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Robert Downey Jr. Martial Arts Master Says Kung Fu a Key to Sobriety

12/25/2015 12:55 AM PST

Robert Downey Jr.: Martial Arts Master Says Kung Fu Was a Key to Sobriety

EXCLUSIVE

Robert Downey, Jr. used a rigorous form of Chinese martial arts to help beat his addiction, and the master who taught him couldn't say enough good things to a judge and California Governor Jerry Brown to support his pardon.

Sifu Eric Oram, who teaches Wing Chun Kung Fu, a "Chinese Boxing System," wrote a moving letter in support of Downey's pardon. Oram says when he met the actor 12 years ago, he had little hope for him.

Downey had contacted him and wanted to take lessons, but Oram, who learned from the mentor and teacher of Bruce Lee, felt Robert's addiction was a losing battle. Oram was reluctant to take Downey on, but the actor was persistent, freely acknowledging he needed help.

Oram contacted a woman who once worked with Robert in rehab, who told him Downey was a "hopeless addict," adding, "He will never change, nor does he want to."

Nevertheless, Downey became a student, and the 2 developed a close bond over the years and the teacher even worked with his student on 17 films.  

Oram says Downey used the discipline to "rewire his mind and body," adding, "It's difficult to recognize the Robert that stepped into my academy 12 years ago."

TMZ broke the story, Governor Brown gave Downey a full pardon on Xmas eve from his drug convictions.

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