Teacher’s Opinion: Leadership in the BJJ Community and Beyond

Holly McClung Reusing, thank you for this post, There is No Place for Heinous Crime in BJJ Culture, for being a part of the growing village of people who are looking deeply at what we do, why we do it, and what standards we might seek to hold ourselves to. For those reading this, I have to confess that Holly had asked me to contribute some of my thoughts –but I’ve had a bit of writer’s block, due in part to my son’s participation in “Team Lloyd Irvin.” He sees nothing wrong with staying in that camp and doing nothing. For him, it’s “business as usual,” and he feels no obligation to the MA community, to us, his parents, or to the world in general. He dispels much of the dialogue as “rumors,” says he has little or nothing to do with LI himself, and simply wants to continue to train with his “family” there, regardless of how it feels for his family here.

I had sent a note to LI after the rapes, essentially telling him he was “fired” and to send my son packing–and, of course, he has completely ignored me, except to tell me nothing’s wrong in his world and to stop writing him. Keenan has received no small amount of grief from us about the morality of supporting people we consider to be way on the unsavory side, what it means if he actually lets these people give him his black belt (disgrace), and how, sometimes, you have to step up and take a stand for things that might make you uncomfortable –but are, nevertheless, right, just, and required of people with a conscience and set of grounded values.

Of course, Keenan is a 20-year-old man and gets to do exactly what he wants, regardless of how his parents feel. I did that when I was 20 (30, 40, etc.), and so I’m not surprised, just deeply disappointed.

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As far as the martial arts community, it would be nice if we came to stand for some (if not all) of the things we talk so much about, like respect, courage, honor, courtesy, and other highly valued character traits and behaviors we attribute to the brave, the enlightened, and the dignified. We shouldn’t, for example, tolerate fighting, outside of our schools, as the violence we encourage should only manifest itself in competition, in a controlled environment –and not in bars, on the street, and in the lives of our students or the people they engage with in the communities we teach in.

We shouldn’t tolerate sexual molestation of our students, rape, murder, or for that matter bullying, gender discrimination, etc. –as we should be smarter than that, ideally. Perhaps if every senior member of the martial arts community, in every country, say all the teachers and practitioners over the age of 50, started speaking up, writing, making instructional videos, teaching, touring, and standing up to be counted in the fight to offer sound, strict, smart, and sane advice to his/her juniors, we might start to have a more significant impact on the thinking of the younger athletes, competitors, and teachers/practitioners of today and tomorrow?

Let’s see 100 or 1000 or 10,000 senior level martial arts teachers, in the U.S., in Brazil, in Japan, Korea, China, Canada, Mexico, and in every country on the planet, step up and start creating educational training programs, lectures, talks, articles, videos, and programs to lift, guide, educate, and inspire the next generation of martial arts people to smarter, better, more dignified behavior. We should make this work free, when possible, and let’s show the world that even if we can’t control the stupid, the corrupt, the immoral, and the brain addled, we can at least show we’ve tried like all hell.

All 3rd dan black belts and higher, of all styles and systems, if I had my way, would be absolutely required to produce at least one smart and well-constructed educational tool for the MA community before they advanced to their next rank —something that would offer help, guidance, and advice to anyone who might be in a position to listen. And while this might not keep people from doing wrong or getting off course, it would be, in my opinion, an experiment worth engaging in.

As for the industry/MA community and competition, we might do well to exclude murderers, molesters, those who engage in incest, and felons from our spotlight of “the great competitors and teachers of our sport.” We might exclude those who use performance-enhancing drugs, those who blatantly brutalize or victimize their fellow human beings, and those who cheat or attempt to cheat to gain advantage for themselves. We could/should do that much, at least. We are, after all, in a position to influence 1000’s — if not millions — of young people. We are in a position to, in our own lifetimes, make a statement about what the martial arts are, ultimately, for –and what they do not stand for.

In business too, we could, at the very least, set written guidelines for how we conduct business, excluding the most unsavory, unhealthy, and unsustainable practices, such as aggressive collection on untaught lessons and membership contracts, disreputable marketing and sales tactics, and other such tomfoolery.

While it’s very easy to complain about the idiots, rapists, hucksters, and misogynists in the MA world, the real counter-attack to the black eye these people give us is to DO something positive and constructive; to embrace education and educational outreach; and to be, most of all, the change we’d like to see in our sport, in our martial arts, in our communities, and in the world.

When you and your school, your association, your “style,” has produced a smart, sound, and thorough educational course to take your teachers and students thru, about rape culture and what that is, about misogyny, about ethics, about hyper-masculinity, about bias and prejudice, about honor, respect, and the martial path –then, yes then, we will have done what we can (something) for the 100-percenters we hope will be holding up the values, now and in the future, for what we would like to say we stand for.

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