Anthony Bourdain’s BJJ Journey

Anthony Bourdain was known for his love of authentic food and wild adventures. Later in his life he also picked up a peculiar hobby, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The grappling based martial art had the former chef hooked and before long he was training everyday on the finer points of strangles and joint breaks.

What BJJ Belt Was Anthony Bourdain?

Anthony Bourdain was a blue belt. He was promoted in August, 2015 after training for 2 years by his coach Igor Gracie at the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York.

A blue belt is an intermediate rank in BJJ and typically takes athletes anywhere from 1 to 4 years to achieve. The fact that Anthony Bourdain was able to receive his blue belt after just 2 years of training highlights his dedication to Jiu Jitsu.

Where Did Anthony Bourdain Train BJJ?

Anthony Bourdain mostly trained at the Renzo Gracie Academy in his hometown of New York. As the TV presenter regularly travelled who would also train on the road, dropping into BJJ clubs in Vietnam, Turkey, Argentina and throughout the US.

Anthony Bourdain could be regularly spotted training BJJ at the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York. When he was back home he was on the mats most days of the week.

He studied mostly under Igor Gracie and regularly took privates with the high level BJJ black belt. When he was in the Hamptons he would often have Igor Gracie come to his house so he could get extra Jiu Jitsu training in.

As Bourdain was often on the road filming his TV show, he would continue training BJJ by stopping by local gyms. This led to him training throughout the US and in locations such as Argentina, Turkey and Vietnam.

Bourdain took private lessons with Turkey’s first BJJ black belt Burak Deger Bicer at his gym Corvos BJJ in Istanbul.

He stopped by Ralph Gracie’s academy in San Francisco and trained with the legendary Kurt Osiander. Bourdain described his training at Ralph Gracie’s academy, “Absolutely my favorite place to train in SF. And one of my favorite places anywhere. True they go hard. True there are some absolute killers. But the vibe is very chill, the people are super nice –and there ain’t nobody like Kurt. Highly recommended . To miss out would be criminal.”

How Often Did Anthony Bourdain Train BJJ?

Anthony Bourdain would train BJJ everyday. He would typically take a private lesson and then train in a general class. Bourdain was truly obsessed with BJJ and even while travelling and filming he would ensure he found a BJJ club to train at.

Anthony Bourdain describes his BJJ training volume, “59 and I train every motherfuckin’ day.”

“57 when I started. Had never been in a gym in my life. Lifetime heavy smoker. Overweight.

Coming up on 59 now. I train every day, wherever I can. If I’m home, I’ll do a private followed by GenPop class . Every day. . If away, I’ll take what I can get: preferably classes with some hard rolling . 

That can be, as I’ve found out, a mystery basket , as levels of aggression and acceptable techniques tend to vary. Face cranks and can openers, for instance, seem to be a polite way to begin a roll in some parts of Eastern Europe.

Conventional wisdom is that I should allow myself recovery time . That training every day is not wise. I say fuck that. The clock is ticking. Im not getting any faster, more flexible or more durable. Gotta get in what training I can–learn as much as I can, get as good as I can before I leave this life like I began it: diapered and screaming.”

Was Anthony Bourdain Good At BJJ?

Anthony Bourdain was good at BJJ. He earned his blue belt after training Jiu Jitsu for 2 years. At the time of his death he had been training for 5 years on a daily basis and was known for his powerful ankle locks.

Bourdain was an intermediate level BJJ athlete. He earned his blue belt and had been training everyday for over 5 years.

He had taken hundreds and hundreds of private lessons, spent thousands of hours on the BJJ mats and trained in gyms all over the world. 

He was known for having a tricky open guard and a mean straight ankle lock which he regularly would use to submit other athletes half his age.

Bourdain wasn’t your typical celebrity BJJ practitioner. He wouldn’t just hide in private classes and refuse to spar. No, Bourdain would drop in to random gyms in Hungary, Argentina and Vietnam and spar with anyone, no matter how big or skilled they were. 

Bourdain took his ass kickings and dished out a few of his own on his memorable BJJ journey.

Bourdain even competed in a local New York BJJ tournament as a blue belt and managed to get the win.

 If Bourdain had continued his dedication to the sport he would have eventually received his black belt.  

Anthony Bourdain’s Musings On BJJ On Reddit

Some of you may not be aware but Anthony Bourdain had an anonymous account on reddit where he called himself NooYawkCity. He would frequently post in the r/bjj subreddit about Jiu Jitsu. 

Here are a few of my favorite Bourdain Reddit BJJ posts

“After 45 minutes of sprawls and burpies, it’s time for live rolling. Someone puts on Rupert Holmes’ “Piña Colada Song” and right away the 270 lb former wrestler who just got dumped by his girlfriend , angrily passes my guard, slaps me into side control and sinks his weight into my jaw. He’s wearing a new but filthy Atama gi. It feels like a cheese grater against my cheek as he grinds away at me. 

I can hear my teeth making terrible sounds and am pretty sure my crowns are going to explode any second. Jabba The Wrestler has been eating at Subway. I can smell rancid, sour, pre-sliced onions on his breath, which, sadly does little to mask the horrifying miasma of swamp ass rising from his sweaty thighs. As my teeth give way, the music changes to Don Mclean’s “American Pie”. I pray for death but I’m already dead.”

“58 years old. And often feel like I’ll be shitting bone fragments after a hard day’s rolling. One 22 year old college wrestler Killdozer after another crushing my rib cage like a box of stale Triscuits. But wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“For over 40 years, my life pretty much revolved around drugs. . Booze and cigarettes almost the background music to my drugs of choice ( heroin and cocaine). Drug free but a drinker until I started BJJ–at which point the inevitability of getting smashed every day made alcohol a much less attractive option and cigarettes out of the question. 

Frankly, BJJ as an addiction has in many ways replaced my previous ones. If I’m away from my home academy, I find myself looking for someplace anyplace to train like a dope fiend looking for a methadone clinic. My emotional state when deprived of training would , in different circumstances, be called “drug seeking behavior.”

“Rolled with another white belt today. He knew nothing–which is okay, because I know nothing. But he was built like a freaking dump truck, and was about as graceful . Also, he’s a wrestler. What kind of wrestler, I can’t imagine. He managed to kick me in the nose, WWE elbow drop onto my stomach, and generally throw me around his cage–when he wasn’t just laying on my legs or trying to artlessly squash me with his massive girth. 

Oh, yeah, he did try and twist my foot off. That was …interesting. I don’t think he even attempted a single recognizable jiu jitsu technique that I’m aware of–and raising the subject in a helpful way is difficult as he communicates only in monosyllabic grunts and avoids eye contact.

What’s the polite thing to do here? I sure as shit don’t want to roll with this Killdozer again. Do I edge over to the other side of the mat when he approaches? Talk to the professor and beg him to put Godzilla back on Monster Island? Shoot him with a tranquilizer dart so we can track him back to see if there are others of his species?

What’s the appropriate response to this ?”

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