning the important directions of acting in front of the movie camera. “That helped.”

As the two stars built a dynamic relationship on screen, the teacher and student bond translated into real life. “Jaden had a lot of respect for me as his teacher, even off the set,” says Chan. “He is professional as many adult actors who have been in the business for years.”

And, as Jaden became a true karate kid, he realized that there is more to martial arts than just the kicking and punching – there are lasting lessons of obedience to be instilled. In fact Jaden’s parents appreciate the discipline he learned. “His dad told me that Jaden had changed,” says Chan. “When he takes his shoes off, he doesn’t throw them in the corner, but puts them away neatly!”