Sam Harris, a well-known philosopher, neuroscientist, and public intellectual, has garnered a significant following for his insightful perspectives on various subjects. One such topic that has piqued the interest of many is Sam Harris and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Harris has often discussed his love for the martial art and its impact on his life. This article explores the benefits of Jiu-Jitsu, Harris’s experiences, and how his practice aligns with his broader intellectual pursuits.

Sam Harris Jiu-Jitsu

The Philosophy of Jiu-Jitsu

Jiu-Jitsu, or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), is a martial art that focuses on grappling and ground fighting. It was developed in the early 20th century by the Gracie family in Brazil, who combined elements of Japanese Judo and traditional Brazilian fighting styles. The core philosophy of Jiu-Jitsu is to use technique and leverage to overcome strength and size, making it an ideal martial art for self-defense.

For Sam Harris, the practice of Jiu-Jitsu is not just about physical combat, but also about embracing a certain mindset. The art teaches practitioners to stay calm under pressure, be adaptable, and constantly learn from their experiences. These tenets are also applicable to Harris’s broader intellectual pursuits, which focus on rational thinking and evidence-based analysis.

Sam Harris's Journey in Jiu-Jitsu

Sam Harris began his journey in martial arts with a background in kickboxing and Taekwondo. However, he was drawn to Jiu-Jitsu due to its emphasis on strategy and technique, rather than brute force. Harris’s fascination with the martial art led him to train under various renowned instructors, including the legendary Rigan Machado.

Harris’s interest in Jiu-Jitsu is multifaceted, encompassing not only the physical benefits but also the mental discipline it fosters. In his popular podcast, “Making Sense,” Harris has shared stories about his training and the valuable life lessons he has gleaned from the practice.

Benefits of Jiu-Jitsu According to Sam Harris

Sam Harris has extolled the virtues of Jiu-Jitsu on numerous occasions. Here are some key benefits he has highlighted:

  1. Mental Resilience: Jiu-Jitsu teaches practitioners to remain composed and think strategically even under pressure, a skill that translates well to everyday life.

  2. Physical Fitness: The practice of Jiu-Jitsu offers a full-body workout, promoting strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health.

  3. Self-Defense: Jiu-Jitsu is known for its effectiveness in real-life self-defense situations, as it teaches individuals to neutralize opponents regardless of size or strength.

  4. Personal Growth: The martial art fosters a growth mindset, encouraging practitioners to learn from their mistakes and constantly seek improvement.

  5. Community: Jiu-Jitsu training often takes place in a supportive and inclusive environment, where individuals from all walks of life can form lasting friendships.

Aligning Jiu-Jitsu with Harris's Intellectual Pursuits

The principles of Jiu-Jitsu align well with Harris’s intellectual pursuits, particularly his emphasis on rationality, critical thinking, and personal growth. Harris has often discussed the importance of cultivating mental resilience, adaptability, and self-awareness, all of which are inherent in the practice of Jiu-Jitsu.

For example, in a high-pressure situation like a Jiu-Jitsu match, practitioners must stay calm and make rational decisions based on the available evidence (i.e., their opponent’s movements and positions). Similarly, Harris encourages individuals to engage in evidence-based reasoning and critical thinking in all aspects of life, from politics to religion.

Jiu-Jitsu and Mindfulness: A Synergy

Sam Harris is also a strong advocate for mindfulness and meditation, both of which share similarities with Jiu-Jitsu. The practice of mindfulness helps individuals to cultivate a heightened sense of awareness, which is crucial in Jiu-Jitsu as well. By being present and attentive to one’s body and surroundings, practitioners can better anticipate their opponent’s actions and make more effective decisions in the heat of combat.

Moreover, both mindfulness and Jiu-Jitsu emphasize the importance of self-awareness and self-improvement. Through introspection and regular practice, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, allowing for personal growth and development. This synergy between mindfulness and Jiu-Jitsu further illustrates the interconnectedness of Harris’s various interests and pursuits.

The Wider Impact of Sam Harris & Jiu-Jitsu

Sam Harris’s advocacy for Jiu-Jitsu has had a broader impact on the martial arts community and beyond. By sharing his experiences and insights, Harris has encouraged many to explore the benefits of Jiu-Jitsu, both as a form of physical exercise and as a tool for personal growth. His discussions on the subject have also contributed to the growing popularity of the martial art, particularly among those interested in intellectual and philosophical pursuits.

In addition, Harris’s focus on the mental aspects of Jiu-Jitsu highlights the importance of maintaining a healthy mind-body connection. By integrating mental and physical disciplines, individuals can achieve a more balanced and fulfilling life.


The Sam Harris Jiu-Jitsu phenomenon is a testament to the power of martial arts in fostering personal growth and mental resilience. The practice of Jiu-Jitsu offers numerous benefits, ranging from physical fitness to self-defense skills, while also promoting critical thinking, adaptability, and mindfulness. For Sam Harris, the pursuit of Jiu-Jitsu is an integral part of his intellectual journey and serves as a valuable reminder of the importance of balance and self-improvement in all aspects of life.