Chuck Norris is one of the greatest American martial artists in history. He's led an incredible career starring in action films, training others in martial arts, starring in his own TV show, Walker Texas Ranger, appearing in Total Gym infomercials throughout the '90s, and becoming an internet meme sensation from hilarious "Chuck Norris facts."
Here are some things you probably didn't know about the martial arts legend.
1. He was born in the South
Though he spent many years claiming Torrance as his home town, Norris was born in Ryan, Oklahoma. He has two younger brothers: Wieland and Aaron.
2. His name isn't Chuck
It's actually Carlos. That's right, Carlos Ray Norris. Norris grew up incredibly shy and was frequently bullied as a child. He decided to join the United States Air Force when he was 18, which is where he got his nickname, Chuck. He first started learning Tang Soo Do when he was stationed at Osan Air Base in South Korea. It was also this technique that inspired Norris to create his own Chun Kuk Do, "The Universal Way."
3. He got his professional start in martial arts by trying to promote his own studio
After he was discharged from the U.S. Air Force, Norris moved to Torrance, California. He applied to be a police officer, but while he was waiting on that, he decided to open up his own martial arts studio. He started participating in tournaments to promote his studio and by the late 60s had really made a name for himself. He even worked to open a chain of karate schools with the Northrop Corporation.
He won the Professional Middleweight Karate champion title in 1968 which he held for six consecutive years.
4. Norris has a lot of black belts
10th-degree black belt Chun Kuk Do
9th-degree black belt Tang Soo Do
8th-degree black belt Taekwondo
8th-degree black belt Kyokushin Budokai
5th-degree black belt in Karate
3rd-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Black belt in Judo
5. He had some serious celebrity clientele
Some of the major celebs that trained under Norris include Steve McQueen, Chad McQueen, Bob Barker, Priscilla Presley, and Donny and Marie Osmond.
6. The martial artist has a hefty net worth
After years in Hollywood and a successful martial arts career, Chuck Norris has an estimated net worth of $70 million.
7. Bruce Lee contributed to his breakthrough
After a minor role in the spy film The Wrecking Crew, Norris and Lee struck up a friendship at competitions and ended up training together as well. Norris appeared in Way of the Dragon with Lee, which helped kickstart a career in action movies including Good Guys Wear Black, Missing in Action, Code of Silence, The Delta Force, Lone Wolf McQuade and The Expendables 2.
8. He was almost Red Foreman on 'That '70s Show'
Norris was offered the role of the father, Red Forman, on That '70s Show, but had to turn it down due to his commitments on Walker, Texas Ranger.
9. Norris married his high school sweetheart
Norris married his first wife, Dianne Kay Holechek, when he was 18 and she was 17. They welcomed two sons, Mike and Eric. Norris had another child from an extramarital affair in 1963, but Dianne stayed with him. After 30 years of marriage, they called it quits and Norris moved on to former model Gena O'Kelley in 1998. Gena and Norris welcomed twins in 2001.