Tony Jaa was born Panom Yeerum in the province of Surin, about 200km from Bangkok. Since childhood, he has been obsessed with martial arts and films of that genre, especially movies starring Bruce Lee (whom he idolised), Jet Li and Jackie Chan (his initial influence). Upon leaving school, Jaa followed a strict regimen: he got up at 5am and trained until 10am, then again for a few hours in the afternoon. He studied kung fu, stunt work and taekwondo with his teacher Phanna Rithikrai. He also attended swordplay and gymnastics lessons. Jaa, 32, entered the film business as a stunt double. He mastered his skills so well that he gave demonstrations in Thailand and China. He began training in Muay Thai (his native sport) four years ago for his role in Ong-bak. Billed as the next martial arts superstar, Jaa is currently working on his latest film, Tom Yum Goong.