New Year’s Resolution: Do Good

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The new year marks the time for reflection and personal growth. The period where hopes and dreams begin to gestate. There is a lot of excitement and plans that take root and this year is not any different. However, for those of us involved in the BJJ community, we began this new year with a deep sadness as one of our sisters was brutally raped and beaten by her fellow teammates. Our hearts go out to her and her family as they recover from this atrocity and we commend her for the bravery it took to come forward.

The fighting arts community has traditionally been a sphere where women have not only been excluded, but the targets of hostility. I’d like to say I was utterly shocked by this news, but the sad part of it all is that it is not the first case I have heard of a woman being assaulted by her team mates. The rareness of this case is it’s spotlight in the public eye which is bringing some well needed attention to the moral landscape of our culture. We need to reevaluate what values are being promoted within our practices, academies, homes and culture at large. Are we involved in a culture that teaches mutual respect, dedication, grown and self preservation? Or are we losing ourselves to a cultural current that promotes martial arts as an ultra violent form of entertainment stripped of any life enriching qualities? If I had my way, the marketing of martial arts would centralize on the magnificent athleticism and discipline fighters possess opposed to aggression and ignorant rage.

Seeing the outcry online for what has happened brings me hope, but this is just the beginning. We need to foster these sentiments into real, tangible results if we truly want to see change. Being upset about this is one thing but doing something about it is another. Let’s collectively work to make our academies, homes and world a safer place. Martial arts should be for everyone and it’s our job as part of the martial arts community to make it a safe space. These are all just some simple things we can all do to help:

  • *Lets keep our minds and hearts open making efforts to invite new people into our space especially to people who are at risk for being bullied, abused and oppressed.
  • *Let’s be sensitive and know that it’s possible that people we train with have been victimized and we should make the extra effort to create safety.
  • *We need to remember that what we say contributes to the quality of our environment as a whole. Using misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic language perpetuates violence and further victimization.
  • *Creating spaces lead by and for at risk communities is also very important. (E.G. Women’s Open Mats, After School Programs, Family Nights… etc.)

I would also like to take a moment to give some shout outs to people who make this world a better place for female martial artists…

Sweaty Betties: Founded in 2008 by women for women, Sweaty Betties fosters a positive, supportive, safe, and fun training environment in which to learn and practice the gentle art, also known as Brazilian jiu-jitsu. They also produce Leticia Ribeiro’s all women’s BJJ camps.

Leticia Ribeiro: a world-renown teacher and competitor of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. She currently holds a 3rd degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from Royler Gracie and she is also a six-time World Jiu-Jitsu Champion in the Black Belt division. Trainer of world champion Beatriz Mesquita and head coach of the Gracie Humaita female team, 7 x World Champion.

Lana Stefanac: The first American to win a Mundials Absolute World title, Lana was also my first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (gi) instructor and has given me two of my life loves… BJJ and Tora, my cat. She has inspired many people to devote their lives to BJJ and continues to do so this day.

Kristina Barlaan & Inspire Project: Since it’s inception in February 2011, the Arizona based women’s only open mat, Inspire, has gathered over 200 women from ages 13-55 to enjoy the strength and beauty of the gentle art together in an environment designed to “inspire” women to dream and achieve.

Women’s MMA Roundup: Following the world of female fighting. Women’s MMA Roundup covers the latest in women’s professional mixed martial arts. Some of the most dedicated and respectful reporting on Women’s MMA you will find, before it was cool!

Valor Online News: aspires to create a network of female Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners in order to increase participation at local tournaments. Founder Von Stricklin made this awesome video and resource page for women’s open mats.

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