March 1, 2015

Do MMA (BJJ) Gyms Have a Sexual Harassment Problem?

Inappropriate in Yoga and martial arts!
Nursing the hangover of what can only be called "WOW... WTF was that?!?!?!?" 14 second submission of Cat Zingano via Ronda Rousey, Jake Rossen also dropped a great article over at ESPN entitled "Do MMA Gyms Have a Sexual Harassment Problem?"  Highlighting what seems to be an ever present cloud hanging over the martial arts community with both male and female instructors abusing positions and relationships within various martial arts schools albeit mixed martial arts (MMA), Judo, traditional martial academies, or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) schools.

Click here to read the entire article:

"I believe a Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor's influence on a student is stronger than a doctor, psychologist or lawyer," says Rener Gracie, a member of the legendary martial arts family and a head instructor at the Gracie Academy in Torrance, California. "They put students in impossible scenarios where they have no answer and then teach them the solution. It puts them in a position of being a purveyor of absolute truth and effectiveness. And if this instructor has this degree of truthful knowledge, they must have same answers for life."

(Solid point, but an interesting choice for a quote considering one of Rener's affiliate schools just had a female instructor arrested for alleged molestation crimes)

   In 2013, New Hampshire instructor Aldo Batista dos Santos was charged with multiple counts of felonious sexual assault against a teenage student. A mistrial was declared in August 2014 when a relative of the alleged victim began screaming at dos Santos' lawyer during cross-examination. Dos Santos was subsequently found guilty in a December jury trial.
   "He created an atmosphere where you weren't allowed to question him," says a former male student at dos Santos' academy who asked not to be identified. "When the case broke, he said the student was just trying to sue him for money. But it's a criminal trial."

"It's a situation where you have someone in a high position who isn't often questioned," says AnnMaria De Mars, Ph.D., Rousey's mother and a longtime judo practitioner. "People assume if you can stand up for yourself physically, you can also stand up for yourself emotionally, but that isn't always the case. You can have someone good at a sport that isn't that self-confident."
   Unlike most sports, jiu-jitsu, judo, and other ground arts have mixed-gender practices. Because men far outnumber women, training with the opposite sex becomes a necessity, and female coaches are scarce. As more young women seek out training for recreational or professional goals, few expect the situation Rousey spoke out against -- that they would someday need protection against their own instructor.


I realize there is no one, simple, easy answer to such a complex and variable problem that is not only a part of our own microcosm but in reality is quite a problem throughout society.  But two common aspects I have seen in the majority of these cases are; 1- No oversight from anybody, and I mostly direct this towards parents.  Where are the parents in all this?  A martial arts dojo is NOT a daycare/babysitter.  WHY are you not watching and involved in every aspect possible when your child is in such a situation with ANY adult??  Time to buck up and take some responsibility parents. 
   Secondly an awful lot of these academies are part of chain / affiliate academies.  The economic drive to open multiple schools and subsequently the pressure to fill them with competent instructors and paying students seems to over ride the common sense thought process, or as my grandfather used to simply put it... "You're getting too big for your britches."  Again a lack of control and oversight coupled with poor, quick character judgements by business owners/head instructors.  In my humble opinion there is too many Mc - Academies which carry the names of famous instructors, but don't necessarily extort their morals and lifestyle. 


1 comment:

  1. Good article Jake. One of the first places I went for BJJ was Aldo's old school in Mass. It was not a good environment. I went elsewhere.

    I have seen many schools where it is common for guys to be allowed to talk like they are in the locker room. This is not an environment that will foster the growth of female students.

    Courtesy, respect, honor, are the tenets of a warrior and martial artist. These should be upheld in any school. The objective of any martial arts school should be to teach the highest level of martial arts they are capable of, but provide a professional environment where all members feel equally welcome, and train free of sexual, racial, gender specific harassment.

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