With the recent revelations about former jiu-jitsu instructor Marcel Goncalves’ alleged crimes and confession, there has been some controversy in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu community. Some feel that being good at jiu-jitsu is the only qualifying factor to be allowed to teach it, while others feel that there should also be a moral component. In response to rumors that Goncalves was teaching private lessons, Sapateiro promoter Josh Leduc made this post on his Facebook page:
“If I find out you’re taking private lessons from Marcel Goncalves while he’s out waiting trial you will never compete on Sapateiro or any high level events I have pull with.”
Very few promoters have ever taken this kind of stand. In fact, just about every tournament promotion has had at least one or two competitors with dubious criminal pasts, including sex crimes with underage victims. The truth is that this sort of stance needs to be more common, and needs to be more vocal.
Given that jiu-jitsu is often marketed as self defense for a physically smaller, weaker person, many of the people who wind up training are potentially vulnerable. If we allow the kinds of people who would abuse a position of power to take advantage of vulnerable people, we are at risk of losing support on a wider scale.
If jiu-jitsu wants to market itself as a professional sport, that can support professional athletes, there need to be standards for these athletes. And yes, in just about every professional sport there are “bad eggs.” And yes, in those sports those “bad eggs” are often quickly forgiven and forgotten, but jiu-jitsu is special and different because amateurs and children are exposed to competitors at the highest level of the sport. The worst of us will almost always have access to the most vulnerable.
For example, whether or not you believe Mike Tyson was guilty, he was convicted of rape. Tyson’s return to boxing after serving his sentence would have likely been treated differently if he was teaching kids.
This is why jiu-jitsu needs to hold itself to a higher standard. The athletes at the highest level of the sport have ready access to the youngest beginners.
More promoters should take the stance that Josh Leduc has taken, and Jiu-Jitsu Times applauds him for doing so.