Monday, April 28, 2014

Not just boys fun, sexual harassment and jiu jitsu

Ladies, and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades, friends; we need to make a change.
Last week something terrible came to light. A 35+ year old black belt instructor was arrested for sex with a 14 year old student. What's worse is it came to light if not in my own house, in my neighborhood for sure. I hate it. I hate that it happened at all. In particular I hate that the predator was someone I'd met, someone our community has gone out of the way to assist when he was in dire straights financially and his actions has people I consider friends and family doubting each other, doubting themselves.. there is no going back. We have to move forward.
Georgette did an outstanding piece on how to handle rape in our community. I won't re-reap that ground. I will say that we have a bigger problem, and I'm going to try to take this one on. It's nuanced, so that makes it difficult. Sexual Harassment within our community has to stop.
I can hear the eye-rolls and groans from dudes all over the internet.
I don't care, here's the deal. This thing does not belong to you. It does not belong to the Gracie family, it belongs to the world. The women who want in are just as valuable as anyone else. If you ruin jiu jitsu for someone because of what you'd like to do with your private parts, you're a horrible person. You are not welcome in my world.
So how do we fix this?

First the instructors. 
  • You can't date students. Sorry, you should not. If they're your student you shouldn't be dating, and if you're dating they should be studying under someone else. If you're both adults they can train at your school, but rank should come from elsewhere.
  • You are the captain of the ship. You need to be an example in the academy and in the world. Your behavior should be exemplary, and if you getting laid is more important than bringing women into the sport (and students into your school) your priorities are garbage.
  • No benefit of the doubt. If a student is behaving in a way that is inappropriate you let them know in no uncertain terms that behavior is not going to be tolerated. If they say anything other than "I understand, I'm sorry." they're gone.  
  •  No safe haven. Someone gets booted from a school for inappropriate behavior it should be made known they're done. They're not welcome in jiu jitsu, anywhere.
  • Communicate. If you boot someone, let other instructors know. Keep your eyes on things, and talk to your upper belts. I'm not saying you should let the rumor mill dictate your actions, but you should hear what's going on.
  • Changing is important. Locker rooms matter. Individual changing rooms are ideal, gendered are ok, one big barracks style changing room can be problematic. Make the bathroom, or your office, somewhere clean and private available to new students. Let them know they have options.
  • If it doesn't seem right ask questions. It's hard for students to point out something wrong with another instructor, keep an eye on your peers. In the situation with Mr. Oliveira there were a number of instructors who interacted with both him and the girl. If someone had asked some pointed questions and ignored his prestige and rank, she might have been spared years of abuse. Don't find yourself asking years later "could I have prevented this." 
  • Write up a sexual harassment policy and post it in your academy. Select someone in your association (outside your academy) to be a neutral sounding board. Post their number. If someone is harassed they should be able to talk to you, and if they're uncomfortable they should be able to call Professor Blah from North blahty blah jiu jitsu and feel confidant that their voice will be heard. If you need help with this, email me.
  • Organize. We need to put together regional boards. Neutral bodies that hear complaints (if there are any) about instructors. In most sports this would be handled by the governing body. Since jiu jitsu doesn't have a governing body as much as a tournament organizing body we must do it ourselves.
For the higher ranked students:
  • Keep your eyes open, and your mouth open as well. Watch people's behavior. Is there a guy that none of the women will train with? If he doesn't wash his gi, that's one thing.. but it could be something more insidious. Talk to any student that looks uncomfortable, then talk to the instructor. 
  •  24/7 many instructors don't spend time outside the academy with students. If you're hanging out with folks from the school, keep your standards high. A person who is a jerk in the club is a jerk, no matter how good their guard.
  • Be loud. Be vocal that you will not tolerate people using their sexual desires to run people off. Post Georgette's article to social media. If you teach classes, speak out against harassment. When your instructor posts a harassment policy vocally support it. 
  • Hard line. This is the hard one. Keep a hard eye on your instructor. If they're a part of the problem, then you have to hold them accountable. Talk to them, I've been through 4 different company's and 3 volunteer organization's sexual harassment training courses. An instructor who has been running their own business for 15 years may not understand. Send them to this article. Have them email me. Ultimately you have to consider if you want to fly their flag, sucks but this has to be fixed from the top down.
  • You are a leader. Lead. Touch base with female students you have a rapport with, make sure they are happy and comfortable at your school. If someone (male or female) stops turning up all of the sudden or suddenly changes class times, do you know why? Find out. 
  • Make people comfortable. This is your home, welcome folks into your home. If you're an upper belt you should be evolved past the posturing of the lower ranks. Be welcoming. 
For all students:
  • Take it outside. If you're interested in someone within the academy, don't hit on  them in the house. Treat it the way you would someone you work with. Ask them to coffee, talk some jiu jitsu and then ask very openly if they'd like go on a date some time. Not "hang out" but date. Be clear but not pushy. If the answer is no, assume the answer will forever and ever be no.
  •  It's not funny. If you think of a really funny sexualized joke, ask would I put my mother in place of the person I'm joking with? If the answer is no then think really hard about with whom you are joking. What is the power dynamic like? Do you outrank them? Do you outnumber them? would they make this joke about you? Then keep it to yourself.
  • It's not just the final frontier. Give people space. If your academy doesn't have gendered or individual changing rooms, give anyone who seems uncomfortable the option of changing alone.
  • Don't put up with it. Do what you think is needed, but don't allow the jackasses to take over our sport. Don't let jiu jitsu miss out on a great person because a terrible person was there first.
Look, I'm no idiot. Jiu jitsu puts people in some pretty awkward positions, and creates a level of intimacy that few other activities engender. People are going to make errors in judgement. If we as a community say in a loud and unified voice "Not ok, not welcome here." We will create a culture where errors in judgement don't become pervasive attitudes, because that is what invites predators in our midst.
Jiu jitsu can be the martial art where the weaker can defend themselves from the strong, or we can be the martial art where we teach people to hold someone down and do whatever they'd like. Every time you let a student or a peer harass someone that is a potential rapist you're teaching to hold someone down. Is that the legacy you want for our sport? Measure your convenience against that, a few jokes, the freedom to hit on that hot girl or guy. If you don't value our legacy more than that, you're beyond helping.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Faxia Preta

My instructor and I are friends. We've both been dealing with injuries. Last week I dropped him a text to see how his neck was going. He replied:
"...How's the knee? You should come to class on Saturday. Andrew is going to be there... Gunna be a good day I think.. "
I thought that was a bit weird. I wasn't going to come because my knee was a total mess, but when the instructor says you should come to class; you come to class. We lined up and Micah awarded belts to 7 people (1 purple, 2 brown, and 4 black including myself). I really had no idea. The "Andrew is going to be there" (Drew is a black belt from our school who moved down to Portland recently) Threw me completely off the scent. I figured Brian was getting promoted (he did) and I was just being subtly informed so I could be there for him.
The four of us promoted to black belt range from 6.5 to 9 years on the mats. I could not be more proud to wear my lineage and to share the same promotion date as the other 3 gentlemen. The whole thing is completely surreal. I keep saying it to myself: I am a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black belt.
It feels like a lie. It is the dunning-kruger effect. I joked with Brian who was promoted moments ahead of me "I don't know what Micah is talking about; in my head you and I are still blue belts, and Paul and Ian (long time black belts) are still purple belts."
It's so strange how our self perception fixes in a point where we are most comfortable. I know empirically that I am good on the mats, but I also know all the times my guard gets passed, and all the times I've been tapped. I know all of my weaknesses and will never be satisfied. Maybe I'll never feel like how I think a black belt should. Honestly, I kind of hope I never do.
I have to say, this was never one of my goals. Which is not to say I don't appreciate the honor as bestowed upon me, and also not to say that I did not know that I would continue to train until and well after being awarded my black belt. Your goals should be things you have control over, and belt promotion is far outside of what I can control. That makes it a terrible goal.
Good goals are things like:
Train X number of times per week.
Improve my guard.
Work the Rodolfo pass in sparring every time I train.
Only collar chokes on white and blue belts.
These are goals that I can choose to accomplish. Belt promotions are nebulous and subjective. They are at your instructor's discretion. Conversely if you just train hard, and pay attention, belts will come. If you worry about belts, you end up doing silly stuff that does not improve your jiu jitsu. Train like you've already got a black belt and it will come.
My own insecurities aside, I have been promoted. Now I need to get healthy and train.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Thoughts on Metamoris 3

The Dean Lister vs. Babalu match was weird. Seemed like neither guy was aggressively going for the win. Could that have been a bit of a 'work?' I doubt it, but it was weird.

Props to Kevin Casey and Keenan Cornelius for taking the match in stride.
I couldn't believe at the time that Cornelius gave up dominant position to attack a leg, but it worked out for him. That guy is on a completely different level.

Clark Gracie did an outstanding job of avoiding the berimbolo, but never gained the advantage off of it. That is the breathtaking beauty of the Mendes brother's games; they never relent. Constant pressure from all positions.

Eddie Bravo clearly did his homework. He was prepared, he had a game-plan, he was fit and ready. I was very impressed by his performance. There are a lot of things one can criticize about his teaching methods, and his vision for the dissemination of the art of jiu jitsu, but one would be hard pressed to criticize him as a competitor.

Part of me, the jiu jitsu pureist part, thinks that Royler should have tapped. Blasphemy? probably, but hear me out. Royler's leg was caught. He had no way to excise his leg from that calf slicer (I refuse to use the 10th Planet jargon I think it obscures rather than illuminates). If the letter of the rules had been heeded Royler's leg would still be caught in that thing. As a teacher of jiu jitsu he has to understand when caught in a submission even if damage isn't eminent you should tap. Enduring a submission is not the same as escaping it. As a competitor I understand why he didn't.
I don't like the calf slicer for that reason, it doesn't (always) do enough damage. If you refuse to tap to a choke, you go to sleep. If you refuse to tap to an armlock you have to keep competing (and protecting your neck) with one fewer arms, similarly with leg locks. These techniques there is a factor of attrition (Tis only a flesh wound!!) I always assume my opponent will be tough. Will have a high pain threshold. I am loathe to commit my body so completely in a submission that my opponent could just endure.
I am conflicted about the whole thing.. so I guess it's a draw.

I have to say that I was truly baffled by the reaction to this match by the members of the Gracie family (in all of their representative forms). I understand they have a vested interest in the "Gracie brand" and that Royler was representing that brand on the mats, but the match happened. Anyone with a basic understanding of grappling can see that Eddie Bravo controlled the match. Why malign Bravo? People paid to watch those matches, they were successful. It was good for grappling/jiu jitsu. People paid to watch a Jean-Jacques Machado student compete with one of the sons of Helio Gracie. Is there a need for a multi-media blitz of obfuscation and attack? (in an information age where such spin only makes the spinner look foolish) I don't think so. And yet you have Ralek speaking/tweeting about how disrespectful Bravo was, and you have the comically biased photo feature put out by Graciemag. I don't understand it. Probably never will.

The event itself was great.
I hope you enjoyed it as well.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Reinjured and sick.

Popped my knee out again on Tuesday.
I don't have a plan just yet.
I'm going to lift and get in some real deal bullet-proof shape and see what's what from there. It was feeling really good and stable right up till it popped again. I think I just need to take some time off the mats. Which is what it FEELS like I've been doing, but I've been trying to game the system and she don't wanna play nice. So here we are.

Got sick as a dog this weekend. Three day weekend, down with the flu the entire time; I am straight up winning the internets this week.
The cold is on the wane, both kids had it all weekend. Which is super awesome because the only thing better than a pounding head full of mucus is a screaming toddler AND a pounding head full of mucus.. extra bonus points for a cranky 3 year old trying to drill you in the head with a lego sword because he is the hero and you are the bad guy.. I was the worst bad guy ever, too sick even to "Muhahahaha" properly. Mostly I just laid there and tried to protect my throbbing cranium.

 This video has nothing to do with nothing, I just like it.
Oh and I got some new ink a couple weeks ago.. that was pretty awesome actually.
I had set my sights on being out of the woods once the tattoo healed (seemed an appropriate timeline) Apparently my leg has other ideas.. maybe never. I don't know. I guess we'll see.