Washington DC NYE Rape by BJJ Grapplers of a Teammate

January 10th 2012 Matthew Maldonado, 26, and Nicholas Schultz, 21, were charged with sexually assaulting a woman New Year’s Eve in a church parking garage. The event was recorded on surveillance video. Both the men and the victim are students of Lloyd Irvin. Those involved are people first and that they are BJJ practitioners is irrelevant. That the woman was a victim of her teammates is truly sickening. As when a person taps from a choke, they trust the other person to let go, she trusted her teammates to get her home safely.

All of the talk of blood lust, retribution and punishment is disheartening. We are not vigilantes. Instead, we should talk and educate. Talk to anyone who will listen.  Most importantly support the victim and support creating an environment of trust and equality. The accused will be handled by the courts of law and their instructor has, quite frankly, exploited this situation to the point were I don’t want to type his name anymore.  If you’ve felt bullied or shunned, talk about you’re school. Talk to everybody especially people outside of BJJ. Silence is deadly.

This is a hobby for almost all of us. You are paying to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Treat your dojo the same you would your health club. If something doesn’t jive, move. It’s your money. The term ‘creonte’ is someone who cheats on their team. It is an out of date concept and often is taken out of concept of the original situation to which it was first applied.  BJJ is a long journey and it is worth the extra time to find a good fit, a family.  It is our responsibility to find out who is teaching us. As you get higher in rank you have a responsibility for those new to the school.

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So that was my professional hat and now I must wear my personal hat. I am a female black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I love the sport and I love the people I have met because of the sport. We own a faltering flagship BJJ magazine and have a semi-largish social media following. I have a responsibility.

I must admit I have been watching Facebook, blogs, and even the forums. Hats off to Georgette Oden and  Brent Brookhouse.  I apologize that it has taken me so long to comment.  I didn’t know how to convey how I felt and I want to get it right.

There is no getting it right. There is just living day by day. We, SoCal Women, had an open mat this last Sunday that had been scheduled months in advance. Instead of reading, sending messages and texts I finally talked about Lloyd Irvin, Maldonado, and Schultz. We talked about the victim and what we could do for her. We talked about the cult culture in BJJ. We talked about how things are done in Judo and Tae Kwon Do.

These 40+ women helped me. They made words for my emotions. They brought different experiences that helped me to articulate how I feel. Thank you for the quote “Rape prevention is the responsibility of the perpetrator.” This gelled for me. I have never felt qualified to teach Rape Prevention. Not even with my eight years as a black belt.

Over the years, I have had FIVE women come to me with their stories of leaving an academy where they had trained for many years because of an unwanted relationship. Sometimes it has happened repeatedly, forcing yet another move and delaying their progression by years. (There have been more than five. As I write, I remember more phone calls.) The set back is painful. They are wonderful practitioners. The sport needed them. I told them not to chase the belt but to train.

I often feel my jiu-jitsu slipping away. (Never mind the 6 plus hours I spend a week training JJ or the 3 hours a week I spend teaching JJ or the COUNTLESS hours I spend nursing the social media around JJ. When I’m feeling at a loss I remind myself IT’S A HOBBY! The kids come first, family, work, and then Jiu-Jitsu. There may be a career path for a few very dedicated people who go on to become instructors. Most academies are lucky if they break even. It’s a great hobby but never lose your perspective.

I feel instructors should have background checks. No, it is not the IBJJF’s responsibility; the IBJJF is not BJJ. To me the current BJJ community is a group of independent fiefdoms who have yet to unify under a single governing body whose members are elected. I recently used care.com for childcare.  Before recommending a baby sitter, they run a background check. Lawyers can perform background checks. Websites offer background checks.  Start doing some background checks. Instructors run your own and put it on your website and in the window like a restaurant grade or a business license. It should be a point of pride. Challenge the next guy to do the same. (Places to start public record searches: State Sex Offenders Registries, National Criminal Database and Federal courthouse records, which can uncover arrests that didn’t result in conviction.)

Back to the SoCal Women’s group and our wonderful open mats. Open mats don’t ruin your competition game. You won’t give away all those secret techniques but you might find out you need to fix some things. Leticia Ribeiro invites all teams to attend her seminars even though she knows her team will be facing attendees at the next big tournament. She says,” Come, I only teach the technique, its up to you to practice it”.  I guarantee you will find at least one person that you jive with if not ten. If your coach has a problem with you visiting open mat at other gyms that’s a red flag.

Creonte is a trigger for me. Calling someone a traitor for training somewhere else? I don’t eat at just one restaurant. I don’t shop at one grocery store. There are no secret techniques, we’ve got YouTube and access to thousands of techniques on-line and in DVDs. It is a vice for control. That control is abuse. Don’t put up with it. While I’m on my soap box, don’t pay in advance for tuition dues. Pay monthly. And you should be able to get out of your gym membership with a month notice. You’re not stuck. If you’re being strong-armed into dropping a lot of money or signing your life away, leave.

If you’re getting hurt a lot or excessively, leave. There are many bruises in Jiu-Jitsu but there shouldn’t be brutality. If you feel you’re getting knocked around leave. I’m giving a lot of incentive to leave because if you do decide to do Jiu-Jitsu you’re probably going to sign on for 10, 15 or 20 years. I read on FB, ”What advice would you give your white belt self?” I would have told my white belt self that character counts for a lot more than you can ever realize now. The character of the people I train with as well as my own.

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