Profile: Zara Phythian

Posted in Profiles by - May 29, 2017
Profile: Zara Phythian

Date of birth: May 10, 1984 (Nottingham, UK)

Married name: Zara Marke

Occupation: Former martial arts instructor, actor, stunt performer, fight choreographer, producer.

Nickname: The Lady Dragon

Style: Shotokan Karate, wushu, Taekwondo, kickboxing.

Biography: Zara Phythian is a former actor, martial arts instructor and convicted sex offender. She is the oldest of four sisters, born in Nottingham, UK. She trained in the martial arts from the age of seven, learning the discipline of Shotokan Karate and achieving a second dan black belt before becoming a teenager. At the age of 13, she enrolled at Nottingham’s School of Champions martial arts centre where she took up taekwondo, wushu, kickboxing and freestyle karate. She started teaching from the age of 16.

Zara competed in national and international fight circuits, becoming a 13-time multi-style world champion. In 2006 – at the age of 21 – she became the first British martial artist to be inducted into the International Karate and Kickboxing Hall of Fame, alongside the likes of Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, and Benny Urquidez. In 2009, Zara achieved the Guinness World Record for the most items kicked off people’s heads in under a minute. The event was broadcast on national television. She was spotted by a film producer at an American martial arts event in 2005 after winning four national US title belts, and she would make the decision to step away from competitions to follow a career in acting and teaching.

Zara studied drama at Carlton le Willows in Nottinghamshire. Her first acting role was the 2006 US sci-fi film, Crops. In 2007, she made her action film debut alongside leading UK fight talent including Mark Strange, Nathan Lewis and Joey Ansah as part of the independent action feature, Underground, the directorial debut of Chee Keong-cheung. Her first leading role was in the 2011 horror film, The Hike.

Through her friendship with fight choreographer Joey Ansah, she was called upon to double for Jean-Claude Van Damme’s daughter, Bianca Bree, in the comedy sci-fi film, Alien Uprising (2012). She also had a fight scene with Van Damme. She had a supporting role in the 2014 action film, He Who Dares, with stunts coordinated by Jude Poyer.

In 2016, Zara played ‘Brunette Zealot’ in the Marvel Studios comic book adaptation of Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Zara’s role as part of Mads Mikkelsen’s evil entourage involved a number of fight scenes with many of the film’s leading characters. Zara worked again with UK fight choreographer Joey Ansah and her Doctor Strange co-star Katrina Durden in the 2016 short film, Kung Fu Darling.

In 2007, Zara opened her own martial arts school, The Personal Best Academy, in Mansfield, UK. She hosted seminars with guest instructors and taught classes for children aged from four to 12 years old, as well as adults, under her own ‘integrated martial arts system’. She was the recipient of a Business Entrepreneur Award and nominated for a Young Business Person of the Year Award. In 2017, Zara was named Woman of the Year at the Warriors Assemble British Martial Arts Awards.

In 2022, Zara Phythian was found guilty of 14 counts of sexual activity with a child, in relation to a girl she and her husband, Victor Marke, abused between 2005 and 2008, when the girl was aged 13, 14 and 15. Zara stood trial under her married name, Zara Marke. Zara married Victor Marke – her former martial arts instructor – in 2015, and they were in a relationship when the abuse took place. Victor Marke was also convicted of 14 counts of sexual activity with a child, in relation to a girl he and Phythian abused between 2005 and 2008, and four counts of indecently assaulting a child, in relation to a 15-year-old girl he abused between 2002 and 2003. Zara was jailed for eight years and her husband was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Filmography: 2006 Crops; 2007 End of Anger (short); Underground; 2008 Furor: Rage of the Innocent; 2011 The Hike; 2012 Alien Uprising (stunts); Knock Out; Gauntlet (short); 2013 Iron Monk; Enter the Streets of Myth (short); Warrioress2014 He Who Dares; The Fight Room; 2015 Landlord: Time to Pay the Rent; 2016 Doctor Strange; 2017 Heart of Chaos; Cannibals and Carpet Fitters; Knights of the Damned; 2018 Outlawed; Dragon Kingdom; 2019 Street Blood; Transit 17; 2020 Tribal: Get Out Alive.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a keyboard in London, UK.

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