Sunday, January 25, 2015

What's up...

Well, my academy up here in Edmonds just hosted Darren Branch (aka Keebler) for a few days of training.. what a great experience.  He's exciting and fun, detailed and analytical, and so mellow and easy-going.  Deeply grateful for all the time and energy he gave to us!

I filmed this ;)

I'm hunkering down and grinding out a big work deadline for early April.  That is considerably less fun... but very necessary.

I'm supervising two investigations for Bullshido.  Waiting on developments in the Nelson Monteiro story (the DA is investigating further) and another California domestic-assault case is on my radar too... getting the arrest report asap and then I can tell you all about it.

I have been pretty blue lately.  I am enjoying my training, but not enjoying the quiet time in the late evening.  So I'm reading a lot, particularly poetry.  Here is some Rumi.. please enjoy.

Those tender words we said to one another
Are stored in the secret heart of heaven.
One day, like the rain, they will fall and spread
And their mystery will grow green over the world.


Friday, January 16, 2015

When your student/teammate is assaulted by another in your school/team... how will you react?

 I'd like to share someone's experience, which was sent to me on the condition that I post it anonymously.  She hopes this will prompt some thought and reflection.  Without further ado:

"This story is not about poor me, I got assaulted by my abusive boyfriend. This story is about the misbelief, the “so what” and the “why didn’t you go to the police?” attitude I was given by our common jiu jitsu friends and colleagues.

The bjj world is no exception to the rest of the world’s motto “she is a woman, she deserved it”; Misogyny.

It is true, my friends had warned me about his guy. They said he was a narcissist, a bigot, a psychopath. They said I should keep away but I wouldn’t listen. As the months passed by and his behavior escalated from being controlling, coercing, paranoid and verbally abusive to physically abusive, and one day he attacked me and left me with bruises on the face and ribs, then I should have known better. It was all my fault. I let it happen.

This was the response of my first bjj instructor when I confided in him what happened to me. That bjj instructor said he knew us both and he couldn’t take sides. He reminded me that he had warned me to break up with him but I wouldn’t listen. He also added that he thought my injuries were not that serious.

That was my first bjj instructor who I considered a friend until that day, and his school was in a different city (My “boyfriend” and I had met in that school a few years back.  Then moved to a new school, in another city).

The new bjj school, where we were training the time of the assault, had two instructors. I didn’t say anything to them for a month or two. I didn’t train until all the bruises were gone.

One of the two bjj instructors asked me why I didn’t go to the police. I stood there, in front of him, trying to explain that I was embarrassed and scared and in denial. I had believed that this man loved me and I could not accommodate that he had assaulted me.  I couldn’t go to the police because I was afraid of him. I can say it now. The bjj instructor replied I should have gone to the police and that he didn’t wish to interfere with my personal affairs.

I thought of changing schools to avoid the “boyfriend” but I felt it wasn’t fair that I would have to leave, since it was he who assaulted me. I sucked it up and started training again, with the plan to avoid and ignore the “boyfriend,” if met in class. My close teammates thought it was a good plan.

I avoided him by declining the social invitations he was accepting. But then he came to my corner during a competition and tried to blend in coaching me, and went back to his other subtle attempts which I would no longer fall for.  And then he started being disrespectful to me during class.  At that time, he sent me a threatening text on my phone.  I felt panic and told the other bjj instructor everything. He was more empathetic. He talked to the other instructor and they mutually decided to expel “the boyfriend.” I was grateful and relieved.

Only a few people knew about him assaulting me. One of them was a friend in a nearby bjj school. My friend warned her instructor about the “boyfriend” but this instructor thought he deserved another chance so he allowed him to train there. After all, I hadn’t gone to the police, which meant I was probably either lying or exaggerating about the assault. I also heard it said that he was much stronger than me, and he could have killed me if he wanted, therefore, when he assaulted me, he was just trying to put me in my place, you know, male nature and all; I must have misunderstood.

A few days ago I found out that the “boyfriend” was recently promoted to black belt and is now an instructor at a bjj school.


Society is so accustomed to men physically abusing and assaulting their partners that the weird thing is to object it and make a fuss about it.

(Perhaps if I had seriously fought back, he would have gotten even madder and hurt me further; of course it is my fault I just walked away and didn't help provide better evidence. I apologize.)"

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Review: BJJ Globetrotter travel gi

So this is the BJJGlobetrotter travel gi I was given to review by that master traveller, Carlson black belt Christian Graugart.  He runs an academy in Denmark and blogs at ShogunHQ.

Christian went on a round-the-world training trip in 2011 and wrote a blog, then a book, about his experiences.  Here's a two-part interview he did with JitsMagazine...

What could be more natural than to make a gi specially designed for travel and training?  It's not the first such (Kauai Kimonos makes a great one and did a custom version for Christian's trip, I have heard that Gorilla Gis makes one too) but it has some nice touches and I am excited to report back to you about this gi.  Right now it's available at an introductory price of US$149 on his Globetrotters shop site.

Forgive my selfies in the mirror at my friends' academy-- the guys were too busy rolling nogi to help a sister out! So any smears you see are actually on the mirror (leftovers from writing drilling plans in marker.)

This super light-weight (2.4lbs) gi is available in royal blue or a medium gray.  For reference I'm 5'2" 140 lbs, 36-28-38 and this is an A1, after one hot wash and one hot dry. 


You can see the pants and jacket are a tad long and the body a bit baggy on my short frame.  The sleeves are okay in length.

Let's talk shrinkage while we're at it. This little chart originated from Flowroller Designs and until I looked at their page I had no idea they have a used gi buy/sell program AND a donate-your-gi program you should look into!

Anyway--  here's the diagram with my alterations to reflect the measurements I made....

Before and after a hot machine wash and dry, in inches, measurements made while gi is laid flat. Not much shrinkage.

Jacket A cuff to cuff across shoulders Before 63"  After 61"
Jacket B length neck to hem  Before 29.75" After 29"
Jacket C sleeve length under arm Before 20.5"  After 19.75

Pants E length, front waist to bottom hem Before 37.5"  After 36.5"
Pants H waist width  Before 20"  After 19.75"
Pants I front rise  Before 13.5"  After 12.5"

You can check out the Globetrotter sizing chart and diagram here.

The gi is made of a very comfortable, light but sturdy ripstop material.  It's very well made, and I didn't see any bobbles in the stitching.  Note that it is not IBJJF-competition legal (the jacket is ripstop, and the pants have a patch too close to the bottom hem.)  But it will airdry in a jiffy, and it packs down to just about nothing in your bag so it is an ideal travel gi.


The patch on the front of the jacket is sewn on impeccably.  It's not embroidered; it seems to be dye sublimated, not painted, so shouldn't flake or crack.  The emblem on the right bicep is embroidered into the fabric with tight even stitches.

There are numerous nice little touches. For instance inside the right front of the gi top, there are happy little birds flying (painted onto the fabric, but a low-wear area so they should last a while.) (good reinforcements on the stress points, and attractive white trim, too.)

When you turn the gi around you see this incredible trim along the bottom hem of the jacket.

It's embroidery onto the actual fabric, not tape sewn on, and very beautifully done with ornate detail. 

The emblem stitched just under the back of the collar is attractive and simple.

The ripstop is 100% cotton so I have confidence this gi will continue to shrink a little bit if I keep washing and drying on hot.

One nice aspect of this otherwise unisex gi is the difference in rise between front and back of the pants... this gives a little extra space for junk in the trunk without being high-waisted in the front.  The white hits are appealing.  Four belt loops get the job done, and the cord is smooth round woven string, not much stretch but (for my money) superior to flat-stitched fabric which always gets twisted up.  The cord is long enough to tie a square knot or a bow, but not so long that the tails hang out and get pulled on.

The emblem on the front bottom of the pants is embroidered into the material, not a patch.  The tape sewn into the cuffs on jacket and pants interior is smooth and not abrasive or scratchy; it repeats the ocean wave pattern and the Globetrotters logo in black and shades of grey.

The additional layer over the knees extends to the mid- to lower-shin area.

All in all, a very comfortable gi not just in terms of weight and packing size, but also when training.  It is such thin material you might worry about durability, but having trained for years in ripstop gis, I can tell you it's unrippable and as tough as parachute fabric.  In hot weather this gi is a blessing.  In addition, the ripstop material helps your hip movement; you'll just glide over the mat.

The gi comes with a free e-book copy of Christian's book, free worldwide shipping and a LIFETIME 100% money-back guarantee. He's also got a VERY nice looking pearl-weave gi, with a sublimated rashguard lining in the jacket, available in black or white.  It's a little more expensive but it looks quite worth it.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Issues with background check policies

Two years after the New Year's Eve 2013 rape, in the wake of the Team Lloyd Irvin rape and cult scandals, the Yakima rape, the Aldo Batista rape, the Daryell Xavier rape/murder, the Gregorio Rivera charges, and others, the IBJJF recently announced a background check policy.

It's not the first time a major jiu jitsu organization has claimed to institute such a policy.  Back in June 2013, I discovered that an Austin TX jiu jitsu instructor was a registered sex offender who raped a woman while she was unconscious. The RCJ Machado organization immediately cut all ties with him and announced a new plan to conduct mandatory background checks on staff and instructors.

One version of the Machado announcement is here on the Carlos Machado facebook page, dated July 1, 2013. 

 Another version that Rigan Machado posted on facebook was reported on my blog and the MMAUnderground forum by Ray Elbe:

I invited the RCJ Machado organization to update me about the process, and progress, of their mandatory background check policy.

On January 10, 2015, I received the following email:

"Ms. Oden,
I understand that you're interested in talking with us about our policies regarding instructors and association members. I regret to inform you that at this time we cannot make any statements regarding such matters since our organization's restructuring is in its infancy. Many of the policies are currently being created and we would rather not speculate when answering questions regarding such important topics. With this being said, you're well respected when it comes to the way women are treated in the martial arts community and could probably lend some valuable insight as we shape our guidelines for the association (and eventually, academy) policy manual. Thank you for your understanding,
J. Daniel Beluska
RCJ Machado Jiu Jitsu Association"

This is terribly disappointing.  It's been a year and a half.  I smell bullshit, but, I hope I am wrong and I hope they share with me some background check policy that used to be in place for that whole time (including details and what staff or instructors were removed as a result) and how they plan on changing it.

I also plan on blogging about any academies or affiliations which have background check policies.  I know Bruno Bastos' academy in Midland TX has one and I'm writing about it presently.  Other affiliations, please let me know if I should highlight the efforts you're making to protect your school and students.  I have some suggestions for how to write, implement and enforce a background check policy here.

What exactly does the IBJJF background check policy say?  It's found here:

It applies to

"Black Belt Certificate applicants that reside in the US  (first application and renewal).
Professors and instructors who apply for an academy registration with USBJJF (first application and renewal)."

What does this mean?  It appears to mean
  • black belts who are applying to become members of IBJJF
  • black belts who are applying to renew their IBJJF membership
  • who live in the United States (the policy does not say anything about their citizenship status, only their residency, and thus if you live outside the U.S. you're exempt.)
  • Professors and instructors without regard to belt level who apply to register their academies with the USBJJF
But also note that in the later part of the explanation it says "A person should be disqualified and prohibited from serving as a volunteer/professor/certified Black Belt if ..."

So if you fail a background check it would appear that you cannot teach at an IBJJF-member academy, you cannot be certified as a black belt with the IBJJF, and you cannot volunteer for the IBJJF. 
"You can apply for your background check online through the SSCI website. You will need to provide your full name, date of birth, address, SSN or other form of identification."  

The SSCI company does background checks for other sports organizations and appears to be legit.

What offenses or history would be problematic?

"A person should be disqualified and prohibited from serving as a volunteer/professor/certified Black Belt if the person has been found guilty of the following crimes:

For purposes of this policy; Guilty shall mean that a person was found guilty following a trial, entered a guilty plea, entered a no contest plea accompanied by a court finding of guilt (regardless of adjudication), or received court directed programs in lieu of conviction.

SEX OFFENSES• All Sex Offenses – Regardless of the amount of time since offense.
Examples include: child molestation, rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sodomy, prostitution, solicitation, indecent exposure, etc.
FELONIES• All Felony Violence – Regardless of the amount of time since offense.
Examples include: murder, manslaughter, aggravated assault, kidnapping, robbery, aggravated burglary, etc.
• All Felony offenses other than violence or sex within the past 10 years.
Examples include: drug offenses, theft, embezzlement, fraud, child endangerment, etc.
PENDING CASES• Individuals found to have pending court cases for any of the disqualifying offenses will be disqualified. If the disposition of the pending case does not meet the criteria for the disqualification as listed above, the individual would then be cleared and reinstated."

Well and good.  But when a Gracie Barra black belt friend of mine had to renew his black belt card, after the announcement of this policy, they did not require a background check! I'm told this is because of a loophole big enough to drive a truck through... your black belt membership card does not require background checking. Only your black belt CERTIFICATION.

His first email to the IBJJF:

I just renewed my black belt membership, and I was under the impression that I would be required to provide a background check as well. I was not asked during the process for this. Is this going to be a problem at some point?
Thank you,

Their reply:

From: "Membership 00 IBJJF" <>
Date: Jan 6, 2015 4:33 PM
Subject: Re: Membership renewal #xxxxx
To: <>
Dear Athlete,

Thank you for contacting IBJJF.

The background check for black belts is primarily for those who are 1) applying for black belt certification (new or renewal) or 2) those who are registering an academy (new or renewal).
If you are not currently applying for certification or academy registration then you do not need to worry about completing the background check at this time.

Best Regards,
IBJJF Membership Staff


So, apparently, the Brazinglish strikes again. Can anyone tell me if they've ever had to renew their black belt certification, versus their membership?

Sunday, January 04, 2015

"Level Ground" campaign to help underprivileged kids in Boston

Alexandra Fuller in Boston is the founder and Executive Director of Level Ground Mixed Martial Arts.  She teaches Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai to empower urban youth in Boston. 

In her words, "Our youth live in the neighborhoods of Boston that experience the highest levels of poverty, violence, and disparities in health and education.  Through these sports, we create an awesome community for kids and young adults, getting them off the streets and into the gym!"

Level Ground is running a "15 in 15" Indiegogo campaign, and they're just about $4000 short of raising $15k in 2015 for a number of projects, including professional development and mentorship, college readiness through tutoring and case management, youth employment, and monthly competition opportunities. Level Ground MMA is a fiscally-sponsored organization by the Black Ministerial Alliance.  All donations are tax deductible, and donors will receive a tax-receipt upon request.

The $15,000 will be distributed as follows-

1) Provide quality college readiness programming to 50 youth ($2,000)
2) Link 20 youth to professional mentors ($1,500)
3) Offer in-house employment to 2 additional youth ($7,500)
4) Expand athletic training to 120 youth ($2,000)
5) Sponsor a traveling team of 15 youth to compete in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu on a monthly basis ($2,000)

In memory of Tyler Keene, a friend and BJJ purple belt, Level Ground will open the 'Tyler Keene Athletic and Academic Training Center' in the Winter of 2015.  Funds in excess of $15,000 will go towards this studio.

This studio will provide the following opportunities for youth:
  • BJJ and MMA training.
  • Professional mentorship from employers in the community.
  • Daily academic and career support, with access to our community college, 4-year university, trade school, and workforce development network.
  • Daily training in life skills, with an emphasis on nutrition and food preparation, physical and mental health and wellness.
It will also host community classes for adults to broaden their impact in Boston's urban neighborhoods.  Adults will have access to premier training in MMA and healthy living at a discounted rate.
Since being founded only 15 months ago, Level Ground has:

    Expanded to 4 sites, representing over 100 youth served on a weekly basis
    Directly linked 100% of graduating high school students with the opportunity to earn a college degree at Northeastern University
    Extended in-house employment opportunities to 5 youth through our Program “Assistantship” where they receive experience in management and leadership
    Formed an active, traveling competition team which has earned over 50 medals at 9 nationally-ranked grappling competitions
    Launched a professional mentorship program where youth are individually paired with a positive adult role model to receive additional professional development opportunities

If this sounds like something you could get behind, please, give generously here.