Interview with Jean-Claude Van Damme
Combat Karate magazine: May, 1986
Interview held by Publisher Michael DePasquale Jr.
At five foot ten inches tall, 185 pounds and at the age of 25, Jean-Claude Van Damme has been able to accomplish much in his life. A retired European Kick-boxing champion and presently a rising movie star in the American film industry, Jean-Claude can be Cannon film's answer to both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris. Out of his many accomplishments, he will be the first coverman for MUSCLE AND FITNESS to pose while executing a martial art technique. COMBAT KARATE was able to get an exclusive interview to share with its readers, with Jean-Claude during his stay in New York City.
Combat Karate: When did you start?
Jean-Claude: I started in Belgium, Brussels, when I was thirteen years old.
Combat Karate: What styles did you start with?
Jean-Claude: I started with Shotokan Karate.
Combat Karate: how long did you stay in Shotokan?
Jean-Claude: About four years.
Combat Karate: Have you practiced any other type of Martial Arts?
Jean-Claude: Light-contact and Full-contact.
Combat Karate: You mean Kick Boxing?
Jean-Claude: Yes, in Paris, Kick Boxing.
Combat Karate: I understand you were a champion. In what category or division was this in?
Jean-Claude: It was in the middle weight division back in 1981 when I was in Brussells.
Combat Karate: For what organization?
Combat Karate: W.A.K.O.?
Jean-Claude: That's right, a long time ago. I stopped fighting because first of all there is no money in the sport and you train very hard. I think I can do better in show business, in movies.
Combat Karate: Other than starting some movie roles in the United States, have you done anything like this in your home country?
Jean-Claude: Right, in Paris I did some French films, and I also did a lot of T.V. stuff in Belgium. I showed self-defense and Karate techniques. But anyway, in Europe you don't have any action films, that's why I moved to America. America has all the film companies such as Cannon, Orion and Tri-Star.
Combat Karate: Where did you first go when you moved to the United States?
Jean-Claude: First I moved from Brussells to Hong Kong to Los Angeles.
Combat Karate: Why Hong Kong?
Jean-Claude: I went there first because I was modeling for a magazine. Then I met Jacky Chan, and I tried to get involved in films, which I did. I had a very small part, but I am not Asian (Chinese) so I always played the bad guy. From Hong Kong I went to Los Angeles, and started to meet some people, like Chuck Norris. I trained with him for four months and stayed with him in the Philippines for the movie. M.I.A. MISSING IN ACTION. From then on, I continued to meet people until I finally signed a big contract with Cannon.
Combat Karate: Signing with Cannon was not your first American Film. Which was you first major Role in an American Film?
Jean-Claude: "Monaco Forever" I played a homosexual. It's a funny story. I did Karate in the film. Then I did a movie in the USA with NGCUN, the people who made Jacky Chan famous. The name was NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER. I played the bad guy. Then I did a film with Century/Fox and now this one with Cannon.
Combat Karate: your role in "No Retreat, No Surrender" was basically what type of character? What did you do?
Jean-Claude: I was a guy from Russia, a Champion, a bad guy with a mean looking face. That was about it. It was a low-budget film.
Combat Karate: For your new film, the one that you're working for Cannon. Tell me a little about it. First of all how was it that you got the Cannon people interested in you?
Jean-Claude: I met "Meneham Golan" a long time ago in Milano film festival. I walked to his door two or three months ago and sold myself to him and then he signed me. Simple as that. He met me five years ago in Milano film festival.
Combat Karate: How old are you?
Combat Karate: How tall are you? How much do you weigh?
Jean-Claude: I'm 5'10'' and 185 lbs.
Combat Karate: You're 5 foot ten inches tall and 185 lbs. and you're known for your jump kicks, I've seen some spectacular looking shots of you in action.
Jean-Claude: That's right. We have a famous kick in the movie called the helicopter kick. That's a unique kick. It's a 360 degree kick in the air. You have to see it in the movie.
Combat Karate: What movie?
Jean-Claude: In the movie with Cannon, I don't know the name.
Combat Karate: Do you do alot of Martial arts in the movie?
Jean-Claude: The future? If the movie goes well maybe I could sign with Cannon for more movies or with another company.
Combat Karate: Before you came to the United States what was it that you did in your homeland?
Jean-Claude: I owned a gym.
Combat Karate: So you've always been into weight training?
Combat Karate: Obviously, I can tell you believe that weight training will not hinder you, only help you.
Combat Karate: Do you still own those gyms out there?
Jean-Claude: I gave up the gyms, too many problems.
Combat Karate: Basically, you're here and earning your income here?
Jean-Claude: Yes, that's right.
Combat Karate: Working with Chuck Norris, you said you were with him in the Philippines. How did you find him as a person?
Jean-Claude: When I owned my gym in Brussells, I had sent him some magazines from Paris, and he answered me and told me that when I am in Los Angeles, to please come visit him. When I arrived in Los Angeles I called him up and then went directly to his house. We immediately started sparring together on my first day. He was very impressed and asked if I would train with him, stretch him, to train his kicks.
Combat Karate: So you were his training partner for a couple of months.
Jean-Claude: That's right.
Combat Karate: How was it working with Arnold on the movie after "No Retreat, No Surrender"
Jean-Claude: Nice. He is a very nice guy, very humble and a very funny person to work with, but he is a very hard worker, very professional.
Combat Karate: I imagine you weight trained with him?
Jean-Claude: We didn't train together. He had his own trainer. He had seen me spar with my friend Mitchel and was impressed about the Karate and everything, but he only trained with his trainer.
Combat Karate: In the movie that you are working with now (Cannon), is there anyone else important that we should know about?
Jean-Claude: Yes. In the Stallone movie COBRA, the blonde guy who played the lead bad guy, is playing the part of a German. It's a good budget film. There is going to be plenty of action and good fighting scenes. I don't know anymore about the actors until August when we do the casting.
Combat Karate: Have you always wanted to act?
Jean-Claude: I always wanted to go into showbusiness, ever since I was very young.
Combat Karate: Well I'm sure with the Cannon film you'll do great as an actor/star/martial artist.
Jean-Claude: I hope so too.