AN INTERVIEW WITH
AUG / 2009
Interview By Eddie Morales
I first met Dominique Vandenberg in Jan / 2004, on the set of the Jesse Johnson movie Pit Fighter. A mutual friend by the name of Stephen ďThe Fight ProfessorĒ Quadros introduced us. I had originally auditioned for a part in the movie and passed the audition. In the movie I was to do a short fight scene with Mr. Vandenberg.
My first impression of Mr. Vandenberg was that he was humble and had an aura of confidence about him that is usually associated with an accomplished Martial Artist that had nothing to prove.
While working on the fight scene with Mr. Vandenberg, we spoke about fighting concepts and technique and I got the sense that Mr. Vandenberg was Knowledgeable not only in Fight scene choreography but also in real life fighting technique. When he demonstrated his kicks and punches his movement were strong, sharp and accurate. His movements had a sense of realism that can only be gained through fighting experience.
I have been involved in Martial Arts for many years so I donít impress easy but I was definitely impressed with Mr. Vandenberg. It wasnít just his physical technique that impressed me but more over his in-depth knowledge of combat. I contacted Mr. Vandenberg and asked if he would be interested in an interview on Martialforce.com to which he kindly accepted.
The following is our interview:
Martialforce.com: When did you begin martial Arts and what motivated you to start?
VANDENBERG: At the age 4, I started Judo because my older brother took me. About 9 years old, I began training in Greco Roman wrestling. A few years later, I began training in different styles of Karate and Muay Thai.
Martialforce.com: What form of Martial Arts do you currently practice?
VANDENBERG: Shinkundo Karate, Muay Thai, Judo, Sambo, and free style Bando.
Martialforce.com: Where did you study Muay Thai and Bando and who were your instructors?
VANDENBERG: I started Muay Thai in Belgium at SGF kickboxing. My instructor was Ludo Houben. He would take me on weekends to go training in Amsterdam at Tom Harincks Chakuriki Gym. Later I started training with Frank Merton and I won a couple international and European junior championships under him. Many years after the Legion, I got back into Muay Thai. When a French promoter saw me fighting in Burmese boxing, he brought me to North Thailand where I trained at Samasit Camp.
My sparring and training partners included Saxon, Ramnamoen, and Superleg the legendary Thai fighter who beat Ramon Dekkers. Superleg was the Thai Boxing world champion and Lumpini Champion and he also helped me to get ready to fight Sedack who was North Thailand champion at the time. After that, I trained at many different camps because just like in Karate, there are many styles of Muay Thai Boxing. Some focus on more leg techniques, while other are more specialized on elbow or knees techniques.
Martialforce.com: Our research shows that you competed in Muay Thai before going to the Foreign Legion, is this true?
VANDENBERG: Yes, my first Muay Thai fight was at Antwerp at age of 13. My opponent was 18 years old and schooled me in the art of Muay Thai. Up to the point, I only competed in Karate, Judo, Greco Roman, and Savate.
Martialforce.com: Which art do you favor the most if any and why?
VANDENBERG: I preferred more aggressive styles; I guess thatís my nature. Even in Judo or wrestling, my approach was aggressive. But many techniques work when the timing is right, but I always pick a style that has proven itself, in the street, the ring, or combat. I don't practice Korean styles or Kung Fu, but I am sure it works for someone.
PIT FIGHTER MOVIE
Martialforce.com: With your movies schedule, do you find time to train?
VANDENBERG: When I work on movies, it is hard to train properly. But in between films, I still train 3 to 5 hours a day.
Martialforce.com: You have been involved in a lot of movie projects both as actor and Fight scene choreographer. Can you tell our readers about your initial involvement in both endeavors?
VANDENBERG: I was training at the Jet Center in Van Nuys California at the time when they were casting Mortal Kombat. I auditioned and got a small part. While I was working on the movie, I met Jesse Johnson. We both love cinemas and became instant friends. Since then, we have done many films together. After I did different independent films, commercials, and music videos, either as an actor, coordinator, or choreographer, I got hired to train Leonardo DeCaprio in street fighting and knife fighting.
GANGS OF NEW YORK
DANIEL DAY LEWIS AND VANDENBERG
LEONARDO DICAPRIO AND VANDENBERG
VANDENBERG AND CAMERON DIAZ
Soon after that, Martin Scorseseís people contacted me for training Daniel Day Lewis. I made two videos with some fight choreographies on them. Scorsese liked them so much that he requested me to be a fight coordinator for Gang of NY. After the movie was released, I got many offers including Spiderman, which I declined to go back to more independent movies with cool violence.
DIRECTOR JESSE JOHNSON
PIT FIGHTER MOVIE
Jesse and I did a movie called ďPit FighterĒ for which I called my old friend, Stephen Quadros, to come help me out with the fights. Because we only had 13 days to shoot the movie and only 2 days to film the pit fights, I needed someone who I could trust to have my back. The movie came out Okay for what we had to work with. Soon after, I did a couple of forgettable movies and began working on Beowulf as a coordinator.
I took the job because many of my friends were low on money at the time, the gig was giving me a chance to hire them and work for me. In fact, I donít really like coordinating that much because most of the actors I worked with cannot make it look good. It is very frustrating to see the beautiful choreographed fights being butchered in editing.
Martialforce.com: Our research shows that you spent time in the French Foreign Legion Special Forces, Can you tell us how that came about?
VANDENBERG: Legion 2nd REP is like a modern samurai. Itís a hardcore, and not politically correct like US army. We have guys from all over the world. A lots of them served in their own country. Just in my company, we had guys from DELTA and Green Berets as well as former SAS, SBS, and SPETSNAZ. Looking for something different and unique. After I got hit by a car, I got depressed and suicidal during the recovery. Then I ended up in Legion.
Martialforce.com: How did you get involved in bare-knuckle competition and was it something that you felt was necessary in your training?
VANDENBERG: Most of the Karate styles I trained and competed in were bare-knuckle full contact. But I also fought in Lethwei Burmese boxing and free style Bando as practiced by the hill tribe in Burma. The rules are similar with Vale Tudo. Itís very technical and aggressive.
Martialforce.com: How many bare-knuckle matches were you involved in?
VANDENBERG: In karate, about 45. I don't count street fights or challenges. And I have 11 in Burma. Some were in Bando and others were in Lethwei.
Martialforce.com: You mentioned Burmese boxing; can you tell our readers a little about it?
VANDENBERG: Burmese Boxing looks similar to Muay Thai, but it is very different in the ways that using knees and elbows are geared toward knockout, not just scoring points to win a fight. I also liked their head butting techniques. Very different from the ones Legionnaires use in street fights or bar fights. I saw a Burmese fighter trap a Thai fighter's arm after he threw a spinning back fist and break it with a head butt.
Martialforce.com: In the time that you were in the Foreign Legion, where did you see action?
VANDENBERG: My first timeout was in Central Africa. Then, Chad followed on different locations. Then Kigali, Rwanda, during the genocide. Some other places I prefer not to mention.
Martialforce.com: What was your motivation to come to the United States?
VANDENBERG: To make movies.
Martialforce.com: What were your initial thoughts about the United State when you arrived and was it what you expected?
VANDENBERG: Most things I knew about the U.S. was from the movies I watched, the news and history books I studied in schools. When I first got here, I saw a beautiful woman coming out of Starbucks in a dress suit and high heels. As she walked back to her car while she was talking on a cell phone, she stepped over a homeless man, not acknowledge his existence. I was used to seeing things like that in third world countries, but soon realize that in one of the richest countries of the world life can be as unforgiving and brutal.
Martialforce.com: Have you had any bad experiences regarding fights since youíve been here in the United States?
VANDENBERG: Nothing that is interesting.
Martialforce.com: You have worked with some great directors, what was your experience like working with Martin Scorsese?
DIRECTOR MARTIN SCORSESE
Scorsese was nice and very interesting. I had a great time working on Gangs of New York.
Martialforce.com: How do you feel about Mixed Martial Arts and the way itís promoted in the United States?
VANDENBERG: It is a great way to showcase the effectiveness of the participant style, and make some money in the process. I know the money purse is still far away from boxing, but it is the fastest growing sports and eventually the money will get better. The bad side of it is that when more money gets involved, like boxing, corruptions will get bigger too.
Martialforce.com: Do you think that traditional Martial Arts is a thing of the past or is there still use for this type of training?
VANDENBERG: Traditional martial arts will always have its place. The mother of all arts. Many of the traditional styles are used in combat. The simple basics of some of them serve me well and the Respect and Discipline are rules I live by.
Martialforce.com: We understand you saw a lot of action in your military career; did your training help you both mentally and physically?
VANDENBERG: Yes, it did to a degree, but most of it is mental preparation to adapt and overcome. You can have all the conditioning and be the best MMA fighter or kick boxer in the world, but that is not going to help you in a jungle or desert. It is a whole different animal all together. Just like fighting for your life is a different mind set. You know if you armbar someone, he is not going to tapout, you might have to break his arm off, but he is still coming at you. Or if someone gets you in triangle choke, you might have to rip off his testacies with your teeth. Most of the time, guns and knives are involved. Itís a mental preparation; you get by accepting to die.
In the Legion, they train you to carry more, march harder, shoot better, die harder, and send you to places to die well. For a legionnaire, death in battle is a good death. The mindset of 2nd REP is primitive and different, most of the time I felt I was in a crazy house, like an army full of Travis Bickles from Taxie Driver on crack.
Martialforce.com: Regarding your career, what project/s are you working on now?
VANDENBERG: I currently have a movie playing in limited release in theaters called "The Perfect Sleep" and I just came back from Cannes where "Charlie Valentine" was screened. I also worked in True Legend in China with Master Woo-Ping. And we are slowly starting to pull things together for two projects "Savage Dog"with Jesse Johnson and "SuggestionĒ with filmmakers Anton Pardoe and Jeremy Alter. Bas Rutten is also attached to the film.
Martialforce.com: Is there anything you would like to say to our readers and moreover, your Fans?
VANDENBERG: Keep it real. Think about others in need sometime. When itís all said and done we will be judged by the actions we took in this life and we all have it coming. Death is the only thing you don't have to do, it will be done for you.
Martialforce.com: Thank you for this interview Mr. Vandenberg. We here at Martialforce.com wish you great success.