Earlier this year Ryan Hall, a mixed martial artist, wrote an an open letter to the martial arts community. In the letterhead describes how we as a martial arts community must guard against any abuse we come across.
Ryan Hall used to be a member of the Brazilian jujitsu group run by Llyod Irvin. Some members of his group have been alleged to have raped a fellow student, and Hall’s letter was written in response to this incident.
Noted Shotokan historian, Harry Cook was convicted of sexual offenses against some of his students, which were carried out over a period of twenty years.
The incidents perpetrated by Lloyd Irvin’s group and Harry Cook are by no means isolated events.
What constitutes abuse? Abuse can be any of the following:
- Violent ill-treatment of another person
- Speaking hardly or rudely to another person
- Prolonged ill-treatment of another person
- Harsh and vulgar comments to another person
- Hurting, intimidating, or persecuting a weaker person
As members of the martial arts community we have a duty to protect those weaker than ourselves. When a student walks into the dojo they are placing a measure of trust in the people they train with. There has to be an implicit believe that they are protected against any possible abuse.
There are a number of things that we as responsible martial artists can do to guard against possible abusers.
- Listen to your guts
We all have the ability to recognize when something doesn’t feel right. If you are not in a position to act on your feelings, find someone who can help. Talk to another student, a parent, or someone in a position of authority. Failing that, try phoning an anonymous helpline.
- Personal integrity
As martial artists our personal integrity or honor should be at the core of who we are. It is our integrity that helps us know right from wrong. It helps us to respect those that we train with, or those that we teach.
Everyone should be held accountable for their actions. As previously stated, we all know the difference between what is right and what is wrong. We must learn that our actions have consequences and we face possible punishment for any wrong doings.
- Remove your head from the sand
Sometimes people refuse to acknowledge what is in front of them. Sometimes what helps abusers is that people will often refuse to believe that some form of abuse is going on. Due to hero worship we often hear things such as “he would never do this” or “he is not that sort of person”. Abusers are very good at portraying an air of innocence. It is important not to be blinded by who we think a person is. We must learn to see things as they really are. As previously stated we all know when something does not feel right.
- Avoid mistaken hero worship
This follows on from the previous point. Respect of our seniors and teachers is an important part of the dojo experience. However, me must not blindly follow individuals if we know or feel that something they are doing is wrong.
- Abuse and bullying should not be mistaken for hard training
Martial arts by their very nature require hard training and individuals to push themselves. However some practices employed as training methods can be abusive and detrimental to the health and development of students. Often a certain amount of courage is required by the student to walk away from their teacher.
For me, the martial arts are about more than kicking, punching, grappling, and winning matches. It is about the development of one’s character through hard training. One of the most gratifying things is to watch an individual grow within their chosen art. As responsible martial artists we must encourage growth.
The martial arts attract many sorts of people, including the vulnerable. The vulnerable range from women looking to protect themselves from attackers, to children being bullied. The martial arts also attract some individuals wishing to prey on the vulnerable. We. Must be aware of these individuals and any abuses being perpetuated by them. As responsible martial artists we must do everything in our power to deal with them, and help protect the vulnerable.