Anthony Bourdain on JiuJitsu Style

Anthony Bourdain courtesy of JiuJitsu Style.

There’s a great article on Jiujitsu Style about the late, great, Anthony Bourdain and his love for BJJ, which he took up later in life. Over four years, Bourdain posted on the BJJ Reddit forum, r/bjj, as NooYawkCity 80 times before his death. He wasn’t doing it to promote a book or new TV show. He was just doing it because he loved BJJ, and his writing was real, honest, unflitered and above all, relatable.

Here’s an example:

“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.” – NooYawkCity, July 9th, 2014

Pressure point striking is back!

Dim mak, pressure points, high kicks and nerve strikes! Along with permed hair, styled into a mullet, and blue jeans, these were part of the staple diet of kung fu magazines in the 1980s and 1990s. But pressure point striking quickly became something of a running joke once people found out that it couldn’t be applied in a real fight, you know, when somebody was actually trying to punch your face in, not just when they were standing in front of you passively in the dojo, happily waiting for you to strike their Gallbladder 15 or Lung 4 points.

The reputation of pressure point striking wasn’t helped by the many obvious charlatans peddling their fake pressure point striking systems on DVD and on seminar circuits. These ‘masters’ tended to only demonstrate their skills on their own gullible students, and they rarely seem to work on other people, who hadn’t been brainwashed to think they were the second coming. 

But while falling foul of reality, pressure point striking carried on a healthy second life in the fantasy-based genre of martial arts movies. For example, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon had a great scene where one of the fighters is almost instantly paralysed by some quick pressure point tomfoolery until he can be released by yet more pressure point touching.

And in Kill Bill: Volume 2, the late David Carridine famously succumbed to Bak Mei’s legendary 5 point palm exploding heart technique, delivered deliciously by Uma Thurman. 

Even as recently as 2021, in the Marvel TV series, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, homage was paid to the pressure point movie trope with a body-popping sequence that made the Winter Soldier’s metal arm suddenly detach from his shoulder and fall to the floor with a clank, turning him from super soldier into one-armed bandit with one simple cheat code.

However, if you ignore the mystical nonsense surrounding pressure point striking you’ll find that it is actually based on some pretty sound scientific principles. In a recent UFC 252 match Anthony Smith seemed to paralyse Jimmy Crute’s leg with a well-delivered calf kick. 

After the kick, Crute’s leg seemed to be unable to function in a way that was almost comical. Crute bravely tried to fight on, but his leg was so unusable after the strike that the ring doctor waved the fight off when he was unable to walk in a straight line properly between rounds. I’m sure I heard Pak Mei chuckle quietly to himself in his grave when it happened.

So how was this possible? The answer lies in nerves. 

As orthopedic surgeon Dr Lucius Pomerantz explains, on his YouTube channel, the phenomenon is called Drop Foot, and it’s what happens when the peroneal nerve sustains an injury. “When a nerve does not work the muscles that it innervates do not receive messages from the brain. When the peroneal nerve is injured the muscles that raise the foot at the ankle do not work – the foot drops down. Simply walking can be extremely difficult without the ability to raise the foot.”

So, there you have it. A pressure point strike achieved via a calf kick in MMA! I’m glad pressure points are making a comeback, and I hope we’ll see more of them in the future.

I just hope the permed mullet doesn’t make a comeback as well. 

He who stands on one leg (lives longer)

I’ve just finished listening to Just One Thing by Michael Mosley from BBC Sounds. It’s a short 14 minute radio show and this episode is about the benefits of standing on one leg.

I wrote a blog post a while ago about standing in a deep horse stance when brushing your teeth as a life hack for building leg strength. It was a bit of a throw-away post, but surprisingly it consistently turns up in my blog statistics as one of my most popular stories.

Michael does something similar while brushing his teeth, but he stands on one leg instead.

It turns out that your ability to stand on one leg for an extended period of time is a good indicator of how long you’re going to live, and it decreases significantly after age 35. It’s something to do with the brain slowing down as we age and the fact that balance requires the integration of so many body systems, but the good news is that we can improve our balance with practice.

You can give your self a little test of your balance right now if you like. Try and stand on one leg for 30 seconds each side, and for 10 seconds with your eyes shut. Be careful though, standing on one leg with your eyes shut is very tricky!

So, what’s the best way to improve you balance? Professor Dawn Skelton from Glasgow Caledonian University was interviewed in the programme about all things relating to balance, and at 10 minutes 59 seconds she recommends Tai Chi as one of the best activities to improve your balance and prevent your first serious fall – especially for old people. It is 3 dimensional movement, so your head moves at different times to the rest of your body, and because it’s slow and controlled you get great feedback from joints.

So there you go – yet more evidence that Tai Chi is good for you and will help you live longer!

How much water should you drink a day?

We are constantly bombarded with the idea that we need to drink quite a large volume of water a day. Have you ever tried to drink the recommended 3 litres, or 8 cups, of water in a day? It’s actually pretty hard to do, and you’ll end up going to the toilet constantly. At least, that’s my experience!

After listening to the new Body Stuff podcast from TED Audio Collective by Dr Jen Gunter I now realise that this commonly accepted myth was spread by bottled water and sports drink companies using bogus science. It’s a better idea to simply drink when you feel thirsty – unless you have some sort of medical condition.

Give the podcast a listen, because it’s pretty good. You can find it on Apple Podcasts.

Here’s the info on the show:

Body Stuff with Dr. Jen Gunter, the newest podcast from the TED Audio Collective, launches on May 19. Body Stuff will bust the lies you’re told — and sold — about your personal health. Body Stuff is hosted by celebrated OB/GYN, pain medicine physician and TED speaker Dr. Jen Gunter, who has made it her mission to combat health misinformation online and isn’t afraid to take on the world’s biggest peddlers of it — from lotions and potions to diets and detoxes.

Each week’s episode debunks a medical myth and turns us into experts by demystifying how our bodies work. For example, did you know that you don’t actually need eight glasses of water a day? Or that you can’t “boost” your immune system? With humor and wit, Dr. Jen Gunter is here to educate you, while also disproving myths that have been around for centuries. 

TED