Biography of Chuck Norris, Actor and Martial Artist

Actor Chuck Norris and wife Gena O'Kelley
Chuck Norris with his wife.

Vince Bucci/Stringer/Getty Images

Carlos Ray "Chuck" Norris was born on March 10, 1940, in Ryan, Oklahoma to Wilma and Ray Norris. His paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother were of Irish ancestry, while his maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother were Cherokee Native Americans.

Norris’ father, a mechanic, bus driver, and truck driver had a problem with drinking. In addition, Norris was bothered and teased about his mixed ethnicity growing up. Having been bullied fueled his desire to learn martial arts.

Martial Arts Training

Norris joined the Air Force as an Air Policeman in 1958 and was subsequently stationed at Osan Air Base in South Korea. It is there that he began training in Tang Soo Do, a form of karate that he eventually achieved black belt status in. Norris also awarded 8th degree Black Belt Grand Master recognition in Tae Kwon Do. He was the first in the Western Hemisphere to accomplish this.

In 2000, Norris was presented with the Golden Lifetime Achievement Award by the World Karate Union Hall of Fame. More recently, Norris was awarded a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Martial Arts Tournament Fighting

Chuck Norris had an outstanding karate tournament career from 1964 until his retirement in 1974. His tournament record is estimated to be 183-10-2, though opinions often vary on this to a significant degree. He won at least 30 tournaments.

In addition, Norris was the former World Professional Middleweight Karate Champion, a belt that he held for six years. Along the way, he defeated karate greats like Allen Steen, Joe Lewis, Arnold Urquidez, and Louis Delgado.

Film Career

Norris is perhaps best known for his film career. Though he made his movie debut in the film The Wrecking Crew, his popularity truly began to soar in 1972 after appearing as Bruce Lee's enemy in Way of the Dragon. His first starring role took hold in the 1977 movie, Breaker! Breaker!. From there, he appeared in popular films like The Octagon, An Eye for an Eye, and Lone Wolf McQuaid, before finally hitting the big time by starring in the Missing in Action series.

Norris also appeared in the popular films Code of Silence, The Delta Force, and Firewalker.

Walker, Texas Ranger

In 1993, Norris began shooting the television series Walker, Texas Ranger. Acting as a Texas Ranger with martial arts acumen, Norris’s stardom was revived for the eight seasons that the show lasted on CBS.

The Martial Arts Style Founded by Chuck Norris

Chun Kuk Do is the martial arts style that Norris founded. It is based in Tang Soo Do, the original discipline that he learned. That said, it also incorporates several other styles of fighting. In addition to his karate prowess, Norris has achieved 3rd-degree black belt status in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (Machado branch).

Personal Life

Norris married Diane Holechek in 1958. Together they had Mike (born 1963). One year later, he had his first daughter, Dina, with another woman. However, Norris told Entertainment Tonight's Mary Hart that he didn't know about Dina until she was 26 years old. He and his wife had another son, Eric, in 1965. They divorced in 1988.

In 1998 Norris married Gena O'Kelley, a woman 23 years younger than himself. They had twins in 2001: Dakota Alan Norris (boy) and Danilee Kelly Norris (girl).

Norris has written several Christian-themed books and is an advocate for prayer in schools.

Three Things You Didn't Know About Chuck Norris

  1. Norris is an outspoken Christian that serves on NCBCPS's board of directors. The NCBCPS promotes the use of the Bible in schools.
  2. Norris has taught stars like Steve McQueen, Bob Barker, Priscilla Presley, and Donnie and Marie Osmond martial arts.
  3. Norris is also known for his offshore powerboat racing in some circles. In 1991, his team won the World Off Shore Powerboat championships.