Action movie and Martial Arts superstar Jean Claude Van Damme was on stage demonstrating his kicking techniques when the fan helping the demonstration strikes him in the face.
Van Damme was born Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg, on 18 October 1960, in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Brussels, Belgium, the son of Eliana and Eugène Van Varenberg, who was an accountant and florist. His father is Walloon (French-speaking) from Brussels, and his mother is Flemish (Dutch-speaking). Van Damme’s paternal grandmother was Jewish.
He began martial arts at the age of ten, enrolled by his father in a Shōtōkan Karate School. His styles consist of Shōtōkan Karate and Kickboxing. He eventually earned his black belt in karate at 18. 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.” Later he took up both Taekwondo and Muay Thai.
At the age of 12, 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 with Dominique Valera. At the age of 15, Van Damme started his competitive karate career in Belgium. From 1976 to 1980, Van Damme compiled a record of 44 victories and 4 defeats in tournament and non-tournament semi-contact matches.
Van Damme was a member of the Belgium Karate Team when it won the European Karate Championship on 26 December 1979 at La Coupe François Persoons Karate Tournament in Brussels. Van Damme placed second at the Challenge Coupe des Espoirs Karate Tournament (1st Trials). At the 3-day tournament, Van Damme defeated 25 opponents before losing in the finals to teammate Angelo Spataro.
On 8 March 1980, in Brussels, Belgium, Van Damme competed against his former teammate Patrick Teugels at the Forest National Arena on the undercard of the Dan Macaruso-Dominique Valera Professional Karate Association Light-Heavyweight World Championship bout. Prior to this match, Teugels had defeated Van Damme twice by decision, including a match for the Belgium Lightweight Championship. Van Damme had a 1977 victory over Teugels. Teugels was coming off an impressive showing at the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations 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 to Van Damme by TKO in the 1st round. Teugels was kicked in the nose and was unable to continue as a result. In a 2013 interview, Van Damme called this fight his most memorable match.
Van Damme began his full-contact career in 1977, when Claude Goetz promoted the first ever full-contact karate tournament in Belgium. From 1977 to 1982, Van Damme compiled a record of 18 victories (18 knockouts) and 1 defeat. He was even named “Mr. Belgium” in a bodybuilding competition. In 1980, Van Damme caught the attention of Professional Karate Magazine publisher and editor Mike Anderson, and multiple European champion Geert Lemmens. Both men tabbed Van Damme as an upcoming prospect. Van Damme retired from competition in 1982.
Since 2009, Van Damme has been planning to make a comeback to fight former boxing Olympic gold-medalist Somluck Kamsing.The fight was a focal point in his ITV reality show Jean Claude Van Damme: Behind Closed Doors. The fight has been repeatedly postponed, with many critics doubting it will occur, especially due to the difficulty of booking the venue. December 2012, Van Damme was seen as part of Kam Sing’s ring crew when Kam Sing fought against Jomhod Kiatadisak.