Misrepresentation within Martial Arts

Attention has being drawn via Websites and Facebook, to what is being labelled ‘Fraud in Martial Arts” … and while some contributors to such media show little to no understanding of martial arts or of the debate … other contributors allege claims that are of prima facia concern.

Specifically of concern to the Australian Jujitsu Federation (AJF), as one would expect of any national body, goes to persons who are members within an associate or member school of the AJF … To clarify, within the AJF it is the school that is the member and pays a membership fee … Individuals within the school are not required to be members and do not pay fees … each school however, does delegate a person (normally the head of the school) as the person to be the representative for that school.

In considering the role of the AJF when such concerns are raised, it is important to understand that the AJF does not employ anyone. All services to the administration of the AJF are provided by dedicated volunteers. Such volunteers include those who accept the roles of state representative and members of the board, all of whom give their time freely in support of the objects of the AJF … while the AJF is recognised by the Australian Government through the Australian Sports Commission, the AJF is not funded.

So with these limitations does the AJF board accept a responsibility in regard to investigating claims of misrepresentation? … The answer is YES. The members of the board are committed to providing a system that enables those within the martial arts covered by the AJF, to aspire to a high standard of both coaching ethics and instructor code of behaviour. Evidence of this can be seen within the AJFs policies and practices as detailed in the: ‘Member Protection Policy – which deals with non-discrimination and child welfare’; ‘Anti-doping Policy – as governed by ASADA’; National Coaching Accreditation – under the National Coaching Development Program of the AJF, and the AJFs Constitution; all of which are filed with the Australian Sports Commission … these together with other policies and codes of practice relating to many aspects of martial arts.

This commitment recognises that the martial arts community is however in many respects self governing, to the extent that no school or instructor is compelled to affiliate with a government recognised national body, and that the same goes for the adherence to policies or codes of practice mentioned. On a positive note more and more venues as part of their risk management are insisting that instructors using their facilities have both appropriate accreditation and insurance.

So what does the AJF do to screen schools who seek membership, and the senior instructor there-in … This is a three stage process: Stage 1 Associate membership – the school confirms that they satisfy the discipline criteria i.e. that they are teaching jujitsu or a related martial art. Stage 2 Accreditation – person(s) within the school attend a very full weekend course as approved under the National Coaching Development Program of the AJF, and complete the required post course assignments. This will include commitment to the code of behaviour, the member protection policy, and the anti-doping policy; plus providing documentation in regard to their school, their grading criteria, and their grade authority. Stage 3 Member school status (full membership) – here the documentation of the school is presented to an ‘annual general meeting’ of members for consideration.

At this point it should be noted that these three Stages do not purport to validate a schools curriculum or an instructors grade qualification … What the process seeks to ensure is that a student or potential student has access to what will be taught within a school, and to the level of competency required to progress through the grading system of the school … plus through the National Coaching Development Program, provide coaches with a recognised level of coaching accreditation, an emphasis of which includes the ‘duty of care’. All aimed at providing the community and students with greater information to make informed choices as to the system in which they choose to learn.

Are all black belts of the same standard? … No … It is a misconception within martial arts to believe that all black belt (DAN) grades are equal … the standard and requirements to achieve a 1st Dan Black Belt (Shodan) in one school can be quite different to the standard and requirements of another school for the same belt level … even within the same discipline. This is why validation of grade becomes very difficult when assessing against different criteria. It is also important to note that unless invited to do so, the AJF does not seek to interfere with the grading system of a member school … although it is a requirement of Stage 2 and Stage 3 that a school has in place acceptable rules of grading.

Under what circumstances will the AJF award a grade certificate? … the process in place is detailed within the codes of practice available to member schools … what we can state is the AJF does not award honorary grades and a person cannot achieve a grade promotion through simply attendance at a meeting, or providing documentation or videos; the AJF code requires the establishment of an appropriate panel who will assess the competency of the applicant on the mat with both practical and theory examination. The AJF will never offer grade promotion inducements to attract membership.

Can a person whose grade qualification has been awarded by an individual or organisation of questionable credentials slip through the system? … yes … however it is important to understand that at Stages 1, 2 or 3 in the process, the AJF is not giving recognition of an individual’s grade … Recognition of grade can only come from whoever the grade was awarded by, based on having satisfied that person or organisations grade requirements. The AJF may in some circumstances, acknowledge that a person has provided prima facie evidence of attaining a grade under the grade authority awarding the grade.

To an extent schools are accepted in good faith on the information provided and on the acceptance that a grade held within the school is just that … it is not a universal recognition of grade. What the AJF delivers are practices based on good governance and aimed at raising the ethical and teaching standards within member schools.

Schools listed on this website have satisfied Stages 1, 2 or 3 in becoming a member … this does not mean they become AJF schools … each school is an organisation in its own right … The Constitution of the AJF states:

The AJF is a federation of member and associate member schools focused on the development and promotion of jujitsu and related martial arts … and … Schools joining the AJF maintain their own identity and continue to teach within their own style and grading authority …
If a specific case of misrepresentation by a person within an associate or member school, is brought to the attention of the AJF board will the board automatically expel that person? … NO … In our society and system of justice, people are entitled to the presumption of innocence … what the board will commit is to investigate such complaint and after due process determine an appropriate course of action. In a serious situation yes it could be that the school is expelled. However when appropriate it could also be that the AJF may offer to guide the person through a process to overcome the concern. Whatever the case, that process will be followed with due regard to privacy, and not debated through the media.

We trust this statement provides comfort to those who choose to learn within a school that is a member of the Australian Jujitsu Federation; and to the credibility of the many schools around Australia that are members of the Australian Jujitsu Federation, and their instructors who dedicate their time to teaching the martial arts.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, thank you for taking the time to read this. Within this website we trust you will discover more about the Australian Jujitsu Federation, the services offered and the value of membership.