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Jean-Claude Van Damme (born Jean-Claude Camille François Van Vaerenbergh, ) is a Belgianmarker martial artist and actor who is best known for martial arts and action movies. His most successful films include Bloodsport (1988), Universal Soldier (1992), Hard Target (1993), and Timecop (1994). Due to his physique and his Belgian background, he is sometimes known as "The Muscles from Brussels."

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 breakout success with Bloodsport (1988), based on the alleged true story of Frank Dux. He attained subsequent box office successwith Timecop (1994), which grossed over $100 million worldwide and became his most financially successful film.

Personal life

Van Damme was born Jean-Claude Camille François Van Vaerenbergh (also spelled Varenburg) in Berchem-Sainte-Agathemarker (Brusselsmarker), born in Belgium, the son of Eliana and Eugène Van Vaerenbergh, who was an accountant and owned a flower shop. 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, later winning the European Karate Association's middleweight championship in a stunning upset versus the former champion Michael J. Heming (although he has claimed that he was "twice world champion"). He started lifting weights to improve his physique, which eventually led to a Mr. Belgium bodybuilding title.

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 picaresque aphorisms that he delivers on a wide range of topics (personal well-being, the environment, etc.) in a sort of Zen franglais. Most iconic and often quoted was his repeated use of the English word aware during an interview for a French channel, to convey the notion of self-awareness as a key to success.

After the filming of the 1998 movie Knock Off, Van Damme was diagnosed with rapid cycling bi-polar disorder after becoming suicidal and started treatment on the bi-polar medication sodium valproate to stabilize his mood.

In a 2009 interview in the British newspaper The Sun, promoting his film JCVD (of which Time magazine said "He deserves not a black belt, but an Oscar®"), Van Damme indicated he experienced a period of homelessness "sleeping on the street and starving in L.A."

Van Damme has been married five times, including two marriages with bodybuilder and fitness competitor Gladys Portugues. Van Damme has three children: Kristopher (born 1987), Bianca (born 1990), and Nicholas (born 1995).

Fight career

At the age of 12, Van Damme joined the Centre National De Karate (National Center of Karate) under the guidance of Master Claude Goetz in France. Van Damme trained for four years and he earned a spot on the France Karate Team.

Jean-Claude made his debut in 1976, at the age of 16. Competing under his birth name of Jean Claude Van Varenberg, Jean-Claude was staggered by a round-house kick thrown by Toon Van Oostrum in Brussels, Belgium. Van Damme was badly stunned, but came back to knockout Van Oostrum moments later.

In 1977, at the WAKO Open International in Belgium, Jean-Claude lost a decision to fellow team mate Patrick Teugels. The experience left an impact on Claude Goetz and he felt that Jean-Claude needed more training before competing again.

After six months of intense training and sparring, Master Goetz decided to unleash his prized pupil on the European Full-Contact scene. Jean-Claude won his first tournament by scoring three knockout victories in one evening. However, in a 1978 match for the Belgium lightweight title, he again lost a decision to Patrick Teugels. Once again, the loss left an impact on Claude Goetz and a few months later at Iseghem, Belgium, Van Damme came back and knocked out Emile Leibman in the first round. In 1979, Jean-Claude and the Belgium Team became European Team Champions.

Next, Jean-Claude faced Sherman Bergman, a kick-boxer from Florida (USA) with a long string of knockout victories. For the first and only time in his career, Jean-Claude was knocked to the canvas after absorbing a powerful left hook. However, Jean-Claude climbed off the canvas and with a perfectly timed ax-kick, knocked Bergman out cold in 59 seconds of the first round. Van Damme ended 1979 with a stoppage of Gilberto Diaz in one round.

In 1980, Jean-Claude Van Damme defeated former Great Britain karate champion Michael J. Heming. Next, Van Damme scored a knockout over France's Georges Verlugels in two rounds. After these victories, Jean-Claude caught the attention of the European martial arts community. Professional Karate Magazine publisher and editor Mike Anders, and multiple European champion Geet Lemmens tabbed Jean-Claude Van Damme as an upcoming prospect. However, Jean-Claude's ambitions now focused in the direction of movie acting.

Van Damme ended his fight career at the Forest Nationals in Brussels. He knocked Patrick Teugels down and scored a first round technical knockout victory. Teugels suffered a nose injury and was unable to continue.

Following the victory, Van Damme retired from martial arts competition. His final fight record was 18–1, with all wins being knockouts and the loss being a decisions after two rounds.

Fight Record
Date Event Opponent Result
1976 European Karate Union Win, 1 round KO
1977 Netherlands Kick Boxing Win, 1 round TKO
1978 European Karate Union Win, 1 round KO
1978 European Karate Union Win, 1 round KO
1978 European Karate Union Win, 1 round TKO
1978 World All Style Win, 1 round KO
1978 World All Style Win, 1 round TKO
1979 World All Style Win, 1 round KO
1979 World All Style Win, 1 round KO
1979 World All Style Win, 1 round KO
1979 November World Full Contact Win, 1 round KO
1979 November World Full Contact Win, 1 round TKO
1979 November World Full Contact Loss, 2 round decision
1980 March European Professional Win, 1 round KO
1980 March European Professional Win, 1 round TKO
1980 March European Professional Win, 2 round TKO
1980 March Professional Karate Assoc. Win, 2 round KO
1980 European Professional Win, 2 round KO
1980 Forest Nationals (Brussels) Win, 1 round TKO

Film career

In 1982, Van Damme and childhood friend, Michel Qissi, relocated to America in the hope of becoming action stars. They both were cast in extras in the film, Breakin'. After a small part in Missing In Action, Van Damme was next cast in the movie No Retreat, No Surrender, as the role of the villain, Ivan the Russian. 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 higher budgeted movie Cyborg. His last role for 1989 was Kurt Sloane in the successful Kickboxer. In this movie, his character fought to avenge his brother who had 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 movie reunited him with his former Bloodsport star, Bolo Yeung. He then starred opposite Dolph Lundgren in the action movie 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 $20 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 movie to date.

After his role in the poorly received Street Fighter, his projects started to fail at the box office. The Quest (1996), which he directed; Maximum Risk (1996) and Double Team (1997) were box-office flop.

His last theatrical released movie was Universal Soldier: The Return. All his movies after this, up until 2008's JCVD, had been direct to video releases.

Van Damme had worked for director John McTiernan for the 1987 movie Predator as the titular alien, before being removed and replaced by Kevin Peter Hall.

In 2003, Van Damme employed his dancing training in the music video for Bob Sinclar's Kiss My Eyes.

Van Damme will reprise his role as Luc Devereaux in the upcoming movie Universal Soldier: Regeneration.

Van Damme was offered a lead role in Sylvester Stallone's upcoming film The Expendables. Stallone called Van Damme personally to offer him the role, but Van Damme turned it down, citing that he "doesn't want his career going down that route."


Van Damme in 2007
Year Title Role Director
1984 Breakin' Guy dancing in the background
Monaco Forever Gay Karate Man
1985 No Retreat, No Surrender Ivan Krushensky
1988 Bloodsport Frank Dux
Black Eagle Andrei
1989 Cyborg Gibson Rickenbacker
Kickboxer Kurt Sloane , David Worth
1990 Death Warrant Louis Burke
Lionheart Lyon Gaultier
1991 Double Impact Alex Wagner/Chad Wagner
1992 Universal Soldier Luc Deveraux/GR44
1993 Hard Target Chance Boudreaux
Nowhere to Run Sam Gillen
1994 Street Fighter Colonel William F. Guile
Timecop Max Walker
1995 Sudden Death Darren McCord
Friends Himself
1996 Maximum Risk Alain Moreau/Mikhail Suverov
The Quest Christopher Dubois
1997 Double Team Jack Quinn
1998 Legionnaire Alain Lefevre
Knock Off Marcus Ray
1999 Universal Soldier: The Return Luc Devereaux
Inferno Eddie Lomax
2001 The Order Rudy Cafmeyer/Charles Le Vaillant
Replicant Edward "The Torch" Garrotte/Replicant
2002 Derailed Jacques Kristoff
2003 In Hell Kyle LeBlanc
2004 Wake of Death Ben Archer
Narco Jean's Ghost by Lenny , Gilles Lellouche
2006 The Hard Corps Phillip Sauvage
Second in Command Sam Keenan
Sınav Charles
2007 Until Death Anthony Stowe
2008 The Shepherd: Border Patrol Jack Robideaux
JCVD Jean-Claude Van Damme (a fictional character based on himself)
2009 The Eagle Path Frenchy
Universal Soldier: Regeneration Luc Deveraux John Hyams
2010 Karate The Piston


Year Title Episode Role
1996 Friends "The One After the Superbowl" Himself
2006 Las Vegas "Die Fast, Die Furious" Himself
2009 Robot Chicken "Maurice Was Caught" Rhett Butler/Count Dracula

Dual roles

Van Damme has been cast in "dual roles" in a single film many times during his career. Most cases involve two distinct characters, but others (TimeCop) involve the same character from different periods of time-travel. These scenes often necessitate special editing or blue-screen cinematography to have two versions of the actor interacting in the same scene.Those "dual-role" movies to date are
  • Double Impact: Van Damme plays twin brothers separated at birth and raised in different countries.
  • Timecop: Van Damme plays two versions of the same character overlapping in space-time continuum.
  • Maximum Risk: Van Damme plays twin brothers separated at birth, one of which was murdered.
  • The Order: Van Damme plays two different characters in different eras.
  • Replicant: Van Damme plays a serial killer and his futuristic clone and mafioso rockstar Repli Gotti.

Awards and nominations


  1. 'Playboy interview', Lawrence Grobel, Playboy, January 1, 1995
  3. Not over the Undertaker. (The Fans Speak Out). | Wrestling Digest (, 2003)
  4. 'Sudden Death' star Jean-Claude Van Damme isn't so tough - just ask him. | Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (, 1995)
  5. Jean-Claude Van Damme Biography (1960-)
  6. Jean-Claude van Damme Biography - Yahoo! Movies
  7. Belgian Bruiser Muscles Into B-Movie Scene ', John Stanley, San Francisco Chronicle, 2 April 1989
  8. Karate black belt)
  9. 'Van Damme speaks language of karate', Louis B Parks, Houston Chronicle, 29 April 1988
  10. 'Van Damme gets his kicks from acting now, not karate', Jae-Ha Kim, Chicago Sun-Times, 14 April 1989
  11. Abstract Thinker
  12. [1]
  13. Van Damme: "My eldest son doesn't know how to deal with society because I over-protect him because of my last life of being on the street and sleeping on the street and starving in L.A. I didn't want him to have that."
  21. Jean-Claude Van Damme Official Website

Further reading

  • YouTube Video: JC Van Damme vs Patrick Teugels (1980)-The True Story
  • WAKO: MARTIAL ARTS (Traditions, History, People, by John Corcoran & Emil Farkas. Gallery Books, W.H. Smith Publishers, Inc. 112 Madison, New York City 10016. 1988. Pages: 60, 265.
  • PKA World Heavyweight Title: MARTIAL ARTS, by John Corcoran & Emil Farkas. 1988. Pages: 285–286.
  • EKU: MARTIAL ARTS, by John Corcoran & Emil Farkas. 1988. Pages: 210, 393.
  • Inside Kung-Fu Presents: Martial Artists One on One, March 1990: Jean-Claude Van Damme, pages 16–25, by John Steven Soet.
  • Karate Kung-Fu Illustrated: April, 1991, Gunning for Van Damme, by Tim Vandehey.
  • Xuat Tinh Som (Tre Today News), 31 December 2007: Jean-Claude Van Damme.

External links

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