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Jean Claude Van Damme

Real name: Jean-Claude Camille Francois Van Varenburg
Birthdate: October 18, 1960
Status: Married
Partner: Gladys Portugues

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Jean-Claude Van Damme (born October 18, 1960) is a Belgian-born martial artist and actor who is best known for his large catalogue of action movies. His Belgian background combined with his physique gave rise to his nickname "The Muscles from Brussels". Van Damme has also been called the "King of the Belgians" due to his international superstardom.

Van Damme was born Jean-Claude Camille Fran├žois Van Varenberg in Sint-Agatha-Berchem, in the Brussels-Capital Region, to Eliana and Eugene Van Varenberg, a belgian man, and an accountant and owner of a flower shop. He began martial arts at the age of ten, enrolled by his father in a shotokan karate school. He eventually earned his black belt in karate, later winning the European Professional Karate Association's middleweight championship (although he has claimed that he was "twice world champion"). He also 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. He says of ballet that it "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."

Jean-Claude's karate teacher and coach was Claude Goetz in Brussels, Belgium. Under Goetz's guidance, Van Damme developed an impressive array of kicks and strikes. Van Damme has also studied Taekwondo and Muay Thai, along with Shotokan Karate.

In 1978, at the age of 18, Jean-Claude made his full-contact karate debut under his birth name, Jean Claude Van Varenberg. Entering a tournament in Antwerp, Belgium in the Novice Division, Jean-Claude scored three victories;an 18 second knockout over Germany's Eric "Basel" Strauss, a default over Michel Juvillier, and a 26 second stoppage of Orlando Lang. A few months later at a tournament in Iseghem, Belgium, Van Damme knocked out both Emile Leibman and Cyrille Nollet in the first round.

After fighting on the under-card of the main event between France's Dominique Valera and the U.S.A.'s Dan Macaruso in Brussels, Belgium, in which he knocked out a fighter named Verlugels in 2 rounds, Van Damme started to catch the attention of the Martial Arts World. According to Mike Anders, founder of Professional Karate Magazine, and multiple European Champion Geet Lemmens, Van Damme was definitely an upcoming prospect.

Van Damme has had nude appearances in many of his films, though his nudity has only been shown from the rear. He first appeared nude in Bloodsport, with numerous such appearances in his subsequent films, including a lengthy one in Universal Soldier.

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, ecology, etc.) in a strange mixture of French and English. He is especially well known for his use of the English word aware when speaking French. While delivering an interview for a French channel, he used the English word "aware" in order to introduce the notion of self-awareness as a key of success.


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