Jean-Claude Van Damme then suddenly gave up everything to pursue his passion for acting when his career as a martial artist flourished. He now becomes one of the martial arts superstars of Hollywood
Famous fighter career of Jean-Claude Van Damme
Jean-Claude was born in 1960 in Brussels with a weaker physical compared to other children of the same age.
Therefore, in order to improve his son’s ailing condition, his father, Mr. Van Varenberg, decided to register Jean-Claude to learn martial arts at a Karate school of Shokotan to improve his health when he was 11 years old.
Right from the start of training, Jean-Claude proved to have a special talent for martial arts. He soon won the black belt earlier than normal.
In the tournament by the European Professional Karate Association in 1973, Jean-Claude won the middleweight championship. After mastering the quintessence of Karate, he learned more Taekwondo and Muay (Thailand).
In the Belgian Karate championship held in Antwerp, the experts were stunned when Jean Claude Van Varenberg defeated three martial artists in 18, 39, and 26 seconds. At that time, he was only 18 years old and had never competed in the national tournament.
A few months later, the Belgian sports press went crazy when Jean-Claude defeated Emile Leibman and Cyrille Nollet, two famous Belgian boxers, right in the first half at the Karate tournament in Iseghem.
After defeating a series of French and American fighters, the name Jean-Claude began to attract the attention of martial arts organizations throughout Europe. Professional Karate Magazine confirmed that he would become a star in martial arts worldwide.
In 1979, Jean-Claude won the middleweight championship in the European Karate Championship. This victory paved the way for him to attend the World Karate in Orlando, USA.
In Orlando, Jean-Claude continued shocking the audience when he defeated Sherman Bergman, a famous martial artist of the state of Florida, USA. In the second half, he defeated Gil Diaz (Spain) in 33 seconds. However, Jean-Claude was stopped in the quarterfinals by Patrick Teugels. He was a Belgian who later became the runner-up of the 1979 Karate World Championship.
This was the only failure in his fighting history. In a rematch in Brussels a few months later, Jean-Claude defeated Patrick Teugels in less than two minutes. Immediately after the match, Jean-Claude retired from professional fighting with 14 victories and only 1 defeat.
Other activities besides martial arts
Besides martial arts, Jean-Claude also worked hard at weightlifting. He won the champion title in a bodybuilding competition called “Mr. Belgium” in Brussels in 1975.
At the age of 16, Jean-Claude studied ballet and pursued this art for 5 years. “Ballet is an art, but it is also the most difficult sport. If you could learn it well, you could practice all sports,” Jean-Claude explained the reason why he studied ballet.
After retiring from his peak fighting career, Jean-Claude opened a sports club named California in Brussels, where he earned about $ 15,000 per month, in 1980.
Giving up everything to pursue a passion for acting
In 1980, after giving up his peak career, Jean-Claude began to pursue a passion for acting. Getting the invitation to play a supporting role in two French films had ignited a passion for acting in this talented fighter. He sold his sports club and came to the United States in the hope of becoming an action movie actor.
In 1981, in Los Angeles, he did many jobs including dancers, pizza delivery, drivers, hotel receptionists, and waiters to make a living and learn English. The residence, and also the bed, of the Belgian fighter, was a car that he had to spend money to rent.
In 1984, Jean-Claude played a dancer in the breakdance dance scenes of Breakin. A year later, director Patrick Passis, a close friend, invited him to join in No Retreat, No Surrender.
He had the invitation to play a monster in Predator, the movie that Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in. But then he withdrew because he could not bear the weight of the monster’s clothes.
Jean-Claude’s film career began to change since he played a blind American fighter in the martial arts movie Bloodsport. The work was one of the “bricks” that laid the foundation for the development of the mixed martial arts film genre.
Critics did not highly appreciate the role of Jean-Claude. But it was the chance for the Belgian actor to join in the group of promising young stars in Hollywood.
In subsequent films, Jean-Claude became famous for his ability to perform more outstandingly than the professional cascade.
Since the early 1990s, Jean-Claude has often worked with famous foreign directors. Notable films include Double Impact (1991), Universal Soldier (1992), Nowhere to Run (1993), Hard Target (1993), Sudden Death (1995) and Timecop (1994).
These works have earned more than $ 1 billion worldwide. It also put the Belgian actor’s name on the ranks of the world’s top action stars. It could be comparable to Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, and Bruce Lee.
Jean-Claude’s tall body and muscles made him nicknamed “the muscular guy from Belgium”.
People remembered Van Damme with the image of a charming man with extremely fast kicks in the Karate style. But sometimes the audience felt that Van Damme overused his advantage. However, people still have to admit Jean Claude Van Damme is a suitable face for action movies, both in skill and appearance.