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Archive for the ‘Martial Arts, Combat Sports & Society’ Category

Problems with tribalism in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and society

Tribalism = the behaviour influenced by strong loyalty to a tribe.

Early on New Years Day 2013, two high-profile competitors from the Lloyd Irvin Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu team – Matthew Maldonado and Nicholas Shultz – raped a drunk teammate in a Washington D.C. parking lot. The assault was captured on video and hit the BJJ world like a firestorm. About a week later, another story resurfaced: a gang rape case from 1989 involving a Lloyd E. Irvin Jr. Things got ugly. A debate sprung up about whether a “rape culture” exists in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Tribalism reared its (sometimes) nasty head in a localized exhibition of a species-wide phenomenon.

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Phoenix, Fred Ettish, UFC 2

Like Fred Ettish, the Phoenix rises from the ashes. Image from Aberdeen Bestiary is in the public domain.

If you’ve been an MMA fan for any length of time there’s about a 97% chance that you’ve made fun of Fred Ettish. I did. His fight against Johnny Rhodes is the stuff of legends, and not for the right reasons. But there’s way more to Fred Ettish than what happened at UFC 2 in 1994. He’s tougher than you are.
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The Internet is full of crap, but manure piles are great places to grow flowers. Case in point, London Real, an interesting podcast by Brian Rose and Nic Gabriel. The London Real team recently emailed The Jiu-Jitsu Vortex to ask if I’d help spread the word about their recent one-hour interview with the (almost) unstoppable Brazilian jiu-jitsu juggernaut, Roger Gracie. I like their show, and Roger’s the man, so I hereby wield my very limited influence over the BJJ community…

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Many athletes find inspiration and a sense of belonging in boxing gyms. Photo courtesy of fiverlocker.

There’s no shortage of interesting characters in the martial arts. It’s one of the reasons that it’s such a fun world to be a part of. A quick Youtube search for Frank Dux, Renato Laranja, Relson Gracie, Mike Tyson, Chael Sonnen, or Roger Mayweather is guaranteed to yield some gold. But there are also tons of cool and inspiring stories. Take for example the Afghani girls’ boxing team, the redemption saga of Canadian freestyle wrestling champion Khetag Pliev, and boxer Sergio Martinez’s fight against bullying and domestic violence.

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Japanese Calligraphy of Bodhidarma, often credited as the progenitor of the Asian martial arts. By Hakuin Ekaku. Image is in the Public Domain.

What do Mac Danzig, Miles Davis, Ken Kesey, Genki Sudo, Joe Frazier, and John Irving have in common? They all have a combined talent for art and combat. The connection between artistic pursuits and the combat arts is lost to many participants on both sides of the issue (it’s hard to imagine Chael Sonnen wielding a calligraphy brush or Woody Allen choking someone unconscious) but a notable collection of warrior artists is keeping the tradition alive.

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Children take a break during a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class. Photo by kundl.

For many parents, the idea of their children taking part in a martial art or combat sport seems wrong. Who in their right mind would willingly let their children learn to fight? A good example of anti-combat sport sentiment was the recent outcry over the video of two kids in a grappling match at the Reps Retribution event in England.

As it turns out, martial arts training doesn’t generally lead to aggressive and violent behaviour, in fact it tends to do the opposite. Children who practice martial arts like judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling, kung fu, or karate generally have strong social skills, fight less often, and perform well in school. And this effect is particularly pronounced in at-risk children or those with special needs. (more…)

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The recent furor over a video clip of two eight-year-old kids “cage fighting” has been the past week’s most visible story in the combat sports world. It was yet another case of audience manipulation causing the public to act like the residents of Springfield and whip themselves into a frenzy for no real reason.

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