Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The language of martial arts: The transformative potential of Brazilian jiu-jitsu through the lens of depth psychology
by Reusing, Holly McClung, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2014, 328; 3681895
Abstract (Summary)

Although Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell were both avid athletes, research and theory around engaging in sports as a valuable psychological process is quite rare. Athletic experience has hardly been looked at through the lens of the archetypal hero's journey, or the path of the warrior, in spite of the fact that mythology and literature are filled with stories of such characters and they are often the primary subject of contents of dreams, reverie, and active imagination. Given that martial arts is steeped in rich cultural traditions, and intertwined with political history as well as mythology, this lack of study creates a gap in Jungian literature, particularly with regard to the archetypes of initiation and individuation.

This phenomenological hermeneutic study explores the lives of five Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt professors. The Literature Review was framed around historical perspectives of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Jungian psychology and somatics, sports philosophy, phenomenology, and hermeneutics. It provides an in-depth perspective of lived experience of a very popular martial art used for self-defense. Brazilian jiu-jitsu was chosen for a variety of reasons, including the ability to teach highly dangerous techniques to a wide range of participants, and because the rapid growth of jiu-jitsu may indicate places where collective energy is moving. This raises the questions, Why Brazilian jiu-jitsu? Why Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu right now?

The implications of this study and the qualitative data gleaned from the interviews show that the practice of Brazilian jiu-jitsu can offer a great deal to individuals and communities, and can impact either, depending on intention. The practice, as lived by five interviewees and many other practitioners who were consulted, offers a safe environment for personal transformation, coupled with a spirited playful atmosphere, an emphasis on social values, and teamwork. With these structures in place, Brazilian jiu-jitsu schools frequently become places to improve quality of life and to inadvertently address a wide variety of maladaptive and clinical issues.

Key Words: martial arts, Jungian psychology, jiu-jitsu, phenomenology, sports, archetypal.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kipnis, Aaron
Commitee: Stevens, Maurice, Williamson, Jarrod
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
Department: Depth Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 76/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Behavioral psychology, Kinesiology, Physiological psychology
Keywords: Brazilian jiu-jitsa, Grappling, Judo, Jungian psychology, Martial arts, Sports psychology
Publication Number: 3681895
ISBN: 978-1-321-54909-6
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