Born March 10, 1940
Chuck Norris is an American martial artist, action star and Hollywood actor.
A native of Oklahoma, Norris has two younger brothers, Wieland and Aaron Norris, the latter of whom is a Hollywood producer. Norris was born to an alcoholic father, half Irish and half Cherokee. Norris’s mother is also half Irish and half Cherokee. Norris is very proud of his Native American heritage, and frequently referred to his. When he was ten, his parents divorced and he later relocated to Prairie Village, Kansas and then Torrance, California with his mother and brothers. Norris describes his childhood as downbeat. He was non-athletic, shy, and scholastically mediocreChuck Norris finished high school and soon married his girlfriend, Diane Holechek. In 1958 Norris joined the United States Air Force as a Air Policeman and was sent to Osan Air Base, South Korea. It was in South Korea that Norris acquired the nickname Chuck and began his training in Tang Soo Do, an interest that would lead to black belts in that art, as well as Tae Kwon Do, and Shito ryu Karate, and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu; and the founding of the Chun Kuk Do (“Universal Way”) form and the education associations United Fighting Arts Federation and “KickStart”, formerly “Kick Drugs Out of America”, a middle school– and high school–based program intended to give at-risk children a focus point in life through the martial arts. When he returned to the United States he continued to act as an AP at March Air Force Base California. Norris was discharged in August of 1962. He worked for the Northrop Corporation and opened a chain of karate schools, which Chad McQueen, Steve McQueen’s son, attended. Chuck made history in 1997 when he was the first Westerner in the documented history of Tae Kwon Do to be given the rank of 8th Degree Black Belt Grand Master he also holds a brown belt in Brasilian Jiu Jitsu from the Machado family. On July 1, 2000 he was presented the Golden Lifetime Achievement Award by the World Karate Union Hall of Fame.
Chuck’s entrance into tournament karate began on a losing note. He was defeated in his first two tournaments, dropping decisions to Joe Lewis and Allan Steen. However, by 1967, Norris began to demonstrate his skill and scored victories over the likes of Joe Lewis, Skipper Mullins, Arnold Urquidez, Victor Moore, Ron Marchini, and Steve Sanders. In early 1968, Chuck suffered the fifth and last loss of his career, losing an upset decision to Louis Delgado. However, on November 24, 1968, Chuck avenged his defeat to Delgado and in the process won the Professional Middleweight Karate champion (non-contact) title, which he held for six consecutive years. In 1969, he won Karate’s triple crown for the most tournament wins of the year, and the fighter of the year award by Black Belt Magazine. It was also in 1969 that Norris made his acting debut, in the Dean Martin movie The Wrecking Crew.
In 1970, his younger brother Weiland was killed in Vietnam. Norris later dedicated his Missing in Action films to his brother’s memory.
At a martial arts demonstration in Long Beach, Norris met the soon-to-be famous martial artist Bruce Lee. In 1972, he acted as Bruce Lee’s nemesis in the movie Way of the Dragon (also known as Return of the Dragon), which is widely credited with launching his way into stardom. In Asia, he is still known primarily for this role.
In 1974, McQueen encouraged him to begin acting classes at MGM. Chuck Norris retired with a karate record of 65–5, having avenged all of his defeats.
Norris’ first starring role was 1977’s Breaker! Breaker!, and subsequent films such as The Octagon (1980), An Eye for an Eye (1981), and Lone Wolf McQuade proved his increasing box office bankability. In 1984, Norris starred in Missing in Action, the first of a series of POW rescue fantasies produced by Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus and released under their Cannon Films banner. Over the next four years, Norris became Cannon’s most prominent star, appearing in eight films, including Code of Silence, The Delta Force, and Firewalker. Currently he lives in Texas and works for KickStart a martial arts programme to help troubled kids.
See our interview with Chuck Norris