The bass player, 69, has taken up a vigorous fitness regime and is now ‘an honoured senior instructor’ of Shidokan
- 21:42, 4 Sep 2021
Stranglers legend Jean-Jacques Burnel is still black-belting out the hits – as a rocker AND a superfit king of karate.
The bass player once infamous for brawling, boozing and drug-taking now teaches Shidokan, a blend of karate, kickboxing and grappling.
He is a seventh dan black belt and chief of Shidokan GB, the organisation which teaches followers to “live in a simple way” and “love all mankind”.
Now 69, Burnel reckons his rigorous fitness regime keeps him at the peak of his powers.
He says: “I’m pretty fit for a bloke my age, yeah. I can do 50 to 70 push-ups in one go. I’ll do a few hundred crunches on a daily basis.
Jean-Jacques was better known for boozing during his time as a bassist for the band
“This vehicle I inhabit, it’s taken me round the block a few times, so I have to keep it serviced more often than I used to – and I mustn’t abuse it as much as I used to.”
That is a reference to his wild days in the Stranglers alongside band buddies Dave Greenfield, Hugh Cornwell, 72, and Jet Black, 83. Greenfield died last year aged 71 after contracting coronavirus, while Cornwell left the Stranglers years ago and Black is retired.
That leaves Burnel as the only remaining member of the classic mid-1970s Stranglers line-up.
The rockers stormed the charts with hits like Golden Brown, Peaches and No More Heroes – with the classic opening line: “Whatever happened to… Leon Trotsky”. In the Shidokan world, Burnel carries the respected title of Shihan – a Japanese term meaning “honoured senior instructor”. He is the most senior of 13 UK instructors in Shidokan, is only the seventh dan in the country and teaches at the organisation’s London centre.
The musician also gives lessons in the Samurai spirit, regularly attends European seminars and has instructed and demonstrated in Belgium, Morocco, Japan and Sri Lanka.
Taekwondo was the first martial art that attracted Burnel – then he switched to Shidokan.
It’s a long way from the antics which once got him escorted out of Sweden for throwing Molotov cocktails at a group of Teddy Boys.
Burnel was also involved in punch-ups with punk rivals the Clash and once admitted he Gaffer-taped a French journalist 400ft up the Eiffel Tower because he was annoying him.
He also famously took heroin for a year – claiming that it had been an “artistic decision”.
Nowadays, though, long and wild tours are a thing of the past, as Burnel explains while discussing the new Stranglers album, Dark Matters.
Burnel is the last remaining members of The Stranglers
He tells the September edition of Classic Rock magazine: “We didn’t want to do another 20, 30-date tour of the UK.
“We’ve done it almost every year for so long and although it’s enjoyable it really does tire you out.”