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Jean-Claude Van Damme – Master of the Split

Jean-Claude Van Damme is an action actor in many action movies, but he’s best known for his legs’ flexibility. See how Van Houtte is to coffee what Van Damme is to the split.

Who is Van Damme?

Throughout history, there have been those who are so passionate, driven and innovative, they changed the course of culture. Some can be seen as more than just a man – they are a Van. As a master coffee roaster, Albert-Louis Van Houtte was a member of this extremely exclusive club.

Today, we explore the life of another Van who was also a master of his craft: Jean-Claude Van Damme.

The late 1980s and early 90s were an influential time in history. The world saw the earliest iterations of the Internet, the fall of the Berlin Wall and, perhaps no less notably, the rise of Jean-Claude Van Damme. The actor and martial artist became known for his appearances in action movies, though it would be his mastery of the splits that would give him his widest appeal, so to speak.

Born in Brussels, Belgium, in 1960 to a Walloon father and Flemish mother, as a teenager the future film fighter trained in classical ballet and dance. Both he and Van Houtte learned early on the importance of perfect balance — whether it be a harmony of brewed flavours or reaching new heights on tiptoe. This flexibility would doubtlessly serve him well later.

From leg-splits to legend

During his adolescence, Van Damme began his lifelong training in karate, kickboxing and bodybuilding, with the latter talent earning him the title of Mr. Belgium. Similar to Van Houtte, it was only after he emigrated to North America that he would change history. With limited funds and little knowledge of English, Jean-Claude Van Damme arrived in the United States in the early 1980s to become an action star.1

As Van Damme’s fame as an actor rose, he became known as the “Muscles from Brussels” and was recognized for both his martial arts abilities and doing his own stunts. Like Van Houtte's pursuit of roasts that met or exceeded the quality of European coffee roasts, he was committed to authenticity and steaming hot, full-bodied experiences.

He did his first signature splits on camera in Monaco Forever, though it was his appearance in classic Van Damme movies like Black Eagle, Bloodsport and Timecop that made the move iconic. As with Van Houtte’s masterful roasts, this was an entirely new flavour. Both men inspired a sort of wonder and envy, albeit for wildly different reasons. What the two have in common is they are dedicated to their craft and push the boundaries of what others think is possible.

What makes a Van a Van?

The Van Damme splits were immortalized by Johnny Cage in the Mortal Kombat video game franchise. This character was modelled after the action star and continues to be popular today. Van Damme’s mastery was also made mythical to a whole new generation in 2013 with Volvo’s “The Epic Split” YouTube video. The clip saw him do the splits between two reversing trucks. To date, it has been viewed by over 87,000,000 people.

Both Vans challenged the status quo and opened people’s minds to new possibilities, whether it be unlocking aromas and a perfect balance of flavours through masterful roasting or the span of a man's legs. What Van Houtte is to coffee, Van Damme is to the split. And that, most certainly, is not a stretch.

Inspired by Jean-Claude Van Damme’s splits? Discover how we have used heat and master roasting to find a similarly perfect balance of flavours in Van Houtte® French Roast Coffee Dark Roast.