Anthony Bourdain died by suicide in 2018. He was 61 years old.
The former chef turned author was best-known for his food and travel television series such as No Reservations, The Layover and Parts Unknown. Anyone who watched Bourdain’s series immediately noticed his keen passion for food, drink, globetrotting, movies and music. In later years, those who paid attention, would have noticed Bourdain discovering—and then getting obsessed with—Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, too.
In 2015 Bourdain earned his blue belt. A year later he won a gold medal at the IBJJF New York Spring International Open Championship.
In 2014 Bourdain spoke with Bloody Elbow’s Stephie Haynes about his love for BJJ. In the piece Sucking a little less Bourdain discussed how he got into the sport and what kept him coming back to it.
In addition to being very public with his love of BJJ, we now know that Bourdain was also engaging in the sport’s culture in a more understated manner. Rolling Stone has confirmed that Bourdain frequented the reddit community r/bjj under the name NooYawkCity.
Bourdain’s archive of posts under the NooYawkCity name can be found here.
Bourdain’s posts show a profound appreciation and adoration for grappling. The writing also smacks of the kind of narration that made his series so popular. In his posts he discussed his training at Renzo Gracie Academy. He also revealed he spent time working at Fight Sports and with notable instructors like John Danaher and Ralph Gracie.
His posts also included him appealing for suggestions of where to train while on his travels to Charleston, Budapest and Okinawa. He also asked for tips on injury recovery and gym etiquette, and geeked out over videos of spider guards and ‘Jedi leg tricks’.
One of the more humorous posts is when Bourdain slammed a fellow redditor for not taking hygiene seriously. “Wash your fucking gi after EVERY class!” he wrote.
In another reply Bourdain warned someone about the prowess of UFC commentator Joe Rogan, writing: “I can tell you from personal experience you do NOT want Rogan’s arms anywhere near your neck. He cranks. Hard. And enjoys it while he does it. He’d destroy Snipes . Like hospitalize destroy.”
My favourite comment is what he wrote in response to a video of actor/martial artists Steven Seagal.
“Seagal is a ‘deadly mofo’ if you get between him and the all you can eat pasta bar,” wrote Bourdain. “The hair is definitely deadly though. A wad of that Dynell weave comes undone during a fight with Lightning Chunks of Death and you could choke.”
Below are a selection of the longer and more detailed posts he contributed to r/bjj, for your reading pleasure:
June 29 2014: 58 year old white belt
I’ve been training about a year, and only recently gotten solidly hooked. From once every few weeks, to once a week to nearly every day.
Now it’s an obsession. I’m in shit shape, gas early, and of course, hurt like hell after training. Given the limits of any reasonable expectations, am I out of my fucking mind?
Jul 1 2014: Grinding Away
58 years old, been doing privates for about a year, finally started joining the white belt classes. After a very tough first time out, freezing in the headlights, well rehearsed techniques suddenly evaporating in memory, running out of gas , I had a much better second class. But I still don’t know how to breath and my conditioning is shit . Within a couple minutes, I’ve pretty much blown any strength I might need to complete a submission . Any ideas on improving conditioning specifically for rolling? Some say only more rolling helps. That it will get better. I’m wondering if there’s at least some minimal other shit I can do between sessions.
July 9 2014: Chicken Fried Steak
58 years old and getting so gassed during warm ups, that when we start to roll, I end up sticking my own head into an obvious guillotine —just to take a break. An utterly humiliating class yesterday, yet showed up for a private today with 250 lbs of muscle and bone so I could get pounded like a chicken fried steak . Why am I doing this? I don’t know. I’m like a dope fiend at this point. If I can’t train I start going into withdrawal. Wander around, twitching, restless and pissed off. At least with dope, you feel GOOD afterwards . After training, I feel like a rented and unloved mule . All the other (much, much younger) white belts all seem to be coming back from long breaks because of injury. Strangely enough, so far so good for me. I may feel like a fragile box of stale breadsticks but I’ve managed to avoid injury (if not discomfort). I have never enjoyed pain. I don’t care if it’s Gisele Bunchen coming at me in thigh boots wielding a riding crop, I’m not interested. Yet I insist on getting squashed on the mats every day and feel bereft if I can’t. This is not normal. When I talk about BJJ , Old friends look at me like I have an arm growing out of my forehead. But I Won’t stop. Can’t stop.
August 14 2014: Monster X
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 ?
September 13 2014: SQUASHADELIC!!
So I usually train in one city and lately, because I’m working, I train in another. At home, I’m used to getting utterly mauled by upper belts, spazzy white belts, instructors, everybody. No mercy. Squash, squash,squash. It’s soul destroying . And it hurts. But when I manage to find a little space, maybe—just maybe , once in a great while , escape or sweep, I go home feeling like Attila the Hun. Where I am now,they flow roll. Which is, of course, very sensible. I learn stuff. Less injury. I learn to identify opportunities, practice moves. After class, I can get up off the toilet without being tempted to call for help . Yet...I feel strangely unsatisfied with the severity of the ass kickings I’ve been receiving. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like pain. And if they rolled harder here, I’d be on the tapping end of the equation even MORE frequently. (I get cheap subs here all the time). I just feel like that episode of the Simpsons where they’re playing musical chairs and there are enough chairs for everyone. “Everybody wins.” Is that fucked up of me or what?