Is it unethical to form a romantic relationship with a martial arts student

Steve

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At some point you had to make things complicated somewhere in order to get your wife!

I made plenty of friends at my dojang. There was one family that I would go over to their house for holidays and events. Another couple of guys my age that we'd play board games. A few of the upper belts lived near me and we would meet at a nearby park to practice. Plus several students I would see in the halls at work. At my new BJJ dojo, I've started playing video games with one of my fellow students.

I really miss have that personal relationship with most of my students and their families. It would have been the hardest part about leaving my old dojang, except they are still operating under COVID restrictions and I barely got to talk to people before or after class anymore.
Hanging out with all of one’s students is great. Hanging out with some students and not others is problematic. If you can’t figure out a way to be inclusive, you’re creating problems.

And if you are in a position to gain (whether that’s money, their time and attention, sexual favors or anything else) it is highly unethical because there is an inherent imbalance of power. It may not be illegal, but it sure can get there fast.
 

skribs

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Hanging out with all of one’s students is great. Hanging out with some students and not others is problematic. If you can’t figure out a way to be inclusive, you’re creating problems.
You don't have to hang out with everyone to be inclusive. People who don't have the same interests don't have to partake in the same events.

Also, if what you are doing with one student is romantic, then it ideally would be limited to one student.
 

Bill Mattocks

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At some point you had to make things complicated somewhere in order to get your wife!

I made plenty of friends at my dojang. There was one family that I would go over to their house for holidays and events. Another couple of guys my age that we'd play board games. A few of the upper belts lived near me and we would meet at a nearby park to practice. Plus several students I would see in the halls at work. At my new BJJ dojo, I've started playing video games with one of my fellow students.

I really miss have that personal relationship with most of my students and their families. It would have been the hardest part about leaving my old dojang, except they are still operating under COVID restrictions and I barely got to talk to people before or after class anymore.
I didn't have any relationship with wife other than dating, so no. We didn't work together or have mutual friends, etc.
 

Steve

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You don't have to hang out with everyone to be inclusive. People who don't have the same interests don't have to partake in the same events.

Also, if what you are doing with one student is romantic, then it ideally would be limited to one student.
Not saying you have to hang out with everyone, but everyone should be invited. And if you can’t invite everyone that’s a good indicator you’re on very snarky ground.

For example, if you are the boss and you have a party and only invite half of your staff, that’s a breach of many company’s standards of conduct. Similarly, you wouldn’t host a party and require your staff to attend.

I’m on a phone so it’s hard to adequately explain. But simply out there are some things that are just a bad idea. And it’s often a short step from “bad idea” to unethical.
 

skribs

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Not saying you have to hang out with everyone, but everyone should be invited. And if you can’t invite everyone that’s a good indicator you’re on very snarky ground.

For example, if you are the boss and you have a party and only invite half of your staff, that’s a breach of many company’s standards of conduct. Similarly, you wouldn’t host a party and require your staff to attend.

I’m on a phone so it’s hard to adequately explain. But simply out there are some things that are just a bad idea. And it’s often a short step from “bad idea” to unethical.
But boss/employee is different from instructor/student. It also depends on why you only hang out with them.

For example, a shared mutual interest. I've invited individuals over for board games, because we were talking about board games. "Oh, hey, I got a new game, I want to break it out this weekend, want to come over and try it?" That doesn't need to be an invitation to the entire class.

Another thing my family would do is invite people who are on their own over for Thanksgiving dinner (or similar). That way, they could have a family dinner, even though their family is halfway across the country.

I don't consider any of these things "bad ideas". If anything, it strengthened the bond at the school, because people felt like family, instead of just students.

I remember one time we had a birthday party for one of our students. She invited around a dozen of her friends to come to the dojang, do an abridged beginner class, and then dinner, presents, and cake. While everyone was showing up, me and the Master's wife were introducing ourselves and helping everyone get settled in. The Master was in his office. When the class started, he came out and gave a 20-minute class, then went back to his office while they got dinner set up. The Master's wife brought him a plate for him to eat by himself in his office. Me and his wife were hanging out with the parents and guests. Then it came time for presents...he's still in his office. He came out to lead us in singing "Happy Birthday"...then got his slice of cake and went back in his office.

It can really take the human element out of the instructor/student relationship, and if you feel like you're just a student to them, then there isn't as much reason to show up to class or show loyalty to your school.

I've only been at my new school for a few months now. In a lot of ways, my BJJ professor reminds me of my TKD master, particularly in how he teaches and how much he enjoys teaching. But in a lot of ways, he doesn't remind me of my old school, because he's approachable and personable in a way my old Master wasn't.
 

isshinryuronin

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Yes, because there is an inherent imbalance of power. It is highly unethical.
You are assuming the student is helplessly subject to an authority. It's not a public school or military, or a job the student is required to attend by law or livelihood. It's an elective activity. So, there is some difference.

I get it that people (female gender self-identified for the most part - see, I'm trying to be PC. :)) are naturally attracted to fit, "high status" guys with personality, but this does not mean they are sheep before the wolf. In my case, the women I was with were all more experienced and usually older than me. Believe me, I was the one who ended up being instructed! (I was a late bloomer.) The only exception was the girl I eventually married.

That said, there are some unethical people who would and do take unfair advantage of those not equipped to deal with them on equal footing. In this case I do agree with your post.
 

hoshin1600

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Regardless of the ranks or positions dating within the dojo is most often nothing but trouble. I would highly advise against it. If your the instructor/ owner it can change the atmosphere of the school and have a ripple effect on other students that could in time ruin your buisness.
 

Steve

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You are assuming the student is helplessly subject to an authority. It's not a public school or military, or a job the student is required to attend by law or livelihood. It's an elective activity. So, there is some difference.

I get it that people (female gender self-identified for the most part - see, I'm trying to be PC. :)) are naturally attracted to fit, "high status" guys with personality, but this does not mean they are sheep before the wolf. In my case, the women I was with were all more experienced and usually older than me. Believe me, I was the one who ended up being instructed! (I was a late bloomer.) The only exception was the girl I eventually married.

That said, there are some unethical people who would and do take unfair advantage of those not equipped to deal with them on equal footing. In this case I do agree with your post.
The question is whether this is ethical. It is not. I know a guy who ended up marrying a former employee and they’ve stayed married for over 20 years. It happens and they have a wonderful family. But it doesn’t change the fact that when he dated an employee he was wrong to do it. And he knew it at the time. It worked out as it sometimes does. But it wasn’t ethical.
 
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Oily Dragon

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To me, that sounds almost worse. "They get free private lessons just for sleeping with the instructor."
If they're not a student, nobody in the class should really care what the instructor did in their spare time, with consenting adults.
 

skribs

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If they're not a student, nobody in the class should really care what the instructor did in their spare time, with consenting adults.
If they're getting private lessons, they're a student.
 

Steve

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That is what I was going for.
C9EBE703-4A62-48F8-AF25-36500EE7FAF3.jpeg
 

skribs

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You are assuming the student is helplessly subject to an authority. It's not a public school or military, or a job the student is required to attend by law or livelihood. It's an elective activity. So, there is some difference.

I get it that people (female gender self-identified for the most part - see, I'm trying to be PC. :)) are naturally attracted to fit, "high status" guys with personality, but this does not mean they are sheep before the wolf. In my case, the women I was with were all more experienced and usually older than me. Believe me, I was the one who ended up being instructed! (I was a late bloomer.) The only exception was the girl I eventually married.

That said, there are some unethical people who would and do take unfair advantage of those not equipped to deal with them on equal footing. In this case I do agree with your post.
This is why I said in my first post that it depends on a ton of factors. It can still feel mandatory to go. You may have friends there. You may have a contract. You may simply feel that if you quit, it means you're weak. Someone in the 18-25 range is still basically a teenager.

Of course, with all the sexual harassment classes and the #metoo movement, that may be less likely to catch someone. But it still might.
I took the “private lessons” to mean something unrelated to martial arts.
Maybe. Even so, "you can't do X anymore" is a way abusers isolate their victims, so that would be a bigger red flag to me than dating a student. Especially if X is a self-defense class...
 

Oily Dragon

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If they're getting private lessons, they're a student.
Well I don't think the issue is teacher/student. That covers a lot of ground.

The issue is seller/buyer. If I'm buying kung fu lessons from you, and you start getting a little too much tiger style from someone in class you're really into, I think that crosses a line. Seen it happen, too.

But anybody can give a private instruction on anything. I can teach you gourmet cooking, you can call me master, I'll take you to bed, and you can even pay me in the morning (roses, kisses, jewelry, your choice). There's nothing wrong with any of that.
 

Oily Dragon

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I took the “private lessons” to mean something unrelated to martial arts.
Hahaha, now that's dirty.

I was actually talking about private instruction in martial arts. This actually happens a LOT, because martial artists love to date each other.

It's kind of like band camp.
 

Oily Dragon

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You may have a contract.
This is kind of where I was really going. Many people sign contracts nowadays, in the types of schools I think we're actually talking about in this thread. It could be karate, TKD, BJJ, MMA , whatever, people sign up on paper nowadays.

Having done quite a few lesson in completely informal abides, nobody really cares about that stuff and it's nobody else's business.

But if it's a contractual, commercial situation, it totally changes the field. If I ran a commercial school (and I hope I never do), it'd be totally bogus for me select a girlfriend from class. Way to ruin a dojo, like the man said earlier.

However, it's very common to find MA classes run by people who are already in relationships, or even married. I happen to know two highly ranked black belts who are mad about each other, and train lots of people. It's a beautiful thing.
 
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