He was born Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg in Sint-Agatha Berchem, Flanders. He changed his name to Frank Cujo at the begining of his career, then later changed it to Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Jean-Claude started martial arts at the age of 11, his father introduced him to martial arts when he saw that Jean-Claude was physically weak. Jean-Claude won the European professional karate associations middleweight championship as a teenager, and also beat the 2nd best karate fighter in the world. His goal was to be number one but got sidetracked when he left his hometown of Brussels and moved to the United States in 1981, in search of movie stardom.
When he moved to the USA, he didn't speak English, didn't know anyone,and only had 2,000 dollars to his name, which he lived on for almost 5 yrs. He took English classes while working as carpet layer, limo driver, and thanks to Chuck Norris he got a job as a bouncer at a club. Chuck Norris also gave Van Damme a small role in the movie Missing in Action, but it wasn't good enough to get anybody's attention.
Then in 1984 he got a role as a villian named Ivan in the low-budget movie No Retreat, No Surrender. His martial arts assets, highlighted by his ability to deliver a kick to an opponent's head during a leaping 360-degree turn, and his good looks led to starring roles in higher budgeted movies.
Jean-Claude continued searching everywhere and everyone for a role in a movie. Then one day, while walking on the streets, he spotted a producer for Cannon Pictures, and showed some of his abilities to him. The next day Jean-Claude went to the producer's office and he gavehim the leading role in Bloodsport.
The film shot in Hong Kong on a meager 1.5 million dollar budget, became a U.S box-office hit in the spring of 1988. It made about 30 million world and audiences supported this film for only one reason. Its star was sensational. Jean-Claude, the skinny, goofy kid who loved classical music and dreamed of movie stardom, had made it. After the success of Bloodsport, Jean-Claude went on to make a list of hit movies, and who would have thought he would later end up on drugs.
After his 1995 movie Sudden Death, Van Damme plummeted at the box-office. Every movie he made after 95' plugged and the stress lead him to cocaine.
After 95' he was in the media but only because of his drug usage and other personal problems that he had. In 1998 Van Damme realised that it was time to stop the drugs and problems and get control over his life once again.
With help from his family he got control over his life, faced his problems and in 1998 he made the movie Knockoff, although it wasn't a success, Jean-Claude still tryed and filmed two straight to video movies Desert Heat and Legionnaire, and although Universal Soldier: The Return went to theatres it too wasn't a success, Jean-Claude gave his fans what they wanted to see, his acting in those movies got better and each movie was action packed.
Jean-Claude lives with his wife and three children, has made over a dozen hit movies, and his name is known around the world.
Rumor has it that Van Damme is bisexual, and likes to have sex with men, and then have his girlfriend humiliate him for it. True or false? We don't know, and cannot endorse this rumor.