The Pleasures of Drowning comes from the title of Sam Harris’ essay on jiujitsu. This quote sums it up: “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 skull motif is a common ‘memento mori’ or a reminder of one’s mortality. This is idea that looking at death reminds us of the the fragility of life, it reminds us to be in the moment and appreciate every second we have in this life. Doing jiu-jitsu is a sort of a moving memento mori. Every tap signals to your opponent, basically saying you could have crippled or killed me with that submission. Each training session reminds us how easy it is for us to die and in turn makes us appreciate our regular life outside the gym.