Anthony Bourdain talks about his new found love for Jiu-Jitsu

BJJ Community Mourns Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain’s death was reported Friday morning. An apparent suicide at the age of 61 for reasons only he knows. Many that followed him for his “Parts Unknown” series and his storytelling exploration of other cultures around the world are mourning his passing and many memoriam posts on social media are currently flooding your feeds.

When I see the CNN stuff, at least when it was first reported they show his passion for food, travel and sharing stories over a meal. Those experiences were shared with us through his series but one community that he found not so long ago has been mourning him deeply, the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu community. He was invested in the art, earned a blue belt and competed.

In grappling arts like wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu you often hear that it “saves lives”, but somehow Bourdain could not be saved. It is particularly sad for me because Brazilian jiu-jitsu saved my life. So when I hear that someone that had a passion for the sport like Bourdain was so tormented by something he would take his own life, my first thought was, “Why didn’t you find someone to roll with bro?”

Let me explain; I have been training martial arts half of my life but Brazilian jiu-jitsu is the one that opened up my soul to the hard truths that the world will always show you, and how to deal with them. The first image in my mind I had when I read about Bourdain passing was the episode where he visits Kurt Osiander in California and in his opening narration he says, “I’ll never be a black belt.” Anything is possible but with knowledge of his apparent suicide now, it makes me wonder what he was struggling with and how long to make him believe that he would not continue the journey of training that does save lives. But also makes me want to listen a little harder to people that may need help and are too proud to ask for it.

“I will never be a young man or younger than I am today. I will never be faster or more flexible. I will never win a competition against a 22-year old wrestler in my weight class. I will never be a black belt. None of these things will happen but none of that matters anymore.” – Anthony Bourdain/Parts Unknown Season 6. Episode 4

One of my training partners pointed out not so long ago that one of the absolute best things about jiu-jitsu is that feeling when you’re done training, sweat-soaked in your gi or rash guard just talking with your training partners about everything and nothing. There’s always a great sense of peace in that. You share the humility the art teaches you during training, then everything else after it is done.

Whatever he was struggling with must have been too much to bear but he shared with us the lesson of enjoying our time with people around us and learning from the conversation had over a good meal. I’m sorry that we lost him to what was reported but something tells me Bourdain would want folks to keep on exploring, eating, training, and experience everything the world has to offer. Even if it is not Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu find peace in whatever experience you find most fulfilling and remember no one is ever truly alone.


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Edward Carbajal
Edward holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Bachelor's degree in Communications. Along with over 30 years of martial arts experience, he co-hosts The Coast-2-Coast Combat Hour podcast, and also writes for Spectation Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @Carbazel