This in regards to the the incident where a Jiu Jitsu student was rolling with their instructor and was paralyzed, and a jury in California awarded the student 46 Million Dollars. There are a number of news articles on the case now, both in sport media and mainstream media, but I personally find the coverage lacking to the point in that I am not going to link any article.
Naturally, within the Jiu Jitsu community this has caused a great amount of discussion and debate. As I know the instructor Francisco “Sinistro” Iturralde who was involved in the incident I made a post on reddit to relate my multiple personal experiences with him and offer a bit of support.
As you can see from my post and numerous other ones on the forum, people have a LOT to say on the incident. I think it’s important to post out that I ONLY made a comment on my experience and feeling towards Sinistro, I am in no position to properly comment on the incident itself or the subsequent court case as I have no “insider information”, other than a 3 second video and some very cherry picked information. I feel badly for everyone involved, certainly the man who had his neck broke and had to go through years of rehab and is not the same, and for Sinistro who I have always found to be agreeable young man and will certainly also carry this the rest of his life.
For those reasons I am not going to comment on the court case itself as there are many factors that are quite frankly beyond my control and ability to change.
I can and will speak to the Jiu Jitsu community at large however, because incidents like this should spur deeper conversation and actions on our part. And we better periodically have these conversations because otherwise these conversations will happen without us and someone or something will shape the narrative in way we will either not be happy with or will be to the detriment of the community. Particularly here in the United States, as we happen to live in a VERY litigious society.
Firstly and foremost, we have to be very honest about the fact that training Jiu Jitsu carries inherit risks and it is not 100% safe. There is a non zero percent chance that every time you get on the mat you could be injured.
Heck, some people into the Jiu Jitsu take their injuries as a point of pride or display them as battle scars. (Guilty as charged, by the way, at least in the past).
With every technique in Jiu Jitsu, we can evaluate the risk according to a few criteria.
- The chance of injury if the person applying the technique performs incorrectly or recklessly.
- The chance of injury if the person having the technique applied to them performs incorrectly or recklessly
- The dependency of your partner being controlled to keep yourself safe.
- The potential severity of the injury if the move goes wrong.
As an instructor, I have a few obligations when teaching Jiu Jitsu. Firstly I need to communicate the potential risks in what we do. Secondly I have to establish guidelines and rules as to what is allowed in my space and finally I have to establish a protocol on how those techniques are introduced and utilized. I keep a careful eye on the training until a trust can be established that the all of the students on the mat currently are at what I would consider to be a safe standard.
Again, I am always very clear and honest with anyone who asks that we we do cannot be considered completely safe. I am very confident that the environment we have tried to create
I would suggest that instructors and really all practitioners of Jiu Jitsu should take charge of the narrative of safety in their practice or else the narrative will be directed by someone else. At the very least we have a moral obligation to do so, if not a now a legal definition to do so.
The story I would prefer to be out there is while there will always be risks involved in training Jiu Jitsu and injuries do happen, responsible practitioners take care to minimize those risks to the best of their abilities. Many of us find that the benefits of training Jiu Jitsu in terms of self improvement and involvement in a community greatly outweigh the risk potential.