Comment on the pleasure of drowning ; Open Letter to Sam re: MMA

Total Posts:  145
Joined  06-05-2011
09 February 2012 11:49

I think every male of a certain age is interested in BJJ, myself included. Here’s some things you may want to think about.

1).  MMA athletes are rolling dice badly loaded against them vis-a-vis brain damage. This is the sport’s dirty little secret and something we’ll all be discussing 15 years hence- the near universal pathology found in the brains of deceased professional MMA fighters. I don’t   see any way this cannot be the case. 


As we all know, the brain is suspended in fluid which buffers it against the internal walls of the skull. When the head is accelerated fast enough, the inertia of the brain is sufficient to keep it in place so that the moving skull bumps into it. This is what is called a “concussion”.

How vulnerable you are to this is not under your control. In boxing, they will say someone has a “glass jaw” or “can’t take a punch” meaning he’s easily knocked out as a result of this phenomena. Such people don’t last long in a competitive environment. Fighting is essentially an environment that selects against these people, but that may be to their good fortune. Someone who CAN take a punch is going to take a lot of them over the course of his career. It can’t be much different for them than it is for football players whose helmets protect against their skulls being cracked but NOT against concussions.

The fact is, this happens constantly to both boxers and MMA but in the MMA the gloves are even lighter (heavy gloves slow hands down). If you have watched MMA over time you’ve seen any number of deaths at the professional and amateur level, but you’ve also seen shit like this: 

caused most likely by shit like this:

in fact between the time when an MMA fighter is out and the ref gets the opponent off him, the opponent has probably landed between three and six unanswered, point blank, full power head blows- typically 1,000 plus lbs of force,  in a classic ground and pound finish of the loser.  That’s three to six blows where the skull is accelerated directly into the floor. And that’s just the blows in the last two seconds of the fight.


Whether they admit it or not, this is the kind of thing that keeps Dana White and the other execs of these organizations up at night in a cold fright.  They obviously like and care about their athletes as people but it must be like a train that is is moving so fast no one - not the suits and not the athletes- can jump off it . But they have a choice,  they can stop the train or they can ride it into the inevitable crash.


I love the fact of MMA as an approach to combat because it’s all about reality and the truth. But don’t let your interest in the truth blind you to what the real and permanent consequences are of getting hit in the head and “seeing stars for a second”  in the gym are. The evidence is strongly pointing to the fact that you only have to have this experience a very few times over the course of a multi-year career as a dojo rat   in order to suffer significant brain damage. 

Consider this also- you don’t know anything about something until you have had an opportunity   to observe it longitudinally.  That’s how you come to understand that continued “progress” in bodybuilding owes almost exclusively to bodybuilders having turned themselves into walking science experiments through things like the unregulated use of   any chemical even remotely implicated in the anabolic processes of any mammal and surgically inserting inert,  volume-enhancing inorganic matter underneath their muscles. It’s also how you learn that MMA fighter’s personalities can been seen to deteriorate in a variety of ways including decreased vocabulary and articulateness, robotic like movements,  Raging Bull type episodes etc etc over time. 

Since you make your living thinking subtle and complicated thoughts and generating new ideas, ask yourself- do you really want to risk all that and your personality too for the sake of some macho male dominance ego idea that society and your dojo buddies are only too ready to reinforce and pay respect to, not to mention your own internalized ideas of what it means to be male? . It’s bad enough we lost Hitch to the tobacco companies. .

No doubt you’re getting death threats by the pound. Apply for a concealed carry license, yo’re definitely an excellent candidate even in NYC.

2) hitting someone hard in the head,  jaw or other bone with your uncovered fist is going to result in at least two things- one is you hurt your opponent. The other is you break your hand / finger. knuckle rendering that hand inoperable in what may be a life or death situation. I’ve seen this literally dozens of times in unrestricted combat situations, broken hands, disappeared knuckles etc. etc. 

Even in the context of the sport you see it;  Urijah Faber’s broken hand at WEC 41 is just the best known example of this- and he was wearing gloves.


I know a guy who daily pounds his fist into dense sand in the belief that he’s hardening the bones of his hand. At least, he is deadening the nerves in that part of his knuckles.  AFAIK there is no proof that hitting hard things actually makes the bones of your hand less likely to break, although it’s conceivable. The only way to get stronger denser bones is through weightlifting (and the reverse is true also- going up in space with zero gravity will cause your bones to become less dense).

So how do people break bricks? High speed photography reveals that what happens when someone hits a hard object - like a pile of bricks- with their hand is the hand deforms as it transmits the energy to the bricks. The people who do this almost never clench their fist and hit the board with their knuckles, rather they hit it with a bigger   stronger bone like their elbow forearm or distribute it across their palm and they use some sort of cushion betweenthe body part and the hard object. . Of course lot of what you see on YouTube is fake or at least unverifiable.


3) While you’re worrying about what will happen when you let loose your left upper cut , consider also that being highly skilled and getting in close with a unskilled, worthless lout of an aggressor who could - you don’t know- have a knife is courting death.


In San Diego we had a case of an champion wrestler and his girlfriend who had a thing whereby he would go out and pick fights with guys at bar because basically, they both got off on having him beat the crap out of other men . One of these hapless victims - a geeky nerdy nonathletic kid - happened to have an innocent pen knife on him which during the course of his beating the wrestler managed to get in the way of and impale himself on.

Originally the geek was tried and convicted but later it was shown that in fact he hadn’t wielded the knife nor provoked the assailant in any way, this was just a regular thing this couple did .  The point here is, mad skills are no match for steel pointy things in the hands of even dumb luck.

4) Here’s the overall perspective you have to keep. It’s a fact about the human body, and specifically grown males,  that it can dish out more punishment than it can take. When I was a kid we used to fight and it was fun because it was impossible to hurt each other. You could let loose with everything you had and the force you generated MIGHT split a lip, a shirk-offable event. If you go to a boxing match, you’ll see this- little 5 and 7 years olds with poofy gloves half the size of their bodies advance towards each other in the rink and just flail their arms at each other for a few minutes then the ref chooses one -basically randomly- and raises his arm as “the winner” . 

But then around age 14 everything changes….

Full grown adult human males, once trained, are more like gorillas- they’re totally capable of inflicting death on each other, typically through brain contusions unless someone gets choked to death. It’s more like nuclear war, the person who strikes first and finds the target wins.  The capacity to inflict damage far exceeds the capacity to absorb the damage in trained athletes.


5)  You might like reading the Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee who yes, was a dope smoking philanderer movie star with a planet sized ego but also a serious martial artist .  He was actually a pioneer in MMA in that he rejected any particular style of combat in favor of whatever worked. The philosophizing in the beginning of the book is actually readable and not stupid. It’s a mixture of Zen, Taosim and his own reflections on life at a time when he was depressed and bed ridden with a lower back injury. I always liked his translation of the Taoist poem that opens the book .

[ Edited: 09 February 2012 12:37 by softwarevisualization]
Total Posts:  124
Joined  09-01-2012
09 February 2012 13:17

1) You realise BJJ is not MMA, right?  In particular, blunt force trauma is not the goal in BJJ as it is in striking sports.

2) In any way, the whole concept of MMA is the creation of a sport from what is at the core a contest of life and death.  The winner of any MMA sporting event, if placed outside of such event, would always have the option of fully killing his (unconscious or disabled) opponent.  Even in the case of controversial split decisions where there is no clear winner and the fight could go on - if it does go on, it is still a matter of life and death, and possibly mutual exhaustion.

So yes, it is one of the more dangerous things you can do.  This seems to me to be a trivial conclusion.  My question is, so what?  Do we need to mention NFL?  Formula racing?  Cycling, for crying out loud?  All these other crazy sports that continue to exist to satisfy human nature?

What is your main point here?  And how does it apply to BJJ in particular, which is what you start your post off with?

Total Posts:  145
Joined  06-05-2011
09 February 2012 13:33
QuakePhil - 09 February 2012 01:17 PM


What is your main point here?

My thought exactly

Total Posts:  124
Joined  09-01-2012
09 February 2012 13:41

Regarding Sam’s actual blog post - I found it illuminating.

Too many times I’ve seen the fake “bullshido” stuff being peddled.  It is amazing people are gullible enough to take part in it.  It blends in with the claims of psychics, levitation specialists, probiosimiotics, etc.

And then there is true martial art, of which BJJ is an excellent exponent (and MMA is probably the best to date all encompassing form, including by no mistake BJJ) - and also truely wonderful feats of really extreme human capability, such as the monks heating the towels they are wrapped in, while sitting outside in the freezing mountains.

And if the original poster did indeed read the blog post, this part must have been skimmed over too quickly:

Sam Harris - 22 February 2017 12:22 AM

These concerns make BJJ and other grappling arts unique in two ways: BJJ can be safely practiced under conditions of 100 percent resistance and, therefore, any doubts or illusions about its effectiveness can be removed. Striking-based arts can also be performed under full resistance, of course, but not safely—because getting repeatedly hit in the head is bad for your health.

[ Edited: 09 February 2012 13:45 by QuakePhil]