Chuck Norris has become a household name due to his appearances in many films and his contributions to the martial arts world. At the height of his career, Norris took a step back from the spotlight. But, why? Here’s a look back into the whirlwind career of Chuck Norris and his reason for leaving the limelight.
After being in the limelight for so long, it seems strange that someone like Chuck Norris would suddenly prefer not to be. Although Norris is one of the biggest action stars in history, Norris has decided to drop out of the spotlight to face a bigger fight.
“The REAL Chuck”
Chuck Norris believe it or not, isn’t his real name. Chuck Norris was born as Carlos Ray Norris in 1940 and didn’t start being called Chuck until he served in the U.S Air Force, where his fellow servicemen deemed him the nickname. While Chuck was serving in the Force, he began training in martial arts. He became so involved in the pastime that he trained until he won a middleweight karate championship in 1968.
“He Didn’t Always Win”
Following his deployment in Korea, Norris decided to compete in the fighting competition circuit. Surprisingly, he lost the first three tournaments he competed in, but he did not allow that to slow him down. In 1966, he became unstoppable, winning the National Karate Championship as well as the All-Star Championship. His name became well known within the sport from that point on.
“A Force To Be Reckoned With”
By the time of 1968, Norris had won multiple karate championships and by the time of his retirement in 1974, he held a record of 65 wins to 5 losses. Within those 5 losses he lost 3 to Allen Steen, one to Joe Lewis and one to Louis Delgado.
“Breaking On The Scene”
Chuck Norris was not just famous for his popularity within the karate circuit, but his studio was also the talk of the town. His studio opened it’s doors to many celebrities including Steve McQueen, Priscilla Presley, and the Osmonds. In fact, it was Steve McQueen who began to push Norris to bring his fighting into the acting world.
“From Karate Studio To Film Studio”
Following McQueen’s urging, Norris decided to explore his options within the acting world. In 1968 he landed his first film entitled The Wrecking Crew. Following this film, his friendship with Bruce Lee led to his role in Way of the Dragon.
“From Small Roles To Star Rolls”
Following his small roll in Way of the Dragon, Norris continued to land small roles in films. In 1977, he landed his first lead role in the film entitled Breaker! Breaker! In this film, Norris played a truck driver who goes looking for his brother within a town ruled by a corrupt judge. Although the film didn’t receive rave reviews, this film opened the door to Norris’ impending stardom.
Although up until this point Norris had appeared in multiple films, he didn’t consider any of these films to be “real film.” Norris states that he considers his first real film to be Good Guys Wear Black in 1979. This movie presented challenges to Norris because of all the dialogue, but luckily Norris had a great group of actor friends that assisted him through it. Since no movie studio wanted to pick up the film, Norris and the cast and crew rented theaters across the country to show the film and they profited nearly $17 million from it.
In 1983, Chuck Norris portrayed J.J McQuade, who is said to be his fans’ favorite character portrayal out of his acting career. J.J McQuade is a texas ranger who uses his martial arts and clever wit to take down a drug kingpin. Norris is also quoted to have said that this was one of his favorite films. The film was a worldwide sensation, and critics raved about Norris’ portrayal of J.J McQuade, even saying that the character needed it’s own film series.
“Ode To Brother”
Throughout the 80s, Norris had been in many different films. One of his most important films was 1984’s Missing in Action where Norris played a prisoner of war who returns to his prison to free other soldiers who were held captive. The motivation behind this film was to pay tribute to his brother, Wieland who had lost his life in combat.
Although Norris was well known because of his action films, he still hadn’t made a lasting impression on audiences. In the 80s, many critics did not see a future for Norris in the film world. In response, Norris began to look for a different outlet that he could break into, and so began his reign in the TV world. His popularity skyrocketed with his debut of Walker, Texas Ranger, which became so successful, that it lasted eight seasons on CBS.
Walker, Texas Ranger was a continuation of Norris’ previous storylines in film. His character would use smart martial arts techniques to take down the antagonist. He won several awards for his portrayal of the main character, Cordell Walker and the series was broadcasted in over 100 countries.
During the later years of his career, Norris wanted to give something back to the world of martial arts that had taught him so much. Norris established the World Combat League in 2005 and also returned for a last film appearance in The Expendables 2. Around this time, Norris also became popular amongst internet users, being the butt of jokes and internet memes that exaggerated his martial arts abilities and toughness.
“Made His Own Style”
Chuck Norris even created his own hybrid martial arts style and called it “The Chuck Norris System” otherwise known as Chun Kuk Do. The basis of this style is similar to his original training style in Tang Soo Do. The United Fighting Arts Federation explains that, “the Chuck Norris System has come to emphasize self-defense, competition, weapons, grappling, fitness, and more.”
Although many people believe that martial arts is about physical strength, many do not know that it is about strategic planning and using your mind. Well, Norris used his mind to write not one, but NINE best-sellers revolving mainly around karate, philosophy, and politics.
Norris is also known for founding two non-profit organizations entitled, United Fighting Arts Federation and Kickstart Kids. The main tool used in the organizations is Norris’ specialty, martial arts. Norris believes that martial arts can teach at-risk youth the self-esteem and discipline they need to succeed in their lives.
In 1998, Chuck married Gena, who was a former model 23 years his junior. They gave birth to twins Dakota Alan and Danilee Kelly in 2001 and assisted in raising Gena’s two children from a previous marriage. Unfortunately, towards the later years of Norris’ career, Gena battled health issues, causing Chuck to slow down his career.
Chuck Norris’ daughter, Dina, was a child of an extramarital affair, and he did not meet her until she was 26 years old. Dina however, states that although she knew Norris was her father from the time she was 16, she did not want to interfere with his current family.
In 2013, Gena was sent to receive an MRI after showing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Although the test showed that Gena did not have arthritis, she had a different problem that would change her entire families lives.
Before her MRI scan, Gena had been given an injection by her doctor. Her body did not react well to the injection, and she felt a burning sensation flow throughout her body. Eventually, Gena required 24-hour nursing care, so it was important that she stay in the hospital. The care period took around five months, and during those five months, Gena was stuck in bed with an IV connected to her.
Although Norris had a successful career at this point, he did not hesitate to abandon his current projects to stay by Gena’s side.
“Ongoing Health Problems”
In addition to the burning pains, Gena also felt weakness and numbness in various parts of her body. In all, Chuck and Gena claim that their costs to treat her illnesses caused by the injection has surpassed $2 million.
In 2017, Gena and Chuck decided that it was time to take legal action. About four years after the problem began, they sued various healthcare firms because of Gena’s health issues. They had found out that gadolinium, which was a metal used during the MRI procedure, had caused Gena’s health problems. The disease is named gadolinium deposition disease.
Chuck and Gena claim that they were never warned by any of the doctors about the risks of her procedure. In result, they are seeking over $10 million in compensation for damages and costs since the procedure. The couple has also been very public about the disease, in order to raise awareness.
Research has actually shown that contrast agents used for procedures like an MRI, can remain in the body. In 2006, a study was done that found that deposits that remained in the tissue of patients have been linked with ailments like kidney disease.
“People Became Scared”
With this law suit, the medical industry became worried that people would begin to back out of these life-saving assestments. However, Chuck and Gena have been strict in emphasizing that there should be stricter warnings when it comes to these tests. Gena claims that if she knew the risks that came with the procedure, she never would have agreed to the injections.
“Not The First”
Gena is not the first person to come forward about having severe side effects to the injection. Their attorney, Todd Walburg, told CBS that, “we have clients who have been misdiagnosed with Lyme disease, ALS, and then they’ve eventually ruled all those things out and the culprit remaining is the gadolinium.”
Gadolinium was investigated by the U.S Food and Drug Administration and they claimed that they failed to find enough proof that gadolinium was a problem that led to serious health concerns. However, the FDA still decided to administer warning labels for gadolinium to let patients know that the contrast agent could remain in their bodies even after the procedure.
“Won’t Give Up”
Even in the face of negativity, the Norris family will certainly not give up. Recently, Gena stated that they are continuing their litigation against the medical companies that they dealt with. She says that their hope is to expose a problem that others refuse to face.
“Road To Recovery”