Is Jean-Claude Van Damme a sham?

Frank Dux, who is duking it out in court with Jean-Claude Van Damme over creative rights to the 1996 film The Quest, has laid a low blow on the action star. He claims the self-titled "Muscles from Brussels" is better at ballet than karate and would never have succeeded in movies if Dux had not been there to help him. He contends that Van Damme should pay punitive damages for misrepresenting himself as a world-class martial artist.

"I asked Jean-Claude to do a simple forward roll, and he landed on his head...He had no business doing those kinds of fight scenes" says ex-ninja Dux, whom Van Damme portrayed in 1987's Bloodsport. Dux claims Van Damme was a struggling actor working as a carpet layer when they first met.

Dux's allegation contradicts Hollywood folklore that says Van Damme, spotting producer Menahem Golan coming out of a restaurant, introduced himself with a spinning 360-degree kick that narrowly missed Golan's face. An impressed Golan immediately signed Van Damme for Bloodsport, which grossed over $11 million.

Dux, however, is not the first to doubt the actor's résumé, which bills him as, among other things, a European karate champion and ballet master. Two years after Bloodsport opened, Howard Hanson, World Karate Association president, said he only knew of one amateur bout in Europe that Van Damme had competed in and Jim Baker, a writer for Black Belt magazine, calls the actor "a complete fraud."

Van Damme's lawyer defends his client. "Those statements are absolutely false...There are records to document his martial-arts acclaim. He's the one who does those splits on chairs. He doesn't have a stunt man do that," Martin Singer told the Los Angeles Daily News.

In his suit, filed in Santa Monica Superior Court in March, Dux claims he has only received $50,000 of the $100,000 due him, plus a percentage of the profits from Van Damme's film The Quest. The film, which has grossed over $21 million, was supposed to make up for Bloodsport, for which Dux was only paid $15,000.

In the latter film, which recreated the illegal, underground and often fatal Kumite bouts, Van Damme played American-born Dux with a heavy Belgian accent. According to the film's publicity, the now 41-year-old Dux fought 329 matches between 1975 and 1980, retiring as the World Heavyweight Full Contact Kumite Champion, and that his fastest kick with a knockout was 72 mph.

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