"It's a cult of power. It's not really about sex or anything else. It's what can I take from you? Who can I hold down to get what I need? How can I make people see me in a light that I want them to see me so I can manipulate the world around me. It's a huge power game from top to bottom."
That is how one former student described the atmosphere in the Team Lloyd Irvin system. That atmosphere, combined with allegations of sexual abuse of at least one female student, appears to have led to the defection last week of at least ten of Irvin's "Medal Chasers" competition team, with at least ten members cutting ties with TLI. The Medal Chasers were a group of Irvin's top students who traveled and competed in tournaments under the Team Lloyd Irvin banner. They were put up in a house for free by Irvin so they could focus on training.
When news began to trickle out that Medal Chasers members were leaving camp, Bloody Elbow began to investigate what spurred the action. In speaking to four former male members of the team, four former female students, family members of students and others in the jiu jitsu world close to the situation -- some who were willing to go on the record, some who were only willing to go on the record anonymously and others who only spoke off the record -- a clear pattern emerged in the conversations and an ugly picture was painted.
When initially investigating why Irvin's top grapplers would leave the comfortable situation of free living and exhaustive training under a highly regarded instructor, Bloody Elbow was put in touch with Jordon Schultz, one of the Medal Chasers team that left last week and a two-time IBJJF world champion. Schultz provided a statement on why he decided to leave the team (an earlier draft of that statement leaked on Facebook prior to the publication of this article).
In the statement, Schultz claims that there was a sexually abusive relationship with one of Irvin's female students and, when she came to him, he left the Medal Chasers house, taking the woman with him.
Here are excerpts of the version of Schultz's statement given to me on February 28 at 8:11 p.m. ET (Full statement here in PDF format):
Recently a fellow team member came to me she was burdened and confused. She sought me out as a confidante, a person she could trust. She had been battling with a situation morally inside her head. She explained the details of secret sexual interactions she had with her martial arts instructor and employer.
She started with the question "Are you supposed to do anything to become a World Champion?" I replied, "Yes, there are sacrifices you must make to become a World Champion and you are going to have to do some things that other people won’t do to become a World Champion". She began to cry as she explained.
She said that when she first joined the team she was given a set of rules. She was told exactly how she should act. Everyone on the team follows the principle of the Android. An Android does what they are commanded with no question and no hesitation. Whatever the Programmer says the Android does. According to the Martial Arts instructor this correlates to Martial Arts if the coach gives a command and the athlete hesitates or questions for a moment it can cost them the match. That is the importance of being an Android.
She told me while crying that her instructor would both ask and instruct her to do sexually inappropriate things with him. Re-affirming his instructions with things like "I thought you said you wanted to be a world champion, and you said you would do anything I tell you to do without hesitation". He would make her repeat to him over and over that she loved him like a script.
If she ever hesitated or questioned he would call her a liar and say that she didn’t really want to become a world champion and she wasn’t serious about her goals.
This activity went on for a couple months and then he asked her is she would give herself to him sexually fully, and if she would take the next step and have full sexual intercourse with him.
That’s when she broke down and came to me she was so wrapped up and confused about the tests and hazing she came to me for guidance. And I am happy she did so that I could protect her.
I think, but cannot confirm, that there are other victims on the team. I would see the instructor sleeping in the same hotel room, in the same bed with other female teammates at tournaments. Multiple teammates have also been called to his room to give him massages alone together, which I always thought was a little inappropriate considering he is their Martial Arts Instructor.
One of the other Medal Chasers members who left last week confirmed that he and several other members of the team left for the same reason as Jordon related in his statement. The source also indicated that reaction of the group upon seeing the statement was that they were not surprised by it. Multiple sources told Bloody Elbow that there was an atmosphere of sexual exploitation at TLI.
Multiple attempts were made to allow Irvin to provide statements on the allegations in this story, but those attempts led to his lawyer contacting Bloody Elbow. As we were only interested in talking directly to Irvin, no statements from him were obtained.
The defections come on the heels of the alleged gang rape of a female Lloyd Irvin student by two male teammates on New Year's Eve. While the Brazilian jiu-jitsu community was aghast as details on the case emerged, a 1989 case where Irvin was tried in a gang rape of a 17 year old college student also resurfaced. Irvin was acquitted in the case despite the others tried at the time being found guilty, saying he wanted to engage in sex with the young woman but was temporarily impotent and that the girl wanted to be involved, calling her a "freak."
Irvin would release an open letter on the situation, focusing on expressing his support for the victim in the New Year's Eve case and defending his innocence in 1989.
According to a source, Irvin also recently held a meeting with a portion of his team to discuss his prior rape arrest. "There were eight male team members in the room, and he told us the sex was a 'train' and the girl was 'down'... he then said the next day the girl's boyfriend found out about the incident and made her report it as rape." The former student continued, "Lloyd told us he had paid for Matthew Maldonado and Nick Schultz's lawyer retainer when they initially were arrested. And we were given specific instructions to not to tell anyone he did that."
A second source also said that Irvin arranged for Maldonado's and Schultz's defense, stating, "He hired the lawyers. 100% it's a fact. I was there at the meeting, I sat in on it, I heard it. 100%. There's no lies to it, he hired the lawyers."
If true, Irvin's having hired the defense lawyers would suggest that, while stating that he was committed to her recovery and offering that they were "unwaveringly there" for the alleged victim of the New Year's Eve attack, he was also funding at least a part of the defense of her alleged attackers.
This seemingly toxic atmosphere in the camp appears to have long been a concern for members and has even raised suspicions among contenders' parents. Kathleen Callos, the mother of a male former student at TLI, shared the following story, also corroborating the story of the meeting with the team to describe the '89 incident:
A while back, my son and daughter were discussing her desire to practice jiujitsu again (something my son is always encouraging his sisters to do) and she asked what he thought about her coming to Lloyd Irvin's gym to train for a few months. At first my son entertained the idea, but as their conversation became more thoughtful about the logistics, etc., my son recanted. Then he said after a minute or so, "no, I don't think you should come." When she asked why, he said, "I don't want you around Master Lloyd, he can be manipulative and I'm not totally sure I trust him." I was pulled into the conversation by his statement and asked what he meant, but we were distracted mid-conversation and never got back to it.
However, when the past accusations surfaced regarding Lloyd Irvin's participation in what was deemed a "rape" by several courts of law, I started to speculate about the comment that my son had made. When days, then a week had passed and Mr. Irvin had yet to provide comments on his presence in the 1989 rape case, I asked my son if Irvin had said anything to any of them. He told me that he had not personally been spoken to, but that Lloyd had spoken with some of the students and explained to them that the rape of 1989 had not been a rape. He said - that he was told - that Lloyd pretty much said a rape had not occurred. This sounded a lot like what was being claimed by his affiliate academies and I assumed that he must have been offering that as explanation for his self-perceived innocence.
The allegations of improper conduct between instructors and students appear to extend beyond just the main school into affiliate gyms, such as with the story from roughly five years ago, of a then 17-year-old former student at a Lloyd Irvin affiliate school who claimed that she was forced to show her instructor -- not Irvin, but an instructor at the Irvin affiliate school -- all of her text messages and Facebook conversations and then was forced to have sex with him for somewhere around a year. When the incident was reported, the only action taken was to have the instructor removed from the school. This story was corroborated by multiple sources, with one source stating that this instructor was told not to fly back to the gym when the information came out at a jiu jitsu tournament, but no police involvement was ever sought.
These stories of controlling behavior, and alleged sexual abuse, in the Lloyd Irvin school and affiliate schools were a common theme in discussions with sources over the past week. Multiple sources recounted the same stories and fears to Bloody Elbow. While no criminal charges have been filed, the stories told to Bloody Elbow suggest that the departing team members were fleeing an ugly and uncomfortable situation at Team Lloyd Irvin.
As one of the former students put it, "The level of manipulation and control over everyone in the system is absolutely insane. It's not direct, you don't know it...you don't know it's happening. It's conversations in the dark, it's text messages at two in the morning, and insults and...isolating you inside a group where you can't remove yourself from the group because everyone else is your enemy type shit."