No Tolerance For Sensei Scumbag
I've recently learned that a martial arts group who knew one of its members had been convicted - and did time - for sexual assault crimes (with a minor, no less) and not only did not disclose this fact, but kept it secret on purpose, to "protect the reputation" of the individual in question.
Let me say that again.
Active, current martial arts instructors deliberately kept information about one of their high ranking members having served a prison sentence of several years for sexual assault of a minor secret and put that person into positions of authority and leadership.
When this was recently discovered and called out by outsiders, at first they said it was in the past, the man was reformed, and they wanted to protect the individual in question's reputation.
No, they didn't want to protect the people in the organization who were kept deliberately in the dark from a potential predator, but they wanted to protect... the predator and his reputation.
Then their story changed once they were called on it.
Now they say discovered it when they "suddenly realized" on a random day in 2017 when they were chit-chatting and they realized that they hadn't run a background check on a highly ranked - we're talking 9th Dan ranked - guy they'd been close friends with for years and years. Lo and behold the conviction popped up only then, even though that dude DID TIME after they'd already accepted the guy into their ranks.
That's right, they're claiming they had no idea why their very good, close friend just disappeared for a few years and then came back. They asked zero questions about it until they just randomly decided one sunny day that, hey, maybe we should background check this guy because... reasons?
Y'know, like you do.
And also, hey, even if they did know, they didn't realize how serious the conviction was, and they weren't really convicted (totally misreading and misinterpreting the court documents related to this case) so... their bad...?
Now that it's been discovered, they are hurriedly hiding the fact they knew this and did NOTHING for three years and pretending that they're all upright and SafeSport certified (which you can take online in minutes for $20 HERE) They are claiming the OPPOSITE of what they actually did.
Yeah, I know, totally blows my mind too.
They're editing their online statements and web sites and history as fast as they can to muddy the waters and hide that they knew and didn't care.
The internet NEVER forgets. There are screen shots of their own statements to the contrary AND there's such a thing as the Internet Wayback Machine AND we can do things like, y'know, look up convictions online.
A bunch of frauds and sock puppet commenters and fellow Senseis Scumbag are applauding them for being such stand-up guys about a predator in their midst, like it's HEROIC that they're JUST NOW erasing this guy from their group after supposedly knowing about this for three years, only taking action AFTER outsiders discovered this fact.
Gosh, give these guys a medal for being such great protectors of the general public!
Some people, in an attempt to be "fair" to a convicted sexual predator, are defending this practice of allowing them to train. As if we have some duty to allow back into our spaces and positions of trust a person who has proven criminally untrustworthy.
Brass tacks, martial artists.
We have to have a ZERO TOLERANCE policy for Sensei Scumbag.
ZERO. None. Nada. Zip.
I don't care how many tournaments they've won, how many ranks they've earned, how much supposed contribution they've given to our community, how nice and helpful they were to other people that they didn't victimize ("They were never inappropriate 'with me'!" or "I never saw him do anything wrong"), how long they've been a friend or in your trust.
You find out one of the these people are in your dojo or organization and you jettison them immediately and inform everyone else of what you learned and why they are gone.
FFS, people. I do not believe I have to say this in modern times.
To those who will excuse and enable them to be involved in our community after it's discovered that they're predators and help HIDE what they did...
I don't think you should be around the martial arts either.
That's right. If you're reading this, and you have at any point known about an individual's criminal past with sexual assault, and you kept it secret to protect them...
Take off your damn belt and throw it in a dumpster, burn your certificates, sell your school, donate your uniforms to charity and...
Find another hobby. You aren't worthy to teach or train.
Seriously, did you just get hit in the head one too many times? Are you that desperate for friends or for people to study your style or to build your organization with? We teach people to help protect them from bullies and predators and you're HANDING THEM OVER to someone who has done just that!
You do not have to train anybody who shows up to your door, and you definitely aren't required to allow people with a history of victimizing others into your school, even if they're "reformed" now.
If you let that person in, and that person victimizes one of YOUR PEOPLE on your watch, I hope that victim sues you into oblivion, because that is absolutely partially your fault.
How could you even face yourself in the mirror every day with that on your conscience?
I doubt it's feasible to run background checks on every individual associated with any martial arts school or group. Between students, parents, people who live with students, boyfriends, girlfriends, near relatives... it's just too much to try to manage and the expense of it is too great for most of us.
But we CAN run checks on the people we promote to teach under us, especially if they're as highly ranked as a NINTH DAN.
Even without a background check, I absolutely do not believe a person who makes it to a rank above 1st Dan can DO TIME IN PRISON in the middle of the relationship with their teacher/organization and them NOT KNOW about it.
Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining, pal. You're full of it.
Okay, so, hey, let's stipulate that they aren't lying about that, even though I sincerely doubt it.
Let's say that they were completely unaware.
Why not own it? Why not say, "We knew him for years, and we, too, were taken in by someone we thought was a friend. We made a mistake, and when we found out about it, we acted immediately then. Maybe we should have known, but we didn't and we're taking action now. We're sorry, and here's the steps we're taking to make sure it doesn't happen again"
Or in this specific situation, they could say, "We discovered this in 2017, and while we believe the person in question is reformed, we realize we made a mistake back then, and we're corrected it now." No qualifiers, no "yeah buts", just own it.
Is that so hard?
The fact this is not happening speaks volumes to me. It says that they absolutely knew and didn't give a damn, OR that their ego is so big and so fragile they couldn't admit they made a mistake and then own that mistake.
Either way, it's reprehensible.
Do I believe people with a criminal past can reform themselves, even from the worst of offenses? I absolutely do. But you do not allow those folks into positions of power and trust over other people without those other people being informed of the risk at a minimum.
Me? I would not allow that person into martial arts instruction or training at all, ever. I would not associate with an organization that allows it, either. I have daughters. I will not risk their well being.
The risk is too great, our hobby requires too much trust to allow that, and I won't sacrifice innocent people on the altar of a potential predator's right to try to reform him or herself in some made-up non-existent requirement to be "fair" to a sexual predator.
As far as I am concerned, they can go reform themselves elsewhere, and good luck to them.
After all, I would not hire a person with a history of embezzlement to manage my finances, either, no matter how reformed they are.
But I'm not the Martial Arts Pope, and I don't get to say what y'all do. If you do think a sexual predator has reformed and you want them around potential victims in your dojo or organization, I think you have a minimum duty to disclose this history and let those potential victims decide for themselves to associate with that person (and you) or not.
If you don't do that bare minimum, and I find out about it, you bet I am going to make a stink about it.
Look, people can and do get snookered by predators all the time in the martial arts. That's why we continually have a problem with Sensei Scumbag and why we as a community HAVE to be much more diligent than we've been. Predators are really great at conning people. And after all, we're just people, and we make big time mistakes sometimes.
We find a predator in our midst and we're horrified and shocked and wish we could have prevented it, wish we'd known or recognized the signs before it was too late. We resolve to do better, to make our spaces safer for our community as best we can.
This story plays out almost every day. I used to have a post where I tried to document it all but I couldn't because it was too much to keep up with.
It's that bad of a problem. We have to stop pretending it isn't.
But to KNOW that that you've put in a position of trust and power someone who is convicted of sexual assault, and continue to tolerate them being around, to excuse it... and then to try to COVER UP YOU KNEW when called on it...
Well... you're a Sensei Scumbag, too.
No tolerance for Sensei Scumbag.
I did not make this entire post about that specific person because I wanted to make a larger point I want everyone to hear, not to quibble about the details of a specific case. Here's a link about this case:
There's a lot more about this situation out there but this will get you started.