Jean-Claude Van Damme is a popular Belgian martial artist, actor and director. He was born to Eliana and Eugène Van Varenberg, an accountant.
“The Muscles from Brussels” started martial arts at the age of eleven. His father introduced him to martial arts when he saw his son was physically weak. At the age of 12, Van Damme began his martial arts training at Centre National De Karate, four years after which he earned a spot on the Belgium Karate Team.
Claude won the European professional karate association’s middleweight championship as a teenager, and also beat the 2nd best karate fighter in the world. He participated in a number of tournaments and semi-contact matches and signed his first professional full-contact career in karate in 1977. From 1977 to 1982, he compiled a whopping record of 18 victories and only 1 defeat, where he was knocked down by Sherman Bergman.
In 1981, for a brief period, Van Damme moved to Los Angeles and took English classes while working as carpet layer, pizza delivery man, limo driver, and he also banked upon a job as a bouncer at a club. It was here that he was offered his first role in a film. Then one day, while walking on the streets, Jean-Claude spotted a producer for Cannon Pictures, and showed some of his martial arts abilities which led to a role in Bloodsport (1988). His martial arts assets, highlighted by his ability to deliver a kick to an opponent’s head during a leaping 360-degree turn, and his good looks led to starring roles in higher budgeted movies like Cyborg (1989), Lionheart (1990), Double Impact (1991) and Universal Soldier (1992)
The stress of the constant filming and promotion of his films, as Van Damme explains, led him to develop a cocaine habit, which also led to his arrest once. He has been married five times to four different women and has three children. However, his condition improved after he started taking proper medications and got his personal life in order.
In October 2012, Van Damme was honored with the unveiling of a bronze statue in his native Brussels. The statue depicts the former martial-arts champion in a classic fighting pose, ready to launch one of his famous flying kicks.
The super star’s movies has stirred countless martial artists around the world. ‘You have to believe what you say, and if you believe what you are saying, then acting is easy’. he says.