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Jean-Claude Van Damme (born Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg 18 October 1960(1960-10-18)) is a Belgian martial artist and actor who is best known for martial arts and action movies, the most successful being Universial Soldier and Kickboxer. His Belgian background and his physique furnished him the nickname The Muscles from Brussels.
Van Damme was born Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg (also spelled Varenburg) in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe (Brussels), Belgium, the son of Eliana (a Muslim mother) and Eugène Van Vaerenbergh (and Dutch father) , who was an accountant and owned 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 in a stunning upset vs. the former champion Michael J. Heming (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.”
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, the environment, etc.) in a sort of Zen franglais.  Most iconic and often quoted was his repeated use of the English word aware during an interview for a French channel, to convey the notion of self-awareness as a key to success.
A self-professed animal lover, Van Damme owns a cat and nine dogs, seven of which he rescued from Thailand. In a 2009 interview in the British newspaper The Sun, promoting his film JCVD, he indicated he experienced a period of homelessness in Los Angeles “sleeping on the street and starving in L.A.”
Van Damme has been married five times, including two marriages with his current wife, bodybuilder and fitness competitor Gladys Portugues. Van Damme has 3 children: Kristopher born 1987, Bianca born 1990, and Nicholas born 1995.
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