Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg
(born 18 October 1960), professionally known as Jean-Claude Van Damme, is a Belgian martial artist, actor, and director best known for his martial arts action films. The most successful of these films include Bloodsport (1988), Kickboxer (1989), Universal Soldier (1992), Hard Target (1993), Timecop (1994), Sudden Death (1995) and JCVD (2008).
After studying martial arts intensively from the age of ten, Van Damme achieved national success in Belgium as a martial artist and bodybuilder, earning the "Mr. Belgium" bodybuilding title. He emigrated to the United States in 1982 to pursue a career in film, and achieved success with Bloodsport (1988), based on a story written by Frank Dux. He attained subsequent box office success with Timecop (1994), which was his highest grossing film with over $100 million, until 2011's Kung Fu Panda 2, which grossed over $665 million.Early life
Van Damme was born Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg on October 18, 1960 in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Brussels, Belgium, the son of Eliana and Eugène Van Varenberg, who was an accountant. He began martial arts at the age of ten, enrolled by his father in a Shotokan karate school. His styles consist of kickboxing, Shotokan karate, Muay Thai and Taekwondo. He eventually earned his black belt in karate. He started lifting weights to improve his physique, which eventually led to a Mr. Belgium bodybuilding title.Martial arts career
Semi-contact karate career
At the age of 11, Van Damme joined the Centre National De Karaté (National Center of Karate) under the guidance of Claude Goetz in Belgium. Van Damme trained for four years and he earned a spot on the Belgian Karate Team; later training in full-contact karate and kickboxing by Dominique Valera.
In 1976, Jean-Claude is reported to have started his competitive career in Ingelmunster, Belgium, in a semi-contact match which was sanctioned by the European Karate Union. He defeated fellow Belgian Roland Vedani. The following year, Van Damme remained undefeated with victories over Maurice Devos, Andre LeMaire and fellow team-mate Patrick Teugels in non-tournament matches sanctioned by the World All-Styles Karate Organization. In his first tournament competition, Van Damme placed second at the Challenge Coupe des Espoirs Karate Tournament (1st Trials). Jean-Claude defeated 25 opponents in the three day tournament before losing in the finals to fellow team-mate Angelo Spataro.
In Europe, Jean-Claude was a member of the Belgium Team when it won the European Championship on 26 December 1979 at La Coupe Francois Persoons Karate Tournament in Brussels, Belgium. His team won the championship.1980 Forest National match
On 8 March 1980, in Brussels, Belgium, Van Damme competed against his one-time stablemate Patrick Teugels at the Forest National arena on the amateur undercard of the Dan Macaruso-Dominique Valera PKA Light-Heavyweight World Championship bout. Prior to this match, Teugels had defeated Van Damme at least twice by decision, including a match for the Belgium Lightweight Championship. Van Damme had a 1977 win over Teugels. Teugels was coming off this latter impressive showing at the WAKO World Championships four months earlier, and was favored by some to win this match. According to reports, and Patrick Teugels' own interview (with photos), Teugels lost by TKO in the 1st round. Teugels was kicked in the nose and was unable to continue because of that injury.Kickboxing and full-contact karate career
Van Damme's martial arts record consists mostly of light and semi-contact matches. However, from 1976 to 1982, Van Damme fought in 19 full-contact matches, and compiled a record of 18 wins, 18 knockouts and 1 defeat.
Van Damme had his first full-contact match against Toon Van Oostrum in Brussels, Belgium in 1976. The 16 year old Van Damme knocked out Oostrum in 46 seconds of the first round.
Jean-Claude's biggest victories were over the United Kingdom's Michael J. Heming-British and European Middleweight Karate Champion, the United States of America's Sherman Bergman, Turkey's Ajom Mahmud Uddin, and Belgium's Lenny Leikman.
Van Damme's only defeat was early in his career, when he lost to France's Etienne "Tuf" Aubry by 1st round disqualification. Van Damme accidentally kicked and knocked out Aubry when he was down. Aubry was unable to continue and was awarded a victory.
Jean-Claude was only knocked down once in his entire 8-year career. Facing Sherman Bergman, Van Damme was knocked to the canvas after absorbing a powerful left hook, and it was the only knock-down suffered by Van Damme in his fighting career. However, Van Damme got up, and with an axe-kick, knocked Bergman out in 56 seconds of the first round. This match was fought in Tampa, Florida.
Following a knockout victory over France's Georges Verlugels on a Professional Karate Association promotion in 1980(source:FightingArts.com), Van Damme caught the attention of Professional Karate Magazine publisher and editor Mike Anderson, and multiple European champion Geet Lemmens. Both men tabbed Van Damme as an upcoming prospect.
Jean-Claude Van Damme ended his full-contact career in 1982 following a knockout victory over India's Nedjad Gharbi.
Van Damme was scheduled to fight former boxing Olympic gold-medalist Somluck Kamsing in November 2011. Early reports have named Las Vegas, USA, Moscow, Russia and Macau, China, Thailand as locations for the bout but it now fight will take place in Dubai, Moscow or Grozny. At the prospect of being the first man over the age of 50 to kickbox professionally, Van Damme stated that "it's kind of dangerous, but life is short." The fight was postponed to December 2012.Film career
In 1982, Van Damme and childhood friend, Michel Qissi, moved to America in the hope of becoming action stars. They both were cast as extras in the film, Breakin'. Van Damme also had a non-speaking part as a Secret Service agent who carries a polio-crippled President Franklin Roosevelt (Ralph Bellamy) out of a pool in the 1988 TV miniseries War and Remembrance. After a small part in Missing In Action, Van Damme was next cast in the film No Retreat, No Surrender, as the role of the villain, Ivan the Russian. Van Damme worked for director John McTiernan for the 1987 film Predator as an early (eventually abandoned) version of the titular alien, before being removed and replaced by Kevin Peter Hall. His breakout film was Bloodsport, based on the alleged true story of Frank Dux. Shot on a 1.5 million dollar budget, it became a U.S. box-office hit in the spring of 1988. He then starred in the smaller budgeted film Cyborg. His last role for 1989 was Kurt Sloane in the successful Kickboxer. In this film, his character fights to avenge his brother who has been paralyzed by a Thai kickboxing champion (Qissi).
Double Impact featured Van Damme in the dual role of Alex and Chad Wagner, two brothers fighting to avenge the deaths of their parents. This film reunited him with his former Bloodsport co-star, Bolo Yeung. He then starred opposite Dolph Lundgren in the action film Universal Soldier. While it grossed $36,299,898 in the U.S., it was an even bigger success overseas, making over $65 million, well over its modest $23 million budget, making it Van Damme's highest grossing film at the time. Van Damme followed Nowhere To Run and Hard Target with Timecop in 1994. The film was a huge success, grossing over $100 million worldwide. In the film, Van Damme played a time traveling cop, who tries to prevent the death of his wife. It remains his highest grossing film in a lead role to date.
After his role in the poorly received Street Fighter, his projects started to fail at the box office. Sudden Death (1995); The Quest (1996), which he directed; Maximum Risk (1996), Double Team (1997) and Knock Off (1998) were box-office flops. The 1999 film Universal Soldier: The Return, also a box-office flop, was Van Damme's last theatrically released film until 2008. In 2003, Van Damme employed his dancing training in the music video for Bob Sinclar's "Kiss My Eyes."
Van Damme returned to the mainstream with the limited theatrical release of the 2008 film JCVD, which received positive reviews. Time Magazine named Van Damme's performance in the film the second best of the year (after Heath Ledger's The Joker in The Dark Knight), having previously stated that Van Damme "deserves not a black belt, but an Oscar." Van Damme indicated while promoting the film, he experienced a period of homelessness "sleeping on the street and starving in L.A."
Van Damme reprised his role as Luc Deveraux in the 2009 film Universal Soldier: Regeneration. Subsequently he voiced "Master Croc" in the 2011 animated film Kung Fu Panda 2. Also in 2011, Van Damme participated in various commercials for Coors Light beer, in which he is located on a snow-covered mountain wearing a sleeveless denim jacket, and for washing powder "Dash".
He was offered a lead role in Sylvester Stallone's latest film The Expendables. Stallone called Van Damme personally to offer him the role, but Van Damme turned it down. He scheduled a series of film projects for 2011, including another Universal Soldier movie. On 30 June 2011, Van Damme confirmed his participation in The Expendables 2.
One of Van Damme's latest projects is an upcoming (2013) comedy Welcome To The Jungle directed by Rob Meltzer, in a role as a workplace team building trainer opposite Adam Brody, Rob Huebel, Kristen Schaal, Megan Boone, and Dennis Haysbert. He is also preparing to star in the thriller Enemies Closer which would re-unite him with Timecop and Sudden Death director Peter Hyams.Controversies
In an interview on his website, Van Damme rival, Patrick Teugels states that Van Damme never fought at the 1979 WAKO World Championships in Tampa, Florida, and posts a Dutch-language Samurai magazine report on the tournament in which Van Damme (Van Varenberg) is not mentioned. On Van Damme's imdb page, as well as his official webpage, Van Damme makes no claims of having fought at the 1979 or 1980 WAKO World Championships. Van Damme's fight with Bergman in Tampa, Florida was always billed as a non-tournament match, and was not under the sanction of the WAKO World Championships and was not recorded as a championship bout.
At the same time, while Teugels takes credit for two victories over Van Damme (one for the Belgium light-contact Championship), records show that Van Damme defeated Teugels in at least two matches, including one at the Forest National arena in which Van Damme broke Teugels's nose. At the STAR System World Kickboxing Ratings website, event coverages and results are posted from France's Karate Magazine and from the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO) that show Van Damme was an active semi-contact fighter in Europe between 1978–1980, but that he never placed at the 1979 WAKO World Championships. Newspaper clippings do provide information that Van Damme fought in various tournaments from 1978–1980, but internet photos show that Van Damme competed from 1976-1982.
When Van Damme became an action film star a controversy arose because leading martial arts magazines could not find any fights listed for Jean-Claude Van Damme. Jean-Claude had competed under his birth name of Jean-Claude Van Varenberg. Van Damme's office supplied a list of four European karate trophies that he earned under his real name, Van Varenberg, between 1978 and 1981: the Hope Cup; the Cup of Antwerp; World Championship, WAKO; and the Gala International. Van Damme's lawyer, Martin Singer, made a public statement defending his client: "There are records to document his martial-arts acclaim. He's the one who does those splits on chairs. He doesn't have a stunt man do that."
Paul Maslak of the STAR System World Kickboxing Ratings, who was also the casting director who helped cast Van Damme in his first theatrical role, No Retreat No Surrender, and who was therefore always aware of Van Damme's legal name, researched Van Damme's competitive history and came up with documentation that showed most fights were in tournament karate and that there was no verifiable evidence Van Damme had ever competed as a professional kickboxer. The term "professional" fighter is open to debate, because many WAKO fighters in Europe were paid money to train.Kadyrov event
In October 2011, Van Damme, along with other celebrities including Hilary Swank, Vanessa-Mae and Seal attracted criticism from human rights groups for attending an event in Russian federal subject Chechnya's capital Grozny on the 35th birthday of Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov on October 5. Human rights groups, who had urged the celebrities to cancel their appearances because of abuses carried out under Kadyrov, criticised the celebrities for attending the event. Human Rights Watch released a statement which said, "Ramzan Kadyrov is linked to a litany of horrific human rights abuses. It's inappropriate for stars to get paid to party with him. It bolsters his image and legitimizes a brutal leader and his regime. And getting paid to be part of such a lavish show in Chechnya trivializes the suffering of countless victims of human rights abuses there."Personal life
At the age of 16 he took up ballet, which he studied for five years. According to Van Damme, ballet "is an art, but it's also one of the most difficult sports. If you can survive a ballet workout, you can survive a workout in any other sport." In the French-speaking world, Van Damme is well known for the picturesque aphorisms that he delivers on a wide range of topics (personal well-being, the environment, etc.) in a sort of Zen franglais.Health and addiction
Van Damme used to have a substance abuse issues that started during 1995. He entered a month-long rehabilitation program in 1996 but left it after only one week. In 1996, he spent up to $10,000 a week on cocaine. He is also reported to have experienced bipolar disorder. After the filming of the 1998 film Knock Off, Van Damme was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder after becoming suicidal and started treatment on the mood stabilizer, sodium valproate. A turning point toward improvement of his health came from late 1997 onwards, after having finished divorce procedures.Mortal Kombat
The original video game Mortal Kombat was conceived as a fighting game based on Van Damme. Creators Ed Boon and John Tobias originally had desired to author the game starring Van Damme himself. That fell through as Van Damme had a prior deal for another game under the auspices of the Sega Genesis platform. Ed Boon and John Tobias eventually decided to create Mortal Kombat featuring a character named Johnny Cage, who is modeled after Jean-Claude Van Damme, primarily from Van Damme's appearance and outfit in the martial arts film Bloodsport.Filmography
1986 No Retreat, No Surrender
1988 Black Eagle
1990 Death Warrant
1991 Double Impact
1992 Universal Soldier
1993 Nowhere to Run
1993 Hard Target
1994 Street Fighter
1996 Maximum Risk
1996 The Quest
1997 Double Team
1998 Knock Off
1999 Universal Soldier: The Return
2001 The Order
2003 In Hell
2004 Wake of Death
2006 The Hard Corps
2006 Second in Command
2006 The Exam
2007 Until Death
2008 The Shepherd: Border Patrol
2009 Universal Soldier: Regeneration
2010 The Eagle Path
2011 Kung Fu Panda 2
2011 Assassination Games
2012 Dragon Eyes
2012 Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning
2012 Six Bullets
2012 The Expendables 2
2013 Welcome to the Jungle
2013 Enemies Closer
2014 Kung Fu Panda 3Izvor
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