Birth: 18-10-1960 , Sint-Agatha-Berchem, Brussels, Belgium
Van Damme was born in Sint-Agatha-Berchem (Brussels), Belgium, the son of Eliana and Eugène Van Varenberg, 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. His styles consist of kickboxing, Shotokan karate, Muay Thai, and Taekwondo. He eventually earned his black belt in karate. He started lifting weights to improve his physique, which eventually led to a Mr. Belgium bodybuilding title.

At the age of 12, Van Damme joined the Centre National De Karaté (National Center of Karate) under the guidance of Claude Goetz in France. Van Damme trained for four years and he earned a spot in the Belgian Karate Team.

He made his debut in 1976, at the age of 16. Competing under his birth name of Jean Claude Van Varenberg, he was staggered by a round-house kick thrown by Toon Van Oostrum in Brussels, Belgium. Van Damme was badly stunned, but came back to knock out Van Oostrum moments later. In 1977, at the WAKO Open International in Belgium, Van Damme lost a decision to fellow team mate Patrick Teugels. The experience left an impact on Claude Goetz and he felt that Jean-Claude needed more training before competing again.

After six months of intense training and sparring, Master Goetz decided to unleash his prized pupil on the European Full-Contact scene. Jean-Claude won his first tournament by scoring three knockout victories in one evening. However, in a 1978 match for the Belgium lightweight title, he again lost a decision to Patrick Teugels. Once again, the loss left an impact on Claude Goetz and a few months later at Iseghem, Belgium, Van Damme came back and knocked out Emile Leibman in the first round. In 1979, Jean-Claude and the Belgium Team became European Team Champions.

Next, he faced Sherman Bergman, a kickboxer from Florida, USA with a long string of knockout victories. For the only time in his career, Van Damme was knocked to the canvas after absorbing a powerful left hook. However, Jean-Claude climbed off the canvas and with a perfectly timed ax-kick, knocked Bergman out cold in 59 seconds of the first round. Van Damme ended 1979 with a stoppage of Gilberto (Gil) Diaz in one round.

In 1980, Jean-Claude Van Damme defeated former Great Britain karate champion Michael J. Heming. Next, Van Damme scored a knockout over France's Georges Verlugels in two rounds. After these victories, Jean-Claude caught the attention of the European martial arts community. Professional Karate Magazine publisher and editor Mike Anders, and multiple European champion Geet Lemmens tabbed Jean-Claude Van Damme as an upcoming prospect. However, Jean-Claude's ambitions now focused in the direction of acting.

Van Damme ended his fight career at the Forest National in Brussels. He knocked Patrick Teugels down and scored a first round technical knockout victory. Teugels suffered a nose injury and was unable to continue. Following the victory, Van Damme retired from martial arts competition. However, Van Damme made a comeback in 1981. In his first match he knocked out Henk Besselman of Holland in one round, and at the 1st Journée Des Arts Martiaux, Van Damme knocked out Lenny Leikman in 3 rounds. His final fight record was 20–2 (20 Knockouts), with all wins being knockouts and his two losses being by decision.

Van Damme will make a return to fighting and is scheduled to fight former boxing Olympic gold-medalist Somluck Kamsing in November 2011.[19] Early reports have named Las Vegas, USA, Moscow, Russia and Macau, China as locations for the bout but it now seems that the fight will take place at the Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand. At the prospect of being the first man over the age of 50 to kickbox professionally, Van Damme stated that "it's kind of dangerous, but life is short."

In 1982, Van Damme and childhood friend, Michel Qissi, moved to America in the hope of becoming action stars. They both were cast as extras in the film, Breakin'. After a small part in 'Missing In Action', Van Damme was next cast in the film 'No Retreat, No Surrender', as the role of the villain, Ivan the Russian. Van Damme worked for director John McTiernan for the 1987 film 'Predator' as the titular alien, before being removed and replaced by Kevin Peter Hall. His breakout film was 'Bloodsport', based on the alleged true story of Frank Dux. He then starred in the smaller budgeted film 'Cyborg'. His last role for 1989 was Kurt Sloane in the successful 'Kickboxer'.

'Double Impact' featured Van Damme in the dual role of Alex and Chad Wagner, two brothers fighting to avenge the deaths of their parents. Van Damme followed 'Nowhere To Run' and 'Hard Target' with 'Timecop' in 1994. The film was a huge success worldwide. It remains his highest grossing film to date.

After his role in the poorly received 'Street Fighter', his projects started to fail at the box-office. The Quest (1996), which he directed; Maximum Risk (1996) and Double Team (1997) were box-office flops. The 1999 film 'Universal Soldier: The Return' which was also a box-office flop and Van Damme's last theatrically released film until 2008. In 2003, Van Damme employed his dancing training in the music video for Bob Sinclar's 'Kiss My Eyes'.

He returned to mainstream with limited theatrical release of the critically acclaimed film JCVD in 2008. Time magazine named Van Damme's performance in the film the second best of the year (after Heath Ledger's The Joker in The Dark Knight), having previously stated that Van Damme "deserves not a black belt, but an Oscar". Van Damme reprised his role as Luc Deveraux in the 2009 film Universal Soldier: Regeneration. He was offered a lead role in Sylvester Stallone's latest film 'The Expendables'. Stallone called Van Damme personally to offer him the role, but Van Damme turned it down, as he was due to be training for his upcoming fight with Somluck Kamsing. He has a series of film projects warmed up for 2011, including another 'Universal Soldier' movie which will appear between 2011 and 2012, and the possibility to appear on the sequel to 'The Expendables'.

At the age of 16 he took up ballet, which he studied for five years. According to Van Damme, ballet "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 famous 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.

Van Damme has been married five times, including two marriages with bodybuilder and fitness competitor Gladys Portugues. Van Damme is the father of three children: Kristopher (born 1987), Bianca (born 1990), and Nicholas (born 1995).

Van Damme had troubles with cocaine that started during 1995. He entered a month-long rehabilitation program in 1996 but left it after only one week. In 1996, he spent up to $10,000 a week on cocaine. He is also reported to have experienced bipolar disorder. A turning point in his health issues came in late 1997, after having signed divorce papers charging him with spousal abuse, and drug addiction.

After the filming of the 1998 film Knock Off, Van Damme was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder after becoming suicidal and started treatment on the bi-polar medication sodium valproate to stabilize his mood. Thanks to long-term friend Raymond, he took his advice and entered drug rehab a second time, and successfully came clean in time to do other movies, along with made for video/cable movies.