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Ron van Clief

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ron van Clief
Born (1943-01-25) January 25, 1943 (age 81)
Brooklyn, New York City, United States
Other namesBlack Dragon
Height5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Weight190 lb (86 kg; 13 st 8 lb)
Fighting out ofNew York City, U.S.
Teacher(s)Moses Powell, George Coffield
Mixed martial arts record
By submission1
Mixed martial arts record from Sherdog

Ron Van Clief (born January 25, 1943, in Brooklyn, New York) is an American martial artist and an actor in Hollywood and Hong Kong action films. He is best known for starring in 1970s blaxploitation and kung fu films. He is the father of poet Shihan van Clief.

Early life


Ronald Van Clief was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City on January 25, 1943. He joined the United States Marine Corps, serving at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, NC from March 30, 1961, to March 21, 1962. He was stationed in Okinawa with the Third Marine Division from June 6, 1962, to June 1, 1963. He returned to Camp Lejeune and served there from August 3, 1963, until April 16, 1964, at which time he was sent on Temporary Additional Duty to the Marine Barracks at U.S. Navy Base Guantanamo, Cuba until September 12 that year. He returned to Camp Lejeune once more, where he remained until his release from Active Duty on April 16, 1965.[1] His military decorations include: Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and Rifle "Sharpshooter" Badge.

Martial arts


Ron van Clief began his martial arts career competing in both full-contact and non-contact karate tournaments in New York then internationally, going on to win several national tournaments and world championships.

Van Clief was a student of Gōjū-ryū masters Peter Urban, Frank Ruiz and Moses Powell, as well as Wing Chun Grandmaster Leung Ting, Modern Arnis (Remy Presas) and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Joe Moreira).[2]

On December 16, 1994, Ron Van Clief returned to the ring to fight in the 4th Ultimate Fighting Championship, as the oldest competitor to date to fight in the UFC at the age of 51.[3] Van Clief's sole fight in the tournament was against Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Royce Gracie. Gracie won the match by submission with a rear naked choke near the four-minute mark. Ron went on to serve as the commissioner of the UFC. Ron Van Clief retired from competition in 2002 after winning the All American Karate Championship at 60 years old. Ron competed in over 900 tournaments in over 40 years on the tournament circuit. Ron Van Clief retired as a 5 time world karate/kungfu champion and 15 time all American champion. Ron Van Clief has been competing in BJJ tournaments since 2015 and still competes as of 2021. Van Clief is also the author and creator of a number of instructional books and video recordings. His notable students include Taimak Guarriello (Star of the Cult Classic “The Last Dragon”, Shidoshi Glen Perry, Shidoshi GJ Torres (Founder of the Torres Hei-Long System)and many more.

Awards and honors


Film career


Ron Van Clief's first acting job came when he was selected to star in the 1974 Hong Kong film The Black Dragon (aka Super Dragon) opposite Jason Pai Piao. Some of his film roles during the 1970s were Blaxploitation films which capitalized on the then-novelty of an African-American martial artist, following in the tradition of Jim Kelly's role in Enter the Dragon. He starred alongside Leo Fong in a Filipino action film called Bamboo Trap in 1975. Van Clief's film roles earned him the nickname "The Black Dragon", and the name inspired the titles of his films The Black Dragon's Revenge (aka The Black Dragon Revenges the Death of Bruce Lee) (1975) and Way of the Black Dragon (1979). He appeared in the 1977 Italian crime film The Squeeze opposite Lee Van Cleef and Karen Black, and was also the fight choreographer for the 1985 film The Last Dragon.

Ron Van Clief performed various voice-over roles for the international television series titled Kung Faux.

He was a member of the Screen Actors Guild for over 3 decades.[2]

Mixed martial arts record

Professional record breakdown
1 match 0 wins 1 loss
By knockout 0 0
By submission 0 1
By decision 0 0
Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Loss 0–1 Royce Gracie Submission (rear naked choke) UFC 4 December 16, 1994 1 3:49 Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States


  • Manual of The Martial Arts (1981)
  • Ron Van Clief White Belt Guide Book (1984)
  • Ron Van Clief Green and Purple Belt Guide Book (1984)
  • The Black Heroes of The Martial Arts (1995)
  • The Hanged Man: The Story of Ron Van Clief (2012)


  1. ^ "Ron Van Clief: Where Is He Now?". Sherdog.
  2. ^ a b "The Black Dragon: Appointed by Bruce « Kung Fu Cinema". Archived from the original on 2014-03-09. Retrieved 2014-03-09.
  3. ^ [1] - UFCStats, 2009-08-26
  4. ^ "Hall of Fame Inductee Directory". Black Belt. Archived from the original on March 9, 2009. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  5. ^ Dr. Robert Goldman (March 12, 2022). "2022 International Sports Hall of Fame Inductees". www.sportshof.org. Retrieved July 14, 2023.