Saturday, April 1, 2017

Sexual Jokes have no Place in the Training Hall

I know my audience is small for this blog post, but I feel it is important to write. If only for my benefit...
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Sexual harassment, sexual discussion, inappropriate comments, etc are no place for a martial arts classroom. Be it women teasing or joking about men or men teasing and joking about women.

I have been studying martial arts for 24+ years. I get that it is a male-dominated sport. I get that when guys get together in a group, locker talk happens. But I also know that men know when it is inappropriate.

So for the record, in the middle of an organized class, with or without women present, this is inappropriate, and will not be tolerated in my academy.

I have been a pilot for 16+ year. I was a professional female airline pilot for 6 years. There was a no tolerance rule for sexual harassment, and so it didn't happen. Let me restate that another way. 4000+ hours alone in a locked room with most often a male, and sexual harassment didn't happen! The only two incidences I had, in 6 years, were with a customer service agent and mechanic, and those were with other people present.

I was a Federal Flight Deck Officer (Federal Law Enforcement Officer). In training, I was the only women in my initial and recurrent classes. No sexual harassment or joking was present. It was a professional environment and everyone treated it as such.
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I have been a martial artist for 24+ years. Yes, I have been discriminated against because of my gender throughout my martial arts career, and this is mostly the reason I run my own martial arts school instead of being affiliated with a group of schools. But that is not the topic of this blog post. This blog post is about direct verbal harassment, joking, and negative statements made about sex and a women's body. In 24+ years teaching and studying stand-up martial arts (Karate, Kenpo, Tai Chi, Muay Thia, Kali, etc.), I have not had a problem with sexual comments in the dojo.

The only time I have experienced sexual harassment, joking and comments in a martial arts classroom in during Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training. And it has happened more than once, at more than one school, and with more than one instructor. I have been attempting to learn BJJ for the past 6 years. I have had attended two different schools, but because of sexual comments and lack of good, respectful training partners, I have been limited to train pretty much just with my husband.

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So why do BJJs school allow this type of talk and disrespect to exist?

When I came home from my last group training session, I was furious. Not because of what was said, but more because no one stepped in to say the discussion was inappropriate, and after repeated requests, nothing has being done to curb the behavior. Worsley, two instructors joined in on the inappropriate joking that was started by a student. Several men look uncomfortable about the discussion and looked at me for some reason - for support, for me to take a stand, or for confirmation that is was inappropriate or okay to talk this way? I don't know why men do this instead of speaking up themselves. I had already that evening verbally requested the teachers to be more polite in the presence of a lady, and since that didn't seem to take effect, I choose to hold my tongue during the second round of inappropriate discussion.

Instead, of making a scene in the middle of class, I came home and had a discussion with my husband about the situation, who also practices with this group of men. I researched my feelings to find out what others have done in the past, and I reflected on my choices for the future.

This is an ongoing issue, with no final solution.  I did found this blog article that 100% sums up my feelings and frustrations.  Please read, Sexual Harassment is a Problem in Jiu-Jitsu, But you Don't Have to Accept it by By Averi Clements, Jujitsu Times, August 10, 2016.
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In Summary and Most Importantly 

To my lady students, mom students, girl students, (and male students for that matter),

Please know that sexual harassment and joking of any kind has no place in our academy and will not be tolerated. We are a welcoming group that shows respect to each other. As an instructor, I will do whatever I can to make a student comfortable and feel respected in class.

I will do what I can to continue to advance my jujitsu knowledge, as long as it is beneficial for me. Luckily, my husband is pretty good at jujitsu, so I have at least one good training partner to work with. And, lastly, if you are a female student of ours, we will do everything we can to help you advance your jujitsu knowledge, skills, and rank.

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More background info on my decisions:

Please, no hate or opinion on what I should have done. You were not there, and my choices were the best choice for the situations, at that time.  I could go on all day about the sexual discrimination in Utah. Yes, California, Texas, Washington, and other martial arts friends in the US, it is repressed here in Utah. I know what I am going up against every day as a woman who pushes the cultural norm, but back to the original topic of this post.

Many would recommend I quit studying jujitsu or go to another school. I do not want to quit, and why I desire to learn jujitsu is not the discussion of this blog post either. I have looked into other schools, but even my husband made the comment that they are all that way.

I did some research in my area to see if any of the BJJ schools have women BJJ Black Belts. Nope, nil, NONE. No pictures and no listings for female BJJ Black Belts in my area. There may be a female BJJ Black Belt hidden somewhere in Utah, but I couldn't find one. I couldn't find a Brown belt either, and I could only find two Purple belts listed (one who trains at her father's school). Actually, I am the second highest ranked female BJJ martial artists "listed" in Utah. I know there are several other BJJ women of my rank, but I tried and I could only find two females of a higher rank. Hum, I guess I know why...

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