Stephie Daniels: You recently skipped New York traffic to take a helicopter to BJJ practice. How did that come to pass?
Anthony Bourdain: You asked me a couple years back if I would ever train, and I said to you, "Hell no!'" Now, I'm like all of these other sick f---s out there. If I don't train, I'm like going through drug withdrawal. I feel miserable and worthless if I miss a single day. I've been going a lot. I'm not commuting to NY every day like Ottavia, but given the opportunity to fly in for family training day, it made perfect sense to me.
Basically, for the last year, every day that I'm not shooting, I'm training. From the last day of the show, I've been training at Renzo's every single day, sometimes two sessions a day. Sometimes in regular class with the general population, and then again in a private session to figure out what I f---ed up in class.
SD: A couple of years ago you were totally against learning the art, then this past Christmas you caught the bug and had started training. Now you're a full blown BJJ addict. You've come full circle, it would seem.
AB: I have reasonable expectations. I am a white belt. There's not a single thing for me to be proud of when I walk out onto the mat, but I am really having a good time. I've discovered that it's a lot like writing. I think that they appeal to the same part of my brain.
If I have a good writing day, I get up and write for an hour or two or three, after which I basically paint myself into a corner or up a tree. I can't go any further. I'm out of ideas. I don't know where I'm going to go next. I've created a problem for myself by not being able to continue. The rest of the day I'm thinking about how am I going to fix this and what am I going to write tomorrow.
When I go to the gym, inevitably, as happens in jiu-jitsu, you are presented with a series of problems, which chances are, you do not solve [laughs]. When I finish at the gym, I'm thinking for the rest of the day about how I can go in the next day and suck a little bit less than I did today.
For me, I don't really have a goal in mind. I'm just looking to suck a little bit less every few weeks. It's very satisfying when something actually clicks and I can see improvement. When I don't spend an entire hour squashed on the mat, that's very satisfying.
It's much more about the creation of new problems that's maybe even more interesting to me than any notion that I'm going to get somewhere in particular. I'm really liking this endless process. They're also nice people. They're very supportive. I'm 58 years old and I was in s--- shape when I started, and now I go home feeling good. It's physically the hardest thing I've ever done, and I love it.
SD: You compared BJJ to writing earlier. Do you find any similarities with cooking, or is that too far removed?
AB: They're very different. Cooking is a very instinctive thing and it's also about multi-tasking. It's about doing the same thing the same way over and over. I don't really see a lot of similarities with cooking other than repetition, repetition, repetition. You learn to cook by doing the same thing over and over and over again, until it's second nature. You know when a piece of steak is done just by listening to it, or there's a little internal alarm you have where you just know when it's done.
If you were to stretch it a bit, I guess you could say you could sense an omaplata coming [laughs] in much the same way. I'm still at the point where I'm not seeing stuff. Again, I'm a white belt. I'm still spazzing out about how to breathe and when to use my energy. Right now, I don't know anything, but I'm looking forward to maybe someday knowing something.