Sexual Predators in Martial Arts

The topic of sexual assault awareness and self-defence has always been a topic near to my heart. It has been one of the driving forces throughout the years, which has inspired me to help as many women as I could through self-defence. So its not surprise that this is a topic I wanted to cover. However this time as it applies to not just women, but children and youth- both male and female. We know that sex predators exist out in our communities. They can be anyone and rarely would we even know who they are. They can be all types of people from every walk of life. We have read stories in the media about coaches, instructors and teachers who have been charged with sexual assault on students. In fact in one article that was taken from the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology stated, “ In 159 cases of sexual abuse in sport reported, print media revealed that the perpetrators of the abuse were coaches, teachers and instructors in 98 % of the cases.” Unfortunately, the world of the martial arts is not immune to this. There have been many cases over the years of once respected martial arts instructors being charged with sexual assault on students.

I think that its important to understand what to look for and expect from a martial arts teacher, what both parents, students and instructors need to understand about appropriate behaviour when it involves our kids, and lastly how to prevent such examples from continuing to happen.

Here are a few things to keep in mind

  1. When enrolling your child in a program such as martial arts, know exactly who the instructors that will be teaching your kids are. Ask about their credentials, and if they have had a recent police check done including a vulnerable sector one. This is important. Most schools, and organizations now days require it when working with kids. If they do not have one, do not let them train with the instructor. Keep in mind, that not every martial arts instructor knows that they should even have one. So if they are open to having one done, then be open to giving them the opportunity.
  2. Many Karate, Jiu Jitsu and Tae Kwon Do schools (to name a few) have cameras set up in the dojo or training area. This is just as much a protection for the students as it is they instructors. This way there is no misunderstanding and everything is on camera. If no cameras are present, make sure you are able to see your child while at the school.
  3. Be aware of where your child is at all times while they are training and with whom they are with. Some schools when there are large classes split the class and take groups to other rooms within the school to run a drill. Pay attention and know where your kid is at all times, this includes making sure they do not hang out in change rooms and washrooms.
  4. This next point is just as much a warning for parents as it is instructors and students. Many martial arts schools have junior instructors. These are usually teenage youths that assist in classes. Often times, students and junior instructors blur the lines of student- teacher. Of course this is not always the case. I have seen younger students develop crushes on junior instructors and its important for the junior instructor to know what is appropriate behaviour and what isn’t. Such as befriending each other on social media, texting, emails, telephone calls outside of the dojo. Communication via social media, text, email is not appropriate when it comes to any instructor communicating with a student. Head Instructors need to make sure this rule is followed. There have been cases reported of instructors – not necessarily junior instructors, but adult instructors, who have crossed the line with teenage students and this has led to charges of sexual assault. Make sure your child and teenager know what is appropriate behaviour from their instructors and what is no
  5. Grooming is a term used when a sexual predator, often a coach, teacher, instructor, close family friend, or other adult in a child’s life lures under aged children into sexual and other forms of abuse. It often happens gradual. The person befriends the student and becomes a confidant. The child is often taken under the adult’s wing and the adult works at earning a child’s trust. Then gradually inappropriate behaviour and conversations start which often lead to forms of sexual and physical abuse. This isn’t to say that all adults who take a child under their wing, give them special attention, or are there for the child to talk with are sexual predators. This just means for parents and children to be aware and know that this exists. Parents, make sure you keep your kids close and ask questions and know your instructor.
  • These points are only guidelines. Your best defence is your gut feeling. Trust it. Teach your kids this, as it will be their best self-defence tool for life. Make sure they understand about good touching and bad touching, good strangers and bad strangers. Teach your pre-teens and teens what is appropriate dialogue between instructors and students is and that there is a line that must be respected by both sides- no matter how close the age gap is between the two. Help your children and teenagers to feel comfortable and safe to come to you and talk about stuff so that if they needed to confide something to you they can with ease and non-judgment. Make sure they understand that no teacher, instructor or coach should ever make them feel uncomfortable or ask them to engage in inappropriate conversation and or acts. Lastly, know your Sensei, or martial arts instructors- including the junior ones. Pay attention, ask questions and never be afraid or intimidated to speak up or get the help you need.

Tracy Warrener has been fortunate to have been raised within the Martial Arts since the age of 4 years old and is a 4th Degree Black Belt in Goju Ryu Karate. She has had the opportunity to study with some amazing Martial Artists. Sensei Richard Kim, Sensei Peter Urban, Professor Don Jacob, Sensei Jim Wilson, Professor Wally Jay, just to name several. Of course her main Sensei is her father, Sensei Don Warrener. Throughout the 40 plus years of her involvement in the Martial Arts, she has worked her way from being a student of the martial arts to a Martial Arts Sensei ,teaching hundreds of students. She has ran and managed martial arts schools teaching students of all ages, worked within the community teaching at fitness centres, schools, businesses and Women’s Shelters, the benefits of Karate. One the causes close to her heart is teaching and empowering young girls and women the importance of self defence and awareness. Her program called Look Strong! Act Strong! Be Strong! focuses on easy self defence techniques and mind self defence techniques. In 2013 she was awarded The Silver Lifetime Achievement Award in the Masters of the Martial Arts Hall of Fame in California for her contribution to Women in the Martial Arts. She is also a Certified Reflexologist and Reiki Master. She has starred in three of her own DVDs produced by Rising Sun Productions on Reiki, Reflexology and her Look Strong ,Act Strong ,Be Strong Self Defence Program.