I dunno, folks, (martial artist) Claude Van Damme looks damn proficient to me

Claude Van Damme is the Kenny G of the martial arts movie genre, but having seen a half dozen of his films, he looks damn proficient to me. To be specific, I have little doubt how he would fare in a street fight against most (not all) men I’ve ever met.

Yes, his fight scenes are completely choreographed and he did have those pretty-boy GQ looks, but is anyone going to step forward and tell me his skills suck? Can anyone give specifics, other than to generally rag on the man?

If you want to talk dubious skills, let’s talk Steven Segal, who has always looked clumsier than hell, practices a notoriously weak street-fighting art form, and has coasted on a bio that’s riddled with half-truths and flat-out lies.

Van Damme is no Jet Li and certainly not Bruce Lee, but he was a serviceable screen star and looked as compelling on screen as Chuck Norris ever did. (I might add that Chuck Norris was a six-time undefeated middleweight karate champ, but his fights were all non-contact, which IMHO severely undercuts the impressiveness of his fighting record.)

What do you see in Van Damme that I’m not?

His name is Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Apparently he has a reputation of being somewhat of a dick, but I’ve never heard that his mad fighting skillz were in doubt. He did compete in several karate tournaments in Belgium, where he grew up.

I’ve always heard Steven Seagal is talented at martial arts also. Too bad he is constantly posing for the camera.

The main distinction I see between the two is the Van Damme tends to have the big bad guy in his movies be somebody who can actually fight, so for the entire movie, they’re being just death on two legs for anybody who comes close to them. They get to the final fight and they’re evenly matched, so they duke it out for a while until Van Damme does something to “stun” his opponent, at which point the previously-lethal bad guy just stands there and lets VD beat him to death in slow motion.

Segal, on the other hand, picks people like Tommy Lee Jones to be the bad guys. You know: Actors. They can’t fight so well, so they don’t do that much fighting throughout the movie and satisfy themselves with ordering their minions about and chewing up the scenery. When they get to the final fight, the big challenge is actually making the fight last long enough (e.g., in the fight against TLJ, he just dodged for a bit, slapped the knife out of his hand and dropped him). Heck, in the one with the jamaican drug lords, he had the bad guys be twin brothers so he could kill him twice. Doubled the ending fight scene length that way.

I think the whole “Jean Claude” sucks thing, stems from this incident (which got lots of media play a few years back).

Pretty arrogant to think a bar fight is gonna be fair. I wonder what would’ve happened had the ex-bodyguard had not gotten the sucker punches in first.

Of course, that isn’t really the idea of a bar fight is it?

Remember Butch and Sundance – “There are no rules in a knife fight”

What the heck is non-contact karate? Aesthetic judgements of katas?

In the non-contact Karate tournaments I’ve competed in: yes. Aesthetic judgments of katas is very important. In sparring, you’re expected to withdraw your blows a fraction of an inch from your opponent.

Agh! Something deep within prevented me from getting his name right.

The more I learn about Steven Segal, the more I think his expertise was the result of a skilled PR machine. So what if he had a successful dojo in Tokyo? When did that ever translate into real fighting skills–and that’s the big complaint about Jean-Claude: that he’s a studio tough guy who’d crumple in a real fight.

Well, there’s movie martial arts, and then there’s real martial arts. Everything Van Damme does is designed to look good in movies. He’s got superb balance, tons of flexibility, and he’s practiced some signature moves over and over again so that they look good on camera.

I’ve taken part in choreographed Karate exhibitions before, and they are totally different than ‘real’ karate. You can look like a superstar pretty easily, when you and your partner know exactly what each step is going to be and you work together. For example, it’s pretty easy to do a cool takedown if the other person uses his own momentum to help you.

Martial arts aren’t about looking flashy. What you can’t see watching a movie includes things like how much power the techniques have, and how Van Damme would be able to react if his opponent didn’t do *exactly what he was expecting. And that’s where all the skill comes in.

Have you seen the movie Serenity? There’s a martial arts scene in there with Summer Glau that’s really well done, and she looks great taking down dozens of people. Yet, she doesn’t know any martial arts. She’s a dancer. But dancing skills translate really well into movie martial arts. Flexibility, balance, and the ability to move your body around fluidly and in control. Put the camera in the right place, plan the moves out with your partner, and voila.

Steven Seagal’s moves look much more realistic to me, and I believe he is a much better martial artist than Van Damme (although not as great as he says he was, and now he’s just a bloated has-been). But his moves are compact and efficient and have an air of authenticity about them.

In my Karate style, we rarely throw kicks above the waist, and there are almost no spinning techniques at all. It’s all about power, leverage, and keeping yourself in a position where you can react quickly to the unexpected. That means no flying jumps, spinning roundhouse kicks, etc. People who do that stuff usually wind up face down in the dirt being pummeled. But it looks great on TV.

… also known as “aiming to miss.” I studied Shotokan for five years with this technique, then switched to a school which had a (much) higher level of contact. It took me months to learn to actually hit people. Most of the stories from my dojo of people who had used their martial arts in a fight involved throws and takedowns rather than punches or kicks; you can’t apply the “aim to miss” technique to a throw, so what they learned actually worked in a real fight.

Thus explains the troubling Patrick Swayze phenomenon.

What about that 80s flick, “Gymkata”? World-class gymnasts make convincing on-screen martial artists. At least with the moves, if not the stature.

I think this is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone actually claim that Van Damme looks like a good fighter on screen.

Most of the films I’ve seen, he fights like a dancer. Lots of jumping and spinning, but none of the movements have any “weight” to them. In fact, half the fancy kicks he does looks like he’d injure himself if he actually connected with any force. I’m thinking of that one kick he does over and over (and over and over and over) in Lionheart here.

Okay, here’s where I start REALLY showing my ignorance.

I’ve seen outtakes of professional kickboxing tournaments and rarely do the kicks seem like they’re carrying much weight, but damned if the opponent drops to the canvas like a sack of spuds.

That said, I agree sorta. Van Damme has a balletic grace on screen, but doesn’t have the grunting, ass-kicking power of an early Chuck Norris, the sleazy badass nastiness of early Segal, or the explosive, bone-crunching power of Bruce Lee in “Enter the Dragon.”

Maybe Van Damme’s grace is supposed to mirror his chiseled looks. Don’t know.

Wonder why Hollywood missed that critical element? Don’t you think Van Damme could have gotten as down and dirty as early Norris or Segal???

I actually kinda like Van Damme as an action star–he does have a fair amount of presence and he’s a better actor than most of his peers. Heads and shoulders above Seagal (ooh, difficult) and he has better presence than Norris (yes, I’m a heretic).

It’s just that his showiest techniques look kinda funny onscreen, particularly the way they’re shot (multiple angles, repeated over and over). I suspect he could look pretty good with a director that ignored Van Damme’s advice and made him not do his signature moves. :slight_smile:

Steven Segal runs like a girl.

::running away like girl because I am one::

Same here. I studied for years with a light contact group. It taught me great control, timing, conditioning, and speed, but upon switching to a heavy-contact school I had to relearn a lot of technique. I had developed loose “soft” punches and kicks that was more like striking with a wet noodle, than a proper weapon.

For example, I had built a habit of positioning my kicks so that I had a loose, flat, contact surface, so as not to injure a partner if I mistimed a kick. I had to relearn from scratch how to kick with snap, penetration, and a proper contact surface.

I’ve always thought he looked rather ape-like. I’m not sure why you keep talking about how good-looking he is. He’s got facial features that just look neanderthal to me.

I have studied Judo and Aikido for a little over 12 years. Aikido is the martial art that Segal taught and Judo is primarily throws, take downs, and ground fighting.

I have always found that the most effective and dangerous martial arts are the ones that depend less on punches and kicks and more on ground fighting.

Over the years I have had friends that have various levels of experience in different forms, and invariably they depend on an opponent that stays with a similar style to exicute their techniques. If I can get close enough to grab them, they are toast.

Unfortunatly, you will never see a film action hero based on ground fighting. Just to boring to watch and it is usually over in under a minute.

As far as the action stars listed, I’d say Norris always struck me as the one who really could kick but. Segal depended too much on defence techniques. Ever notice in every fight scene he verbally abuses someone until they attack him and he uses that attack against them. It’s always the same: “you a tough guy? Come on, let’s see what you got.”

Van Damme, to much of a pretty boy. His fights are like cartoons. All image, no substance.

It should be noted that Van Damme has studied ballet as much, or probably more, than martial arts.