There are plenty of celebs who have graced the mats in some capacity at one point in time. Some training for an upcoming film, or just for fitness, others as part of a partnership or campaign. Google: “stars who train BJJ” and you will find never ending lists of A Grade to D Grade celebrities who have dabbled on the mats. But how many of them are hard core practitioners of the gentle art; training regularly and seriously committed to the sport? We put together this list of well-known (and sometimes unusual) celebs who roll regularly.
1. Ashton Kutcher
Ashton Kutcher was first introduced to BJJ on a trip to Brazil, where his bodyguard recommended it as an alternative to his morning run. Kutcher wrestled throughout his high school years and figured his grappling skills were decent enough to give it a go. It led him to Ricardo De la Riva’s academy in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro. “I just got my ass handed to me, over and over,” he says. From that moment, he was hooked. “If I go and spar with a guy and I fail, I’ll come back and double down on how I train. I might lose to that guy again, but I won’t lose that way again,” he says. As a student of coral belt Rigan Machado, just how much sparring he does is somewhat debatable. Machado has developed a “celebrity” form of Jiu-Jitsu that apparently allows them to train but without live sparring in order to prevent injuries.
2. Anthony Bourdain
The TV presenter is another passionate devotee of the gentle art. At 61 years old he is certainly one of the older celebrity BJJ practitioners. Don’t be fooled by his age, Bourdain is a IBJJF gold medallist after winning his division at the IBJJF New York Open.
He trains primarily out of Renzo Gracie’s Academy in Manhattan with his wife Ottavia, who is part of the Danaher Death Squad. Word on the street is that he commits to no less than 7 days a week on the mats! When asked how he makes it work he said, “You’ve just got to get past the first couple of days, which sucks. Then after that, it’s OK. You just keep going”.
3. Millie Bobby Brown
Millie Bobby who? This Spanish born British actress might be better known by her ‘Stranger things’ character Eleven (11). Millie found fame through the hit Netflix show, where she plays a little girl with psychic powers.
The 13 year old trains at Phoenix BJJ in England under black belt Trevor Chamberlain. Our online trolling tells us she is now a blue belt and we can’t wait to watch her progress on her BJJ Journey.
4. Paul Walker
The late Fast and Furious star was a brown belt under Ricardo “Franjinha” Miller at Paragon Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, California. Paul’s love for Jiu-Jitsu began like many others. He watched Royce Gracie dominate his opponents in UFC 1. The rest is history. Paul went on to be an avid practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. “He always wanted to showcase jiu-jitsu in his movies,” Miller wrote in a blog. “Rather than the punches and kicks so common to many action films, he wanted to use his movies as a stage for jiu-jitsu. Some of the jiu-jitsu techniques from our training sessions were utilized in the Fast and Furious series. Paul would always tell me that he did not just want to be known for fast cars. He wanted to be known for fast cars and jiu-jitsu. He wanted to be an ambassador for jiu-jitsu.” After his tragic car accident in 2013, Walker was awarded his Black belt posthumously as a way to honour his memory.
5. Demi Lovato
Lovato recently earned her blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). The singer has spent the last 12 months rolling with MMA superstars like Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture. “I fell in love with #BJJ over a year ago and have been training several times a week ever since”. The 25-year-old American Grammy nominated songwriter is known not only for her incredible voice but also for her mental health struggles. She has spoken quite publicly about her depression, self-harm, eating disorders, bullying, bipolar disorder and drug and alcohol addictions. “I work out personally because of the way it makes me feel and the release of serotonin [happy chemical in the brain]. It’s important to take care of yourself physically but also mentally as well,” she told SELF Magazine.
6. Ed O’Neill
The veteran actor is famously known as the lovable (or not) Al Bundy from ‘Married with children’. Also one of the key cast members of the popular Modern Family TV Series. O’Neill is a student of the Gracie Academy in Torrance, California. The long-time practitioner of the art of jiu-jitsu has been training since the early 90s. What most don’t know is that he is actually a BJJ black belt. The promotion given by one of the most notorious members of the Gracie clan – Rorion.
7. Scott Eastwood
Clint Eastwood’s son Scott features in a long list of movies. His career has been steadily heating up over the last few years. What many may not know is that Eastwood was introduced to BJJ by his friend, the late Paul Walker. “I do a lot of Jiu Jitsu. I think it promotes a healthy ego, and that’s why I like it. No matter what level you’re at, you’re always getting choked out, and you’re always choking someone else out. It’s humbling. That grounds you. I know I get my ass kicked, and I know I can kick someone’s ass. I don’t have anything to prove, because I prove it on the mat”.
8. Guy Ritchie
Celebrity black belt Guy Ritchie is a bonafide badass. Ritchie has been training for a bloody long time – kicking on towards 20 years! He started back in the early 2000’s with his good friend Jason Statham. His then wife, Madonna famously said Ritchie was obsessed with Jiu-Jitsu apparently spending hours rolling in his home made gym.
He started his BJJ journey as a student of Maurico Gomes before training under his son Roger Gracie back in England. The road to his black belt was a long one; he was actually a brown belt for 7 years before finally getting promoted by Renzo Gracie in 2015. “My problem with Jiu Jitsu is I forget stuff, I’ve been training twenty years and I reckon I’ve forgotten eighteen years worth of it” he says in an interview with Roger Gracie. Kudos to him for sticking it out.
9. Kelly Slater
World Champion Surfer Kelly Slater trains regularly at AOJ and Studio 540. The blue belt was introduced to the sport while in Brazil in 1982. “Truth is, surfing is like a martial art. Good martial artists use the most efficient moves for getting the body to produce more energy. In surfing you have to master the same things – base, balance on your feet, the act of turning, bend and extend your legs. I love watching two guys fighting. It’s like human chess”. In an interview with Gracie Mag Slater passionately states that “Kids Should Do Jiu-Jitsu before any other sport”. We couldn’t agree with you more Kelly!
10. Jonathan Lipnicki
Remember that cute little child star of Jerry Maguire? And Stuart Little? Well, he’s a brown belt now. But the road wasn’t easy. A victim of bullying during his childhood which led to bouts of depression and anxiety. Lipnicki claims that BJJ became a source of comfort to the actor and improved his self-esteem immeasurably. While acting remains his main passion Lipnicki also competes regularly at local competitions and the occasional IBJJF comp.
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