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JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME

Jean-Claude Van Damme was born Jean-Claude Franois Camille Van Varenberg, on October 18, 1960 in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, on the outskirts of Brussels, Belgium. Van Damme is best known for his martial arts action movies. His most successful films include Bloodsport (1988), Kickboxer (1989), Double Impact (1991), Universal Soldier (1992), Hard Target (1993), and Timecop (1994). Due to his physique and his Belgian background, he is known as The Muscles from Brussels.

Life and Career Jean-Claude Van Dammes parents were simple, everyday people owning a flower shop. Van Damme was a short and skinny child wearing big, thick glasses. He was much a nerd and a shy, withdrawn child, enjoying books and Beethovens music. Van Dammes early childhood photos make it clear that he was no athlete either. Van Damme had to train hard in order to become a champion, as well as an accomplished body builder and a skilled classical dancer. The unimaginable transformation of Van Damme started when his father enrolled him in 1971 at age of 10 in Shotokan, a martial art devoted to total mind-body control. However, Van Damme had to train with older (16 and 17) boys, this situation helped him to overcome his fear of the stronger boys. He trained hard by lifting weights, punching sandbags and striking poles. The training under his talented master made Van Damme become an amazing sportsman, who developed an impressive method of high kicks and fast strikes. In 1976, Jean-Claude started his martial arts fight career. Over the next 6-years, he competed in both full-contact and semi-contact matches. Van Damme also studied classical ballet, this type of dance teaching him to be more flexible. At the dance studio he was known as the Balloon for his high jumps. Van Damme was invited to join the Paris Opera as a dancer, but he declined the offer in order to further pursue karate.

As the Full Contact European Karate Champion, Van Damme opened a successful gym school in his hometown and studied other full-contact sports as Tae Kwon Do, Muay Tai and kickboxing. When he was offered a minor role in 1984 in the French film Rue Barbare (Barbarian Streets), Van Damme accepted and cast as a policeman. Being fascinated with drama, JeanClaude changed his interest from karate to acting. In pursuit of his acting goal, he abandoned home life and traveled first to Hong Kong as a model, but with no real success. After this attempt, he went to Hollywood in the USA, in the hope of becoming action star. Despite his good looks and athletic skills, Van Dammes lack of English held him back for a good while. The movie business didn't welcome him with open arms and his first experiences of working in America were as a taxi driver, carpet layer, and pizza delivery driver. But Van Damme was ambitious and perseverant, and he refused to give up to an acting career. Therefore, he first accepted a simple role, in 1984, in the movie Breakin as a passerby, who stops to watch a dance sequence. The next movie role in the USA was in 1984, in the short comical film Monaco Forever. That role was also a small one and he was credited as VanDam not Van Damme. He performed only 2 minutes and 13 seconds as a muscular, barefoot young man. At age of 23, having recently won the International Professional European Kickboxing Championship, Van Damme became the personal trainer for karate movie star Chuck Norris. Thanks to Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude received a small role as a stunt man in Norris movie Missing in Action. Also this movie was not overly successful and did little to advance Van Dammes acting. In the movie No Retreat, No Surrender released in 1985 Van Damme acted his first most meaningful role, by playing the bad guy, a villain character who is defeated in the closing match. The 1988 movie Bloodsport brought fame to Van Damme at last. This movie was based on a story of a young fighter named Frank Dux, who became the first American winner of

the Kumite, an international deadly full-contact contest. Filmed in Hong Kong, the movie Bloodsport has become a definite classic film for the fans of full-contact movies. Due to his ballet and intense bodybuilding training, Van Damme was capable of performing remarkable athletic moves. Van Damme demonstrated his unique contribution to the martial arts genre: executing a karate kick to his opponent's head during an impressive 360degree leap. As an actor, Van Damme excelled in his karate tournament scenes, which reflected far greater attacks then those typically appeals found during true ringside fights. His powerfully fight scenes relied little on special effects and on props, common for the most fight scenes. Cameras were placed strategically around the ring for close ups and for low-angle shots in order to capture the beauty of Van Dammes nearly unbelievable high jumps and 360 degree spins. Jean Claude Van Damme said often that he wanted to become a star, and thus to make people dream. He became both, a champion and a well known actor, only through hard work, practice, training and perseverance. He was a champion of karate in the real life, as well as in his movie roles.