Wolverine speaks: Inside Marvel Universe Live!

WASHINGTON — Growing up to be Wolverine is every little boy’s dream.

It is similar to wanting to become president or an astronaut, but with bigger claws and an uncanny ability to heal very quickly.

For local martial artist Kirk Jenkins, portraying Wolverine in Marvel’s live- action arena extravaganza is just another stop on the way to world domination.

The 25-year-old athlete got his start in Taekwondo and other Eastern disciplines when he was just 2 years old. His parents own a martial arts studio in Bealeton, Virginia, and his father served as a coach and mentor from the very beginning, Jenkins says.

So when it came time to travel to Los Angeles and audition for Wolverine, Jenkins brought along his biggest fan and concentrated on using the skills he’s learned over a lifetime to nab the prized role.

“I was able to use my kicks and all my punches that I’ve trained for so many years,” he says.

Here, Jenkins is being modest. The Virginian is the 2013 World Organization of Mixed Martial Arts World Champion and an Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic three-time Joel Farrell Award winner. Also, he has his bachelor’s degree in political science.

Transforming into Wolverine was at once challenging and rewarding, Jenkins says. To prepare, he read old comics and studied Hugh Jackman’s moves on the big screen.

“I was a little nervous because I want to do the character justice,” Jenkins says.

“Wolverine is a guy that has a very quick temper. He always likes to go rogue — he never likes to go with the team. Anything can set him off, but he’s always out for good. He always likes to help in any way.”

Despite Wolverine’s best intentions and Jenkins’ training, learning to use those infamous claws proved to be harder than expected for the would-be superhero. He might be able to kick and flip through the air, but slashing an enemy with adamantium talons is not as easy as it looks.

“Being here with the cast and the crew, we’ve all learned a lot of new skills,” Jenkins says, adding that dirt biking is another new skill he has picked up thanks to the show.

The plot for Marvel Universe Live! follows the Tesseract storyline familiar to anyone who has seen “The Avengers” or “Captain America.” Thor’s brother, Loki, is after a device that will give him control of the universe, and Marvel superheroes such as Iron Man, Spider Man, The Hulk, Captain America and Wolverine must come to the rescue.

The arena show features everything from pyrotechnics to dirt bike antics. It’s loud and flashy with more than 20 characters from the Marvel Universe coming together on one stage.

“I’m definitely a big Hulk fan, especially after doing this show,” Jenkins says.

“When you see this huge, 8-foot Hulk you just freak out. It’s so cool.”

Marvel Universe Live! is at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virginia, Sept. 12 through 21. The show heads to Richmond Oct. 20 through Nov. 2. Click here for ticket information.

See the heroes in action below:

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