First and foremost, suing your instructor is extremely frowned upon in the bjj world. A jiu jitsu lawsuit is something that should be refrained for extremely rare cases, such as these sexual assault cases that seem to be popping up nowadays in the world of jiu jitsu. However, this did not stop former jiu jitsu athlete Joe Peters from suing his instructor.
If you ask most people who have had a decent amount of training in any grappling sport: most of us have endured some type of injury. Nonetheless, an MCL injury that requires surgery is no joke.
But what about the facts? Is Joe Peters completely wrong? I think there can be a middle ground that can be found. We have to remember that Joe Peters had only been training around 8-9 months. At this time athletes may not feel completely integrated into the jiu jitsu family. The types of people who are sue happy need to be kept away from bjj gyms. This is done through waivers:
The first waiver Joe Peters signed had to do with negligence in the gym. In other words, Peters would have known that if by chance he were injured in class he would not have been able to sue.
His instructor, Marcus Soares noted that he saw no injury during the competition. That means this entire case for morality’s sake gets shaky…and shaky meaning not in the favor of Joe Peters, in my opinion. The horrible thing about it, however, is that the legality of this situation isn’t likely to take his instructor’s side. This is for more than one reason (which I will get to later in the article).
When it comes to my bias, one should accept the risks of injuries upon entering a bjj or mma gym and never look back. I don’t know this for a fact, but considering his instructor saw no injury during the competition, means the athlete was likely already injured before the competition isn’t being completely honest.
This is where it sounds like Marcus Soares is completely out of luck. This is the most important reason why it sounds like he is likely to lose this case.
The wording of the signed waiver at the competition is completely unknown. In fact, it is unclear whether or not there was a waiver signed at all. In other words, you don’t have to be a lawyer to figure out that Soares is in deep trouble with this case.
In most competitions, the waivers, whether they be online or at the competition itself are usually heavily worded (almost as if you’re signing your life away). Soares claims the waiver for this competition was online, however it turns out that the actual wording of it is very unclear, leaving himself vulnerable.
Joe Peters Training Prior To Competition.
I’ve stressed the importance of standup and takedowns in many of my articles. I’ve even seen a little bit of ridicule for it. (such as memes like the one on the right). However, this is the only point where I actually do take Joe Peters side on this case. The truth is he never received any stand up or takedown training prior to competition. I once again have got to ask…
Why the hell do jiu jitsu instructors do this? Even in my first school, which very rarely trained takedowns gave us some basics in pulling guard, and judo throws. In my opinion if a school’s instructor ignores these concepts he either doesn’t care, or he doesn’t really know the basics of getting the fight to the ground in the first place.
Even if that’s the case it doesn’t leave a school an excuse to ignore the fact that jiu jitsu fights start on the feet in a tournament. Literally just about every school has atleast one guy who wrestled or a judo player. They can ask that student for some tips. Worst case scenario, teach the students to pull guard in a way they can avoid injury. After all, you go to a competition to more or less fight another dude.
What we can learn from this
In my bias, I think something funny is going on with Joe Peters. I don’t think he truly sustained an injury in the competition. He seized the opportunity to have somebody pay for an injury that happened elsewhere. I wasn’t able to obtain enough information to really prove it, but I have a gut feeling.
What we need to address is making sure waivers are thorough enough to assure this doesn’t happen to another bjj instructor. Students should understand the risks prior to taking classes. They should especially know the risks prior to competition.
We also need to consider pushing a student into a competition who says they don’t feel ready may be a bad idea. All instructors want their students to push themselves but some just aren’t going to. Others like this guy will even file a lawsuit.
Hopefully everyone can learn from this and take the proper precautions before taking on new students and assure their schools waiver’s are thorough. It may be a good idea for schools to add the extension to competitions to take extra precautions with their waivers.
All in all, like most I take the instructors side and hopefully this man drops the charges. For more information about this case listen to the audio below. It gives a much more detailed explanation to the legalities of this case.
The original article about this case being extended can be found here