What The Erberth Santos Scandal Can Teach Us
Last February, during the BJJ Stars: Black Belt Edition tournament, something unprecedented happened. Erberth Santos, a black belt competing against Felipe Pena, suddenly stormed off the mat and launched himself against another black belt who had been jeering at him from the sidelines.
According to the MMA Maniac, Erberth had asked to stop the fight due to a knee injury he had sustained during the bout, and one of Pena’s students, Daniel Thebit, began to shout insults at him, yelling that he had faked an injury. This quickly caused Erberth Santos to lose his temper and forget about his match entirely. He charged at Thebit as people rushed in to separate them. The fact that this happened at an elite, black-belt-only event, made the incident all the more embarrassing.
Consequently, The Bloody Elbow, an online jiu-jitsu magazine, stated that Santos ran off the mat to attack Pena’s students not once–but twice. The second time, he hit Servio Junqueira, another black belt under Pena. This riled an already shocked crowd and caused some onlookers to become violent and join the fray as they tried to hit Santos.
It goes without saying that Santos’ actions were an affront to the sport. Jiu-jitsu is a sport that demands control, respect, and patience, and for this to happen during a tournament–and a black belt tournament at that–is inexcusable.
Everyday, at the end of class, we have children recite our school creed, where they promise to never abuse the power they are given, and must instead promise to use what they learn to help and protect others. This is important, because people who are taught to harness the power of martial arts must learn self-control to avoid potentially life-ruining mistakes.
Even if both people involved in the first fight were both trained black belts, there are certain expectations for someone so far up the totem pole–restraint being one of them. An upper-level belt practitioner’s job is to guide the lower ranks, taming white belts so that they learn to use their head rather than their ego, something which Erberth clearly forgot in his rush to save face.
When someone walks into Marcus Aurelio Jiu-Jitsu Academy, we’re looking to train responsible individuals who have a clear, moral understanding of how and when to use the power of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Jabs at your ego can be unpleasant, but that doesn’t mean that you run off the mat, guns blazing to throw a childish (and dangerous) tantrum. What’s worse is that Santos set a negative example and crossed lines he shouldn’t have, which led some people to believe that they could do the same.
Jiu-jitsu is called the gentle art because it gives you two choices: non-violent control or painful domination. How you practice jiu-jitsu says as much about you as it does about your values, which is why Santos was banned from competing in any future BJJ Star events.
If there’s one thing that we can learn from this incident, it’s that we need to think before we act. Otherwise, we risk making mistakes that we can’t undo, and which follow us for the rest of our lives.