Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Daniel H. Lende, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Heide Castañeda, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Erin Finley, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kevin Kip, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rebecca Zarger, Ph.D.


Assimilation, Integration, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Military, Veteran, Warrior


This dissertation evaluates veteran participation in the martial art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) as a tool of reassimilation for veterans suffering from anxiety, stress and/or combat PTSD associated with military deployment. From the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn, challenges associated with U.S. Veteran assimilation and reintegration have been increasing. Coping with long term displacement, trauma, loss, and making sense of identity shifts between being an active duty service member and civilian can often present challenges when navigating back into civilian life.

By utilizing a neuroanthropological lens, ethnographic inquiry, surveys, semi-structured interviews, and focus groups, this research advances anthropology’s understanding of how sport participation may have the ability to combat assimilation and mental health challenges that are a result of combative trauma exposure. I examine BJJ as a physical and mental tool for strengthening social bonds, buttressing identity formation, and easing the burden of transitioning into a civilian life after enduring time within a combative theater. This analysis is a building block for future research that will explore BJJ as an avenue of elective intervention for veterans suffering from stress and anxiety disorders associated with time in service.