Bourdain: Getting Blue Belt Greatest Day Of My Life After Birth of Daughter

Bourdain: Getting Blue Belt Greatest Day Of My Life After Birth of Daughter

59 year old BJJ blue belt Anthony Bourdain is an American chef, author, and television personality. He is known for his 2000 book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, and in 2005 he began hosting the Travel Channel’s culinary and cultural adventure programs Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and The Layover. In 2013, he joined CNN to host Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
Bourdain’s wife. Ottavia is a purple belt BJJ competitor. She trains twice a day. In September 2013, she convinced him to start training at Renzo Gracie academy in New York.
After his first training session, he was hooked. He has a very demanding job which requires him to travel a lot so he always makes it a point to train Jiu-Jitsu abroad. In the past years he has trained in Hungary, Korea, Turkey, USA, Scotland and many other locations.
As a result of his training, he has lost 30lbs.

Bourdain was recently in San Francisco shooting an episode and he also trained at Ralph Gracie Academy.

He told Medium.com about his love for Jiu-Jitsu:


Every day I’m home in New York…..every day, I head down to the cellar locker room of the Renzo Gracie Academy and put on my gi. Then, barefoot and ready to meet my fate, I head out onto the mats. Usually, I take an hour long private lesson with my principal instructor, Igor Gracie, followed by an hour long class with the general population of mixed belts taught by John Danaher. About half an hour of techniques and drilling, then, the last half hour of class is spent sparring. Four five minute rounds with 60 seconds in between.
Invariably I do not “win” these rounds, meaning, I do not “tap” anybody. As much as I might like to, I do not compress anybody’s neck in such a way as to restrict oxygenated blood flow to the brain (thereby causing them to submit or pass out). I am almost always unsuccessful when attempting to bend an arm, shoulder or extremity in ways that God did not intend. Instead, I fight as hard as I can to delay the inevitable — to fend off my training partners — younger, often larger chested and more heavily muscled — almost always more skilled — from passing my guard, crushing my rib cage in side control, getting an arm under my head and pressing their shoulder into my jaw. Every second, every minute I can prevent that from happening is a victory to me.

When I’m not in New York, when I’m on the road shooting PARTS UNKNOWN, I go to whatever local gym, yoga studio, garage, cellar claims to teach Brazilian Jiu Jitsu — places where the term “parts unknown” can really apply. Until I walk in the door, I have no idea what I’m going to face; what the local custom is concerning techniques like face-cranks, heel hooks, can openers, knee-on-neck, what the acceptable level of aggression is, whether my training partners will be amiable blue belts, giant Slav white belts with 10 years of wrestling experience, or huge, heavily tattooed Pacific islanders — none of whom even remember having a neck. Will the “facility” be an austere, Japanese style dojo, a freezing garage, an airless, 110 degree closet, a military base, a boxing ring? I have trained in all these places: Glasgow, Maui, Istanbul, Beirut, Budapest, Kuching, Kuala Lumpur, Okinawa, Marseille — and all over the US.

Tony with Adem

Tony with Adem Redzovic


As I say at the top of this episode, as I tape my fingers (in the forlorn hope that it might mitigate the osteoarthritis and Heberden’s nodes associated with grip fighting), I will never be a black belt. I will never successfully compete against similarly ranked opponents half my age, I will never be great at Brazilian jiu jitsu. There is an urgency to my training because I’m sure as shit not getting any younger, or more flexible. I’m certainly not getting any faster. And as I head down the highway on my jiu jitsu journey, the likelihood of the wheels coming off the car grows stronger every day.

But I am determined to suck less at this jiu jitsu thing every day if I can.

Jiu Jitsu makes me very happy — regardless of how good or bad I am at it — and how dim my prospects of ever excelling at it. It’s become a family tradition: my wife does it pretty much as a profession, seeking to tear knees and ankles off people — or occasionally, helping to teach others how to do same. My daughter does it because it’s fun — and because every young girl, if possible, should be free of ever being physically intimidated by a boy (I pity the first little boy who shoves my daughter to the ground).
I do it because it’s hard. Because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And because it never ends. Every day presents me with a series of problems that I spend the rest of the day thinking about how I might solve — or at least chip away at. Next day same. And the day after that.

It’s like being the newest, worst cook in the kitchen all over again, looking up that impossibly steep learning curve to the broiler station. I liked that feeling then. I like it now.

The first day, all those years ago, when my chef addressed me by name at the end of the shift, was a golden moment.

When I recently got my blue belt, after over two years of training, it was, other than the birth of my daughter, pretty much the greatest day of my life. That belt doesn’t mean I’m any good at jiu jitsu, by the way. It just means that I worked really, really hard at something. And that presumably, I suck at it just a tiny bit less.