It was 1 o’clock, and I was sitting at Jun Chong’s taekwondo school in Los Angeles getting ready to work out. In walked Dolph Lundgren, 6 feet 5 inches tall and built like a brick [outhouse].
He said, “You’re Bill Wallace, right?”
I said, “Yeah, and you’re Dolph Lundgren.”
I stood up and shook his hand. He asked if I trained there a lot, and when I said yeah, he said, “Wow, I’d love to work out with you sometime.” I said, “See you here tomorrow.”
The next day, Dolph Lundgren walked in at 1 o’clock. We stretched before working out a bit, then he told me he was the Swedish kyokushinkai champion and asked if I wanted to spar. I said, “Well, you’re 6 feet 5 inches, and I’m 5 feet 10 inches … yeah, I don’t care, let’s spar.”
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So we were moving around, and I nailed him with a side kick to the ribs, and down he went. I said, “Jeez, are you OK?”
He said, “Yeah, this is not quite like the movies, is it?”
I really respected him for that.
Dolph Lundgren got up, and I kicked him a couple of times in the head. He hit me a few times, too, but his hand work needed some help. We’d get in close, and I’d nail him with left hooks to the head. You’d figure he’d be better trained with his fists after making a few boxing movies, but that’s all they are: movies. It’s all set up. Dolph Lundgren was a good kickboxer, though, and he made hard contact. We trained like that for a couple of weeks. I always took him to Fatburger afterward.
Then, as you might expect, Dolph Lundgren had to go work on a film, so we stopped training together. I saw him in 1988 when I was in Sweden doing a series of seminars and he was getting married. We gave each other a big hug, and he invited me to his wedding. That’s the last time I saw him.
Dolph Lundgren is a good guy and a good fighter. I can honestly say he’s the most athletic of the famous people that I’ve trained. He was able to do everything.
Jean-Claude Van Damme wasn’t bad. I met him when he was doing No Retreat, No Surrender. In those days, I’d visit different karate places and spar with people—and he was out there. He was a young kid at the time and seemed like a good guy.
In early 1984, Chuck Norris, Bob Wall and I were working out at Wall’s house when Jean-Claude Van Damme showed up and wanted to train. I said, “OK, fine, we’ll have a great workout.” We spent five or six minutes stretching and warming up. Jean-Claude Van Damme was very flexible. Then we moved to the indoor gym to work out before going outside to the pull-up bar and dip bar.
Chuck Norris, Bob Wall and I had worked out several times together, so we were in pretty good shape. I said: “My turn to pick, right? We’re going to do five sets of pull-ups and five sets of dips, then hit the bag for three rounds.”
I did my first set of 10 pull-ups, then Bob Wall did his, Chuck Norris did his and Jean-Claude Van Damme did his. By the third set, Jean-Claude Van Damme was having trouble. If you’re not used to it, it kills you. So we spotted him on the last rep. That was three down. By the fifth set, I was fine because of my wrestling background, Bob Wall got his 10, Chuck Norris did his easily and Jean-Claude Van Damme had to be helped. We were trying to find out what he was made of, but he stuck it out with us even though we put him through the wringer.
Stephen Dorff, who appeared in Blade with Wesley Snipes, was another person I spent time with—I had to teach him how to box. He did a great job, but he didn’t like to get hit. A lot of actors are that way. But after some yelling and screaming, Stephen Dorff gutted it out real well.
I never found training stars to be all that satisfying because it didn’t end with me taking them to compete like I’d do with regular students. The real bummer is, once the stars are done with the role, they don’t care about the skills they just learned.
In the early 1980s, I shot some fight scenes with Jackie Chan for The Protector. I had a great time, but he didn’t like me because I wouldn’t do what he wanted me to. I said, “Well, being who I’m supposed to be in this movie, I wouldn’t do that.”
He asked why, and I said: “Let me do it my way. If you like it, we’ll use it. If you don’t, we’ll improvise it.”
We did it my way, and he liked it. Lucky for Jackie Chan or I’d have had to kill him.
(Bill Wallace is a former kickboxing champion and a Black Belt Hall of Fame member who now teaches seminars around the world.)