On video | Van Damme: 60 years of life, martial arts and excesses

The image of the Belgian actor Jean-Claude Van Damme performing a split (lateral opening of the legs) on any surface became a great reference in action cinema and martial arts. Its elasticity allowed him to create fantastic blows such as the flying kick with 360 ° rotation or helicopter kick, in which he mixed techniques of karate and classical ballet, something that aroused the interest of fans of this type of martial choreography.

In order to achieve world recognition, he had to migrate to the United States in 1982 with the illusion of venturing into Hollywood cinema. While that was happening, he made a living as a taxi driver, pizza delivery man, carpet installer, security guard and sparring partner for Chuck Norris, another action movie great.

His first role was as an extra in the 1984 film Missing in Action (known in Colombia as Prisoner of War), thanks to a recommendation from Norris. Two years later he begins to emerge after becoming the antagonist of the film Never Back Down, Never Surrender.

His first leading role was in the film Bloody Contact (1988), a tribute to Frank Dux, the greatest exponent of martial arts in Canada and the United States.

That movie co-starred Bolo Yeung, a Chinese bodybuilder also skilled in karate-do and kung fu. Bolo was a great friend of Bruce Lee and his success in the cinema is also due to Jean Claude Vandamme, with whom he still maintains a good friendship.

Among his most remembered films are: Kickboxer, Lawless Fighting Lion, Double Impact, Universal Soldier and The Colony.

Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg (his first name) celebrates 60 years of life today. He knows very well what it is like to reach the top, but also due to his excesses of liquor, hallucinogens and women, he headed towards a dark alley from which it is difficult to escape. “He spent up to $ 10,000 a week on cocaine,” said Steven De Souza, director of the film version of the video game Street Fighter, which Van Damme starred in in 1994.

For others, especially people of the new generations, the image of Van Damme is only referenced in their conversations on WhatsApp and social networks as a meme, a funny character who dances in a very peculiar way in a scene from Kickboxer, while drinking in a canteen.

Beyond that, in his film career he had to defeat great rivals like Tong Po in Kickboxer, but he also found great allies such as basketball star Dennis Rodman, his fellow adventurer in The Colony.

His name is still valid as an actor, producer and director. In this last aspect, he has stood out for films such as The Quest or Full love. Another successful film in which Jean Claude Van Damme starred is The Indestructibles 2 (2012), in which he is the main villain. A constellation of stars from the action movies led by Sylvester Stallone participates in this film. They are followed by: Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Liam Hemsworth.

Julio Lara, teacher, critic and public educator, pointed out that Van Dame is a reference of the great exponents of martial arts in the film industry, and although he is not at the height of Bruce Lee or Yuen Woo-Ping, he remains in the Top 10.

“The first reference I had of him was from the movie Bloody Contact, from there I began to notice that his career coincided with certain directors who suddenly sowed some kind of seed in Hollywood. A memorable film in his career is Universal Soldier, which marks the debut of German director Roland Emmerich, who later made Independence Day, Godzila, The Day After Tomorrow, among others ”.

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