To be fair, not everyone likes Chuck Norris, whether it’s because they loathe his political beliefs, his violent action flicks, his purported plagiarism on WorldNetDaily, or because they are just sick and tired of the meme associated with him. But even if you don’t like certain things about Mr. Norris, there’s still plenty to appreciate, from his underdog back story to his constant philanthropic efforts, he isn’t a bad guy by any means. In honor of the legend, let’s celebrate his March 10 birthday with a few real Chuck Norris facts.
His Real Name Isn’t “Charles”
While most “Chucks” use the nickname to stand in for “Charles,” Mr. Norris was actually born Carlos Ray Norris. He was named for his father’s minister, Carlos Berry. In fact, it wasn’t until he joined the Air Force that Carlos became “Chuck” Norris.
He Didn’t Grow Up Kicking Butt
Sure, these days ghosts sit around the campfire and tell Chuck Norris stories, but back when Chuck was a youngster, he was usually busy being bullied, not being the bully. Most of the insults were directed at his mixed race heritage, as Norris is mostly Irish and Cherokee and children of the forties and fifties weren’t exactly multi-culturally sensitive. Seriously though, how could anyone be mean to the adorable kiddo in that picture?
While you still might imagine that little Carlos would at least stand up for himself when being picked on, at the time, he wasn’t very athletic and his shyness only compounded the problem. Rather than taking action, he only dreamed about beating up on his tormentors.
Image via ChuckNorris.com
The Air Force Made Him Who He Is
Not only did “Chuck” get his nickname after joining the USAF, he also learned how to fight while serving, thus the Force is responsible for making him into the only person who can slam revolving doors. In fact, his black belt training in Tang Soo Do led to Chuck starting his own form of martial arts, Chun Kuk Do, which combines all of the different fighting styles he learned throughout his life.
He Influenced A Lot of People You Wouldn’t Expect
Shortly after leaving the Air Force in 1962, Chuck started his own chain of karate schools based around his unique fighting style. While most karate teachers end up educating kids, Norris’ schools had quite the list of celebrity clientele including Steve McQueen, Bob Barker, Priscilla Presley, and Donny & Marie Osmond.
Before He Succeeded, He Failed –A Lot
He might be able to win Connect Four in only three moves these days, but believe it or not, Chuck hasn’t always been a winner. In fact, he lost most of his early martial arts tournaments. Soon enough though, he had stepped up his game and started winning consistently. In fact, he lost for the last time in 1968 and kept fighting, and winning, for six straight years. When he retired from the International Karate Championships, he had an impressive record of 183 wins and only 10 losses.
In 1997, he became the third Westerner in history to be awarded the rank of 8th Degree Black Belt Grand Master in Tae Kwon Do. Later, in 2000, he was even presented with this Golden Lifetime Achievement Award by the World Karate Union Hall of Fame. No wonder the Boogey Man checks under his bed for Chuck Norris every night.
Image via Alan Light [Flickr]
Breaking Into Movies and Television Was Pretty Easy For Him
Chuck’s first movie role was in Dean Martin’s 1969 film, The Wrecking Crew, which also happened to be Sharon Tate’s last movie before she was murdered. Three years later, he starred as Bruce Lee’s enemy in Way of the Dragon, which is still what he is most famous for throughout Asia.
After taking a few acting classes, as suggested by his student Steve McQueen, Norris was ready to become a leading man. His first starring role was in the 1977 film Breaker! Breaker! and soon enough he was starring in a new action film every year.
Unfortunately, most of Norris’ films were produced by Cannon Films, a company that went bankrupt at the end of the 80s. While he continued to act in movies, they just didn’t do that well compared to his Cannon Films work. So, he moved on to television, starring in the CBS classic Walker, Texas Ranger, which lasted an impressive eight seasons. After the show was cancelled, Chuck still got to play the role one more time when he starred in the Movie of the Week Walker, Texas Ranger: Trial by Fire.
Image via Lumal [Wikipedia]
He’s Still Keeping Busy
Yes, Chuck’s movie career is mostly over, but that doesn’t mean he’s sitting in his mansion twiddling his thumbs. He’s been busy. Very busy. In fact, he’s written five books in the last decade and signed on to write weekly columns for WorldNetDaily in 2006. He’s also become quite the political pundit, officially endorsing an array of conservative political candidates and he has even considers running for office himself.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that most of his modern successful endeavors happened shortly after the Chuck Norris meme started circulating around the net, making the actor more famous than he had been in years. In case you were wondering, he actually really likes the jokes. That being said, he still wasn’t happy when Gotham Books printed a book of the jokes in 2007, which he felt was using his name for monetary gain without sharing any of the wealth. I don’t know about you guys, but I’d be kind of angry too. Of course, any true Chuck Norris fan would never buy Gotham’s collection of Norris facts when they could instead buy the one written by Chuck himself, The Official Chuck Norris Fact Book, released in 2009.
Norris has always continued working on his martial arts schools and since 1990, he has focused a lot on his philanthropic program, KickStart Kids, which was developed to help give at-risk children a focus in their life by teaching them martial arts and thus, hopefully, keeping them off of drugs. He’s also contributed to other charitable organizations, including Funds for Kids, the United Way, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Vijay Amritraj Foundation and more.
In 2005, he founded a new team-based martial arts competition, called the World Combat League, donating part of the proceeds to KickStart Kids. More recently, Chuck has become an honorary United States Marine and an honorary Texas Ranger. He’s also worked as a spokesperson for Total Gym for years now and also starred in commercials for T-Mobile and World of Warcraft. Not bad for a man who is turning 72 this year.
Image via Craig Michaud [Wikipedia]
Now, I know I worked a few into the article, but I’m sure many of you will want to include your own favorite Chuck Norris jokes, so feel free to unload them in the comments. And, of course, if you’re sick of the meme and want to discuss the man instead, you can always do that as well.
Sources: ChuckNorris.com, Wikipedia #1, #2