The Fascination with BJJ and Celebrities – Who’s Training Now?
We see an increasing number of celebrities dabbling in BJJ, and pursuing the art for personal and career reasons alike.
Early on in my training, I caught wind that Maynard James Keenan from Tool and A Perfect Circle fame was a purple belt. It blew my mind. Purple belts were like unicorns when I started training, you almost never crossed paths with one. I also grew up an enormous fan of both of the aforementioned music groups, so it was extra exciting for me.
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Maynard James Keenan
If you’ve never seen the video of the altercation between Keenan and the fan that jumped on stage during a Tool concert, it’s pretty much a right of passage if you train BJJ, so here it is. But pretend you’ve seen it before if anyone asks. Scroll to about 2:46 in the video.
Nice hip toss, right? In an interview with Joe Rogan years later when asked about the incident, Keenan simply replied, “It was my stage”. After the beautiful take down, Keenan quickly secures the back, and then spends an uncomfortable amount of time in the mount, continuing to sing as if nothing is askew. This was the wrong night for this rabid fan to try and share the stage with Keenan and his band. Lesson learned.
What is it about celebrities training that intrigues us so much? Every time a piece of news pops up featuring a celebrity in a BJJ setting the internet catches fire. Maybe it’s the fact that we feel so separated from how huge these people’s lives are. BJJ puts us all on the same playing field. So, you played a tough guy in a movie? That doesn’t translate to the mat. You’ll have to put in your time just like everyone else Mr. Action Star.
Celebrities training shines an extra spotlight on BJJ as well. As you know, movie stars and high-profile icons have a very large amount of influence. When a celebrity posts on Instagram or Facebook for example, millions of people are exposed to the content, and when they post about BJJ, it aids in extending the reach of the art of jiu-jitsu.
So, who’s training lately?
There’s been recent news of Halle Berry getting involved with the gentle art for a role in her upcoming movie called Bruised. The film is touted as an MMA action/drama, so of course jiu-jitsu must make an appearance. She’s enlisted the help of Brian Ortega to assist her in preparing for the part, and he states that his goal is to get her jiu-jitsu looking “dope as f#$%”.
This is not Halley’s first experience with BJJ. She began her study of jiu-jitsu in her preparation for John Wick 3, and apparently, she’s been training with Chris Cyborg at her Huntington Beach training facility as well. You can watch a full interview with Ortega on his plans for Berry here:
Mario Lopez and Mark Paul Gosselaar
How about Mario Lopez learning a little bit of worm guard with Keenan Cornelius? A video recently surfaced of Lopez in a training session with Cornelius. It seems Lopez had asked him if he could do a private lesson on the worm guard, and they made it happen. Lopez is a Gracie Barra blue belt, and is said to have excellent wrestling and passing pressure. It wasn’t that long ago that we saw Lopez and Mark Paul Gosselaar together on the training floor.
This was a great blast from the past, if you were a fan of Saved by The Bell. In case you’re much younger than me, that’s a 90’s high school sitcom that Lopez and Gosselaar appeared in together. You can check out Lopez’s training session with Mr. Cornelius here:
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Demi Lovato is another celebrity that’s been heavily involved and vocal about her BJJ voyage. She received her blue belt about a year ago, and has expressed her love for the art over and over again through social media and other mediums. Her instructor, Danielle Martin, describes her as a fast learner, and states that her instincts as a fighter are very natural.
After dealing with a very public relapse, Lovato resurfaced with a post BJJ training selfie not long after completing a stint at rehab. I think it’s always a great thing to see someone investing in BJJ as part of their recovery process. A celebrity being vocal about their struggle, and sharing that with the world can’t be easy. Respect to Ms. Lovato. Here’s a great video featuring some of Lovato’s training. Check it out! I’m a huge fan of the ventriloquist moment.
As the popularity of BJJ grows, I’m sure we will see more and more famous individuals hitting the mats. Whether it’s to train for a role n a movie, or just leisure, having larger voices to advocate for BJJ is simply a good thing for the growth of the art. I wonder who will be next?
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