Happy Birthday to Dolph Lundgren who turns 57 today! The talented actor, writer and director is perhaps best known for playing opposite Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV as the inimitable Captain Ivan Drago.
He’s not all muscle though, because he has the brains to match!
He was raised in an academic middle-class family in Stockholm, Sweden. Despite an early interest in playing the drums and clowning around in high school comedies, Dolph decided to follow in his father’s and older brother’s cerebral footsteps and pursue an engineering degree.
After having completed his military service in the Swedish Marine Corps, Dolph enrolled in the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, studying the same subject as his older brother: Chemical Engineering. He attended both Washington State University and Clemson University in South Carolina, studying Chemistry on various scholarships.
He graduated from The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, completing his Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering on an exchange program with the University of Sydney in Australia. Graduating at the head of his class, Dolph was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, one of the world’s top engineering schools.
Dolph explains why: “A big fat guy grabbed me in a judo choke-hold, laid on top of me — sweating all over me. So I thought; sure, martial arts is great but in karate at least you can stay further away from your opponent.”
Dolph started in the traditional Japanese style Goju-ryu, but soon switched to Kyokushinkai, the more powerful style developed by Japanese karate legend Mas Oyama. Dolph kept training throughout high school and then moved back to Stockholm to complete his military service and go to University. This is when Dolph met his Sensei and future friend-to-be, Brian Fitkin, then a 4th Dan. At the age of 19, Dolph started competing; in non-contact “point fighting”. He lost his first four out of five fights.
In 1979, while serving in the Swedish Marine Corps, Dolph was selected to fight in the 2nd World Open Karate Tournament in Tokyo one of the earliest international full-contact tournaments. Still only a green belt Dolph had to borrow a brown belt (one level higher) to be able to fight. “Full-contact-karate was something new at the time. Nobody really knew a lot about it, and neither did I.”
Nevertheless, Dolph knocked out his first two opponents with a “hiza-geri” (knee-kick to the face) and the crowd started to take notice of the tall, gangly Swede. ” I felt a little bad for my opponents but after winning those two fights, I knew full-contact was definitely for me”.
You can read a lot more on his official website.
Here’s a Dolph interview by Jonathan Ross: