Last week the martial arts world celebrated what would have been the 153rd birthday of Jigoro Kano, founder of judo.
Kano was noted for revolutionizing the martial arts world, but perhaps just as importantly, approached the martial arts as means of perfecting oneself, and, as he put it, to ultimately contribute to the world:
Judo is the way to the most effective use of both physical and spiritual strength. Training in attacks and defenses refines your body and your soul, and helps you make the spiritual essence of Judo a part of your very being. In this way you are able to perfect yourself and contribute something of value to the world. This is the final goal of Judo discipline.
Many of us like to think of the martial arts as activities which create better character — even the rough and tumble world of MMA. The goal is said to be to make not just better fighters, but better people.
Sometimes, it seems we get the fighting part down… but, the better people?
Sometimes, I think we do. Sometimes, I’m not so sure.
Today, the trial for Nicholas Schultz continues, a jiu-jitsu competitor from Team Lloyd Irvin in Camp Springs, Maryland. Schultz is accused of second degree sexual assault, and faces a sentence of 20 years.
Schultz’s trainer Irvin is noted for working with many noteworthy athletes in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and MMA, from Brandon Vera (whose Alliance MMA team is no longer associated with Irvin) to Mike Easton (who remains with Irvin’s team).
Unfortunately, Team Lloyd Irvin has earned another reputation in recent months.
The abuse charge which Schultz faces today is appalling. Per the warrant for Schultz and a teammate’s arrest (described here), security footage at the parking lot of St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, DC shows the victim sexually assaulted as she drifts in and out of consciousness, hitting her head against the concrete — and finally left alone, and out cold, in the cold winter night.
She would be found by a stranger, who called authorities. Schultz and his teammate Matthew Maldonado, who appeared in the same footage, would soon be arrested.
Then, something else came to light. In 1989, Irvin himself was charged, along with several of his friends, with rape of a 17 year old girl. He would testify, amazingly, that he could not perform sexually — and was, perhaps even more amazingly, eventually exonerated. Several friends of Irvin would be found guilty and serve jail time. The incident is described in several area newspaper articles: here, an editorial which mentions Irvin, and here, a report on the sentencing.
The reaction to the scandals was strange. Irvin would purchase the domain LloydIrvinRape.com and fill the page with information about his rape prevention seminars. One of the instructors at a Team Lloyd Irvin affiliate took to the internet to disparage the victim of the assault. MMA journalist Brent Brookhouse describes the matter here.
In February, Irvin’s “medal chasers” jiu-jitsu team all but disbanded. One former member released a statement published by Brookhouse describing sexual harassment at Team Lloyd Irvin. In the same article, Brookhouse also cites several team members of Team Lloyd Irvin who claim that Irvin hired Schultz and Maldonado’s legal defense.
Affiliate schools began disassociating with Irvin, including Alliance MMA in San Diego, which included Vera. Ultimately, Irvin disbanded his affiliate program.
Among the only athletes still fighting under the Team Lloyd Irvin banner today is DJ Jackson. Jackson, as it turns out, was indicted on one count of felony sexual abuse in the third degree in 2008. Jackson pleaded down to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to a year in jail. A warrant is still active for Jackson’s arrest in the state of Iowa.
So, where do we go from here? Sure, it’s possible Schultz is found not guilty and released today. In fact, his teammate Maldonado was also charged, but found not guilty and released last week.
Texas attorney (and jiu-jitsu practitioner) Georgette Oden described recently in her blog how even video evidence (like that of Schultz’s case) is subject to being interpreted inconsistently.
Sure, but with all this smoke, it really possible there’s no fire?
How is this scandal affecting BJJ and MMA? Are we ready to honestly discuss the matter of sexual harassment? Are we standing up for victims and spreading the word about those who would do harm within our communities?
Maybe in addition to looking at the current scandal, we need to look within.
And… if we don’t, how are BJJ and MMA really contributing to the world?