BJJ Mental Health

Friend says Jiu Jitsu helped Anthony Bourdain Fight Demons

Anthony Bourdain used to hang around cold New York stairwells first thing in the morning, waiting to score heroin. Then he replaced that with hanging around cold stairwells waiting to start a Jiu Jitsu class.

Most of the tributes that have been pouring in for Bourdain, the beloved celebrity chef who took his life aged 61 last week, have pontificated that he succumbed to the demons in his head which came from a decade-long addiction to drugs.

Taking up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu six years ago may have helped him cope for as long as he did.

“He had said himself that he’s the guy that needs projects,” said Matt Walsh, a close friend of Bourdain’s who produced Asia-based episodes of his programs Parts UnknownNo Reservations and The Layover for 14 years.

“Idle time was bad for him because idle time perhaps gave him the opportunity to do things he shouldn’t do, or think thoughts he shouldn’t think. Jiu Jitsu gave him focus and certainly tension release, anxiety release.”

Walsh did the advance work for Bourdain’s shows, arranging things for him to do, scouting locations for him to eat at, and finding people for him to eat with, before the crew would come in and shoot. But he also helped find gyms for Bourdain to train Jiu Jitsu when the cameras weren’t rolling.

“Tony loved Jiu Jitsu, he was mad about it – once he started with it he went all in,” Walsh said. “He had an obsessive compulsive personality. He would train wherever he went, unless he really was in the middle of nowhere.”

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