Even at 57, Jean-Claude Van Damme, a.k.a. the “muscles from Brussels," still looks like he can easily kick your ass.
Even at 57, Jean-Claude Van Damme, a.k.a. the “muscles from Brussels," still looks like he can easily kick your ass. After decades of starring in classic Hollywood action movies like Kickboxer, Universal Soldier and Timecop, the beloved martial arts icon is starring in his first television series, Jean-Claude Van Johnson, which premieres Dec. 15 on Amazon Prime.
In the show, Van Damme plays a tongue-in-cheek, fictional version of himself, starring as an aging action star who is secretly an undercover spy. To get in shape for the role, the veteran karate expert focused on staying in fantastic shape.
“I trained this morning. I did my bicycle and 40 minutes of weights, kickboxing and stretching," he told Men’s Health. He also works out two muscle groups per day: "Let’s say, when I do my chest, I will do biceps and forearms, and [the next day] triceps and back and calves, and then my legs and abs. One day rest, one day train. And then I also do cardio three times a week."
As fit as Van Damme is, he still allows himself the occasional treat.
“Now I am eating an oatmeal cookie! I do love my cookie and my coffee,” he admitted.
Though he admits it's still difficult for him to adjust to his aging body, Van Damme has largely been able to maintain his physique.
“I think it’s because I started training when I was very young. I was always into flexibility training, so it made my muscles very elastic. Also, I have good genes from my parents, and that DNA is very important. My mother and father’s skin is impeccable.”
Over the years, Van Damme has made headlines for his personal struggles, including a very public battle with bipolar disorder. But he says that the discipline provided by his martial arts training and acting career has helped him tremendously. “I like acting because it helps me focus," he says.
The Belgian martial artist, who has previously criticized the form of UFC fighters, also discussed how the popularity of his kickboxing films likely contributed to the rise of the UFC on television and pay-per-view. Overall, the rise of UFC "has really been good for martial arts," says Van Damme, who has previously worked with fighters like the Diaz Brothers and UFC champion/ Kickboxer: Vengeance co-star, Georges St-Pierre.
Noting the differences in how his movies were shot versus how martial arts is now portrayed on film, Van Damme referred to himself as “the old guard."
"When you look at my past films, it’s based on amazing choreography, man-o to man-o, with a different type of budget," he says. "It’s a different type of movie now. We had a macho thing going.”
Still, he acknowledges that "men are men; no matter how sophisticated or smart they are becoming, men like to see people fight."
Oh, and in case you were wondering if he can still do his remarkable signature move, Van Damme wants to put that to rest: “I can still do my splits!” he proudly enthused.