Sam Harris on BJJ


I was sitting at home last night, talking with a friend of mine over gchat.1 And this friend with the rather normal name of “Jeremy” and the rather extraordinary intellect informed me that Sam Harris, an intellectual hero of mine, posted a piece on his blog about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. There may not be a simile existent or ever written under the sun and moon and stars and sky which will ever accurately convey just how fast I got to the blog entry; but suffice it to say, my lovely audience, that it was…quick.

“I can now attest that the experience of grappling with an expert is akin to falling into deep water without knowing how to swim. You will make a furious effort to stay afloat – and you will fail. Once you learn how to swim, however, it becomes difficult to see what the problem is – why can’t a drowning man just relax and tread water? The same inscrutable difference between lethal ignorance and lifesaving knowledge can be found on the mat: To train in BJJ is to continually drown – or, rather, be drowned, in sudden and ingenious ways – and to be taught, again and again, how to swim.

Whether you are an expert in a striking-based art – boxing, karate, tae kwon do, etc. – or just naturally tough, a return to childlike humility awaits you: Simply step onto the mat with a BJJ black belt. There are few experiences as startling as being effortlessly controlled by someone your size or smaller and, despite your full resistance, placed in a choke hold, an arm lock, or some other ‘submission.’ A few minutes of this and, whatever your previous training, your incompetence will become so glaring and intolerable that you will want to learn whatever this person has to teach. Empowerment begins only moments later, when you are shown how to escape the various traps that were set for you – and to set them for yourself. Each increment of knowledge imparted in this way is so satisfying – and one’s ignorance at every stage so consequential – that the process of learning BJJ can become remarkably addictive. I have never experienced anything quite like it.”2

If the prose from that excerpt is not motivation enough to read the entry, then I can not imagine what would count as motivation. Short of nudity, that is.

While I can ramble on and on about the immaculate, abject awesomeness of Sam Harris – a leader in this new and interesting, as of yet unnamed, intellectual movement (which I follow more closely than anyone you’ve likely ever met), the fact he’s unbeatable in debate, how The Moral Landscape changed my life, or how the writing on this blog is modeled in large part on Sam Harris’s style (meaning for the few of you that are actual fans of what I write here will have an affinity for SH’s blog entry) – I have a few things today which I absolutely need to do. With that, I must bid you, my audience, adieu.

“The Pleasures of Drowning” by Sam Harris

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1. Fans of my blog might know him as “Christian Bardsley” (Editor-in-Chief of The Comprehensive Guide To Man On Man Erotica, Volume IV). Or, more seriously, he’s the writer-type friend who emailed in a snippet of the original joke which got fleshed out considerably.

2. http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-pleasures-of-drowning

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The Best of Sam Harris

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Something amusing I found, BJJ-related:

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3 thoughts on “Sam Harris on BJJ

  1. Reading this entry a second time, the “sun and moon and stars and sky” line sounded a little too familiar to have been written by me. I did some poking through the old mental catalog and, turns out, it’s a slight modification from a line in a song called “Lies” by The Black Keys. The Jiu-Jitsu Wanderer is sometimes less than original, it seems.

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