18 october, 1960
When Jean-Claude Van Damme became an international film star, there was some debate as to his kick-boxing accomplishments. Former multiple World Kickboxing Champion Don "The Dragon" Wilson even offered Jean-Claude a "$100,000" bounty match to get into the ring and fight him. Van Damme brushed off the "challenge" as a publicity stunt. But, the truth of the matter was that Jean-Claude Van Damme was a successful semi-contact and full-contact fighter who competed in Europe and briefly in the United States from 1976-1982.
At the age of 12, Van Damme began his martial arts training at Centre National De Karate (National Center of Karate) under the guidance of Master Claude Goetz in Ixelles, Belgium. Van Damme trained for 4 years and earned a spot on the Belgium Karate Team.
In 1976 at the age of sixteen, Jean-Claude started his Martial Arts fight career. Over the next 6-years, he competed in both full-contact and semi-contact matches.
He debuted under his birth name of Jean Claude Van Varenberg. In his first match, Jean-Claude was staggered by a round-house kick thrown by fellow countryman, Toon Van Oostrum in Brussels, Belgium. Van Damme was badly stunned, but came back to knockout Van Oostrum moments later.
In 1977, at the WAKO Open International in Antwerp, Belgium, Jean-Claude lost a decision to fellow team mate Patrick Teugels in a semi-contact match.
At the 1978 Challenge De Espoirs Karate Tournament (1st Trials),Jean-Claude placed 2nd in the semi-contact division. He defeated twenty-five opponents during the week long tournament, but lost in the finals to Angelo Spataro from the Naha Club.
Later in 1978,Jean-Claude lost a 3-round match for the Belgium Lightweight Championship (semi-contact) to his fellow team-mate to Patrick Teugels.
In 1979, Jean-Claude traveled to the United States of America, to Tampa, Florida. In his first and only match against a United States opponent, Van Damme faced 'Sherman 'Big Train'Bergman', a kick-boxer from the Miami Beach, Florida. For the first and only time in his career, Jean-Claude was knocked to the canvas after absorbing a powerful left hook from Bergman. However, Jean-Claude climbed off the canvas and with a perfectly timed ax-kick, knocked Bergman out in 56 seconds of the first round.
Jean-Claude was a member of the Belgium team which competed on December 26, 1979 at the La Coupe Fancois Persoons Karate Tournament which was sanctioned by the Federation bruxelloise de Karate. Van Damme's final match victory enabled his team to win the European Team Karate Championship.
In Full-Contact karate, Jean-Claude knocked out England's Micheal Heming in 46 seconds of the first round.
In 1980, Jean-Claude Van Damme knocked out France's Georges Verlugels in 2 rounds of a match fought under kick-boxing rules.
Jean-Claude wanted to defeat his rival Patrick Teugels. At the Forest Nationals in Brussels, on March 8, 1980, Jean-Claude knocked Teugels down and Teugels suffered a nose injury and was unable to continue. Jean-Claude was awarded a first round victory.
Jean-Claude retired from martial arts in 1982, following a knockout over Nedjad Gharbi in Brussels,Belgium.
Jean-Claude posted a 18-1 (18 knockouts) Kickboxing record, and a Semi-Contact record of 41-4.
After Jean-Claude's film career took off, controversy arose because none of his fights were found. Some experts blasted Van Damme as a fake, saying he only had one amateur fight which he lost. But research and the Internet have finally cleared things up. Jean-Claude Van Damme fought his entire fight career under his birth name of Van Varenberg; thus the mix-up.