Tackling Harassment in the Grappling Community

Last month Mo Jassim, head organizer of ADCC, shocked the grappling community posting on his personal Instagram account the story about a young woman (underaged at the time of the events) who was groomed and abused by her instructor, Marcel Gonçalves. A series of other posts showed how those on the top were enabling and justifying those events with their inaction.

These reports brought attention to some very well known grapplers like Cyborg or Wagner Rocha but, even more importantly, it was the ignition for many other women to tell their stories about sexual harassment, sexual abuse and rape around the world. In Europe, the person opening the door to hundreds to feel safer to talk about their experiences was Samantha Cook who told us how Jackson Souza, harassed and bullied her for years because she didn’t compel to his desires.

These stories are probably a small percentage of the many we could talk about, some would involve other well known fighters or instructors and some would be about people whose names we have never heard of but whose wrongdoings are as important as the others.

These events are unfortunately not exclusive of the grappling community, we’ve watched documentary films, read articles and books about sexual abuse, pedophilia and rape in many different sports and industries. As difficult as these stories are to read about we should hope for them to not to stay silent any longer. We should be proud in a way to know that the time has come for change and that our beloved community could be an example for it to happen. We should not be afraid of these stories to come to light but eager to see these women finally getting justice and some sort of peace after their traumatic experiences, and we must all make sure to help them in all the possible ways to find those two. Now it’s the time to show our true colors, which I’m sure are way brighter than we believe, and make sure to learn how to change our attitudes and policies to ensure that these things never happen again to anyone.

We are not naive to reality, these situations are not exclusive of the grappling community, but we should be happy and not scared for it to be one starting to acknowledge the problem and clean their ranks of those committing the crimes. The goal should be to not enable abuser and rapists to act under our roofs or wear our flags just because they are good grapplers; supporting victims and changing our policies so we create safer spaces for all.

Since all of this started we’ve got to know some #jiujitsuactivists whom have been trying to shed some light on how to avoid these situations at our academies. At GrappleCulture we had the chance to talk to some of them and learn a lot. We honestly hope this won’t be the last time we have a conversation with them as we honestly believe they have a lot to add to improve the community, it’s safety and make a reality of the old #jiujitsuforall.

If you believe this movement to be a positive one, we strongly recommend you to follow Meg He, whose aim is to work on a content platform addressing how to create a new standard for safety and inclusivity in jiu jitsu under #jiujitsactivists; Holly Reusing, who owns and operates several GB schools and has a masters in counselling. She has studied women in brazilian jiu-jitsu through a Jungian psych lens since 2006 and, as the years progressed, more generally until finishing her dissertation which focused on bjj as a transformative practice, namely psychologically and for communities, not only individuals; Kendall Reusing, several times NOGI world champion as a black belt, among other titles, she was a professional wrestler who trained with the USA Olympic team. She is also a gym owner who works hard to create safe environments for everyone in the grappling community and who can inspire others with her policies and ideas.

Please watch our conversations to enable change as we all learn how to be and help better. We can’t wait to have more conversations like this one to share ways to improve with the community.

And please… Participate! Send us your DMs on social media so we can ask questions at our next podcasts, comment so we can evolve and create more useful content, tell us your stories so we can try to help.

Thank you for being here and believing a safer community is possible.

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