Dominique Vandenberg

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Dominique Vandenberg was born in Belgian in 1969. He is a  martial artist, actor and producer, stunt performer and stunt choreographer. He is known for Mortal Kombat (1995) Gangs of New York (2002), Inland Empire (2006), Pit Fighter (2005), Beowulf (2007).

Dominique Vandenberg began going to judo with his older brother when he was only four or five years old. He loved the art and took it very seriously. He continues to study Judo today, but he has also studied Greco-Roman Wrestling and catch-as-catch-can wrestling. He began studying Kyokushin karate when he was twelve and then training in Muay Thai. Later he began Skyleko-Kundokan karate which is a combination of Kyokushin karate and judo throws. He studied Muay Thai with numerous instructors in Holland. At thirteen his trainer, Frank Merkens, took him by train on weekends to Chakuriki Gym, famous for producing to K1 fighters, and he was able to train there and attend seminars.

Dominique’s serious passion for martial arts affected his school work and his parents made him quit martial arts for months until they finally realized that he could not function normally without training and they let him go back to training with Frank Merkens. At this time he also began traveling to many different countries and competing in every discipline possible. Dominique got his big break around 1985 when the European Junior Muay Thai Championship were held in Antwerpen, Belgium and one of the main fighters became ill. Dominique took his place and won and his competition career began.

He competed in all kinds of tournament, winning the majority of them, and bt then at the age of sixteen he left school to enroll in a Kunto training course in Okinawa, Japan. He graduated the course tied for first rank, and returned to Belgium, where he was drafted into the military. He Volunteered to go to a post in Germany because it allowed him to serve for only 8 months instead of the full year. Upon release, Dominique began training for an invitational freestyle martial arts competition he had been invited to when he had completed the Kunto course. He won the competition after only two months of training but was hit by a car and which broke his leg and shattered his hip. He was no longer able to fight in sanctioned events as the wrong kick could re-break his leg and thus he lost the most important activity in his life.

When Dominique was healed he began to train police and military, but he was only 18 and bored, so when he worked with an officer who he thought was different than the rest, he befriended him and found out that he had been in the  Foreign Legion. He began to study more about the Legion, and then, without the approval of his parents, Dominique left Belgium for France and eventually found a way to  join the French Foreign Legion. He graduated from basic training in the top five of his class and he was allowed to choose his post. He chose the elite paratrooper regiment, the 2REP, which required more training, and then he was sent to Africa. Dominique spent five years working in countries in Africa including Chad, Nigeria, and the Central African Republic. His job was fighting to control rebellions. During this time he met his fiancée, Waruny, who was a freedom fighter. After their meeting, he had to leave her behind and return to fulfill his last eight months of service to the Legion. When he went back to get Waruny he discovered that she had been killed.

During his first leave Dominique had gone to Burma and found himself fighting in a Burmese boxing ring. He won ten out of the 10 fights by knockout. Every leave he had he would travel back to Burma and when his time in the Legion was up, he moved to Burma to train Burmese Soldiers. When a friend disappeared he went to northern Thailand to find him and ended up sparring for a place at the  Samafit Gym, where Superleg and Ramdamun and others of their caliber had trained. This was not a “tourist” gym and after being chosen to stay, Dominique trained there for years and thus began his competition in Thai boxing. He had 35 professional fights between 1992 and 1994 and never lost one fight. He won twenty-seven fights by knockout, two fights were stopped because of injuries, and one because his opponents face was bleeding profusely. Dominique also fought in illegal fights as they were promoted by the same man that did the professional fight.

At the beginning of 1995 he left the fighting behind and went back to Europe and then moved to the United States, where he worked as a bouncer and in personal security. He moved into film and worked as a stuntman in Mortal Kombat (1995) and as an actor in Barbed Wire (1996). He then did a short film called Dead Road which won an award at Paris Short Film Festival. His first feature film was The Doorman (1999). He wrote, executive produced, was fight coordinator and starred in  film.

Dominique’s big break came when he was hired to train Leonardo DiCaprio in knife fighting for the Martin Scorsese film Gangs of New York (2002). He went on to be the technical advisor, and because of his speed and ability he became the fight coordinator and was given the part of one of the Dead Rabbit Gang Member’s, Tommy. Training Leonardo DiCaprio had to be different for this film and Dominique was able to incorporate his catch wrestling, the old style savate, gurkha knife fighting and bando stick fighting from his training and this gave the film more realism.

In 2007 the book The Iron Circle: The True Life Story of Dominique Vandenberg was published.

Vandenberg coordinates fight scenes for major movies, and to say he earned his qualifications the hard way would be an understatement. Describing himself as an adolescent with a “lethal gift” of aggressive rage, Vandenberg recounts how he grew dissatisfied with regulated martial arts competitions in his native Belgium and sought out increasingly violent forms of combat, eventually leaving home at 16 to train at a Japanese fighting school. When an injury sidelined his career, he found another outlet for his impulses in the French Foreign Legion, which brutalized him during training, then sent him to various African hellholes, after which he returned to Thailand to resume beating other men in the ring. He tells of these exploits in exacting detail sure to satiate the bloodlust of action fans. It’s uncertain, though, how much other readers will identify with a self-described “Pissed-off Murderous Sociopath” so callused by his experiences that he skipped out on his leukemia-stricken mother’s sickbed to join the legion, no matter how compelling his story is. And for all his contempt for “New Age crap,” Vandenberg indulges in his own brand of romanticism, glorifying his ultraviolent career with ponderous statements. A final encounter with an American Buddhist monk hints at a personal transformation but ends uncertainly, perhaps laying the groundwork for a kinder, gentler sequel. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

A poignant and well-written book. Vandenberg’s intensity got to me. I was enthralled. — Daniel Day-Lewis

Dominiquie Vandenberg’s memoir of his experiences in the world of Bando, Burmese Boxing and Muay Thai is a real life adventure story–entertaining, absorbing, enriching and compulsively readable. — Martin Scorsese

I’ve never met anyone who has more knowledge about different styles of fighting and martial arts techniques. — Leonardo DiCaprio