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How You Know Your Coach Is Grooming You - Part 2

Trigger warning.

In part two of this blog post, I will discuss what to do if you are being groomed, or if you recognize that someone you care about is being groomed.

If you suspect a child is being groomed, you are required by law to report it, according to the Child and Family Services Act (Canada). This report can be made without physical proof, and can be based on observation, a discussion with a child, or credible second hand information.

Many adults victims are unaware that they may have fallen victim to grooming so in many instances due to manipulation and the attachment a person has to the abuser, it becomes difficult for the victim to identify this form of abuse.

If you recognize that a friend or loved one is being groomed:

  • Try your best to keep an open and honest line of communication and encourage them to stay away from the abuser. Keep in mind that victims of grooming can be in denial, especially when the abuser is the coach or another authority figure. The process of grooming relies heavily on manipulation and because the nature of martial arts is such that students tend to emulate and put their coaches on a pedestal, it can become very difficult to see their coach, a practitioner of a respectable martial arts as someone who would take advantage of a vulnerable student in their care. When this happens and you try to speak to your friend that you've noticed grooming taking place, your friend may become angry for trying to take them away from the groomer. They may even accuse you of being jealous. This is where you must be patient as your relationship with your friend can become hostile and unpleasant.

  • As a friend it is important that we do not victim blame. It is NEVER the fault of the survivor. We can reduce our risk by educating ourselves on awareness and social cues, however we cannot prevent grooming or an assault from taking place as prevention implies that we had a choice or active role in the matter.

  • Listen without judgement and believe them. Confiding a sensitive matter can be very difficult for a survivor, especially if the matter involves the coach, or person of authority. Be sensitive, and let them speak. Reassure them that they are safe and cared for.

  • Assure them that the grooming was not their fault. It goes without saying that a coach should not be engaging in personal inappropriate relationships with their students.

  • Do not offer physical comfort (like hugs) unless they initiate it or if they give you consent. Depending on the situation they just encountered, even a hug can be triggering and can lead them to feel even more uncomfortable.

  • If needed, encourage the survivor to seek medical attention including speaking to a mental health professional or someone they know and trust.

  • Keep any communication confidential, however if there is a higher authority that you have access to in the academy, encourage the survivor to speak to them. If criminal acts took place (like assault or sexual assault) seek immediate reporting to the appropriate authorities.

  • Never press for more information. Be patient and allow them to take their time when speaking.

If you are the business owner, or person authority and sensitive information has come to your attention:

  • You have a moral and civic obligation to take the matter seriously. While it is important to speak to both parties and get the necessary information, if a criminal act takes place in your business you have a direct responsibility to report it to the authorities.

  • When investigating a sensitive matter, remember to have empathy for your student. It is not your job to make assumptions, it is your job to LISTEN and provide your student with a safe space. It is not easy for people to speak up and be vulnerable.

  • When investigating a matter with the accused, look for social cues. Eye contact, dismissive behaviour, anger, denial, and a lack of accountability are all signs that would require you to dig deeper and investigate further.

  • There comes a point where letting a staff member go becomes inevitable. As a school owner, your number one priority is the safety and wellness of your students. Be proactive, take the necessary steps, and do not be selfish. Part of being a business owner/entrepreneur is making hard, but right decisions.

  • Unfortunately many traditional martial arts schools have a rule where lower ranked belts are not allowed to refuse training if a higher belt asks you to train. This is where school owners like myself have the privilege to set their own rules in their academy. There are various ways to maintain the traditional ways of the martial arts, however if tradition violates a person's safety and right to feel safe, then these rules should be changed.

  • Refer to the bullet points in the former heading "If you recognize that a friend or loved one is being groomed".

If you suspect that you are being groomed by your coach:

  • Speak to a trusted friend, training partner, or another staff member at your academy before removing yourself from the situation. An abuser can become hostile and may lash out against you if you try removing yourself from a relationship, sometimes even attempting to tarnish your reputation. If criminal acts occur, contact the police immediately. However, if you feel that you can safely remove yourself from the situation, even if that means training at a new school, then do so. Your BJJ training is meant to be enjoyable and you deserve to feel safe on the mats.

  • Set boundaries (see below)


Don't feel obligated to be the polite one when you are feeling uncomfortable or if you feel that your consent and/or personal space has been violated. Although BJJ is a close contact and very physical sport where someone is entering your personal space, if you feel uncomfortable working with a partner who is being inappropriate either in their speech or while training, you have a RIGHT to refuse training with that person. If this person happens to be your coach, you also have a RIGHT to refuse training. Unfortunately many traditional martial arts schools have a rule where lower ranked belts are not allowed to refuse training if a higher belt asks you to train. This is where school owners like myself have the privilege to set their own rules in their academy and should do so.

Setting firm boundaries verbally can confirm a person's intentions. If you do not set verbal boundaries you will never truly know a person's true intentions. If a person reacts negatively and makes you feel like you are the crazy one, then it can be assumed that that person carries negative intentions. However, if you articulate your boundaries and a person reacts positively, it can be assumed that they are respectful of your feelings and they will be more cognizant of it when interacting with you in the future. It is important to remember though, that when you are not feeling safe, it is not your job to be polite.

Step 1: State the behaviour

Step 2: State how it makes you feel

Step 3: State the desired outcome


"I don't really want to talk about my personal life, it makes me feel uncomfortable, let's just focus on training".

"I don't like it when you touch me like that, I am here to train so I would appreciate you respecting me as a training partner".

"I prefer to train at the academy, I don't visit my trainer's homes as it's inappropriate and unprofessional".

While making statements like this can make you feel embarrassed or scared, practice these in the mirror at home, with a friend, or someone you trust at home. Stand tall, put your chin up, make eye contact, and use a firm voice and pause for a response. This will neutralize a predator's behaviour and will force them to respond.

You are not obligated to answer questions like "why", "what's the big deal", or "what's your problem". Responses like this reaffirms your coach's negative intentions and shows that your boundaries are not being respected. Be aware that when seeking retaliation, predators will likely slander, humiliate, degrade, or challenge you either in private or in front of others. It is important to remember that behaviour like this is a reflection of their own insecurities. In such a case, you do not owe anyone an explanation, rather you have identified a threat to your safety and can use behaviours like this as a way to keep yourself safe.

Some people feel more comfortable using humour to redirect a person's unwanted touches or advances. If you are someone who feels more comfortable using humour and finds it effective, then all the power to you!

Here are a few resources that may help you if you are unable to find help in your social circle:



If you have other tips for our readers, please leave them in the comments below!



Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I'm Zenab! I hope you enjoy reading about my musings in the world of entrepreneurship as I navigate reaching my Jiu Jitsu goals while helping other women achieve theirs. 

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