Dear students, friends, and colleagues,
Over the past few weeks I have been the subject of a series of coordinated attacks and rumours that are an escalation of a more than 2 year campaign that has sought to damage my career, my school, and me personally. These attacks come from a small, interlinked circle of students and instructors at Valkyrie Western Martial Arts Assembly, a direct competitor of Academie Duello. There are no accusations from other schools or event organizations in which I have been involved.
I can appreciate that many people are confused, concerned or angered by the types of accusations levelled at me. Everyone wants to do their part and do the right thing, and as myself and Academie Duello have prided ourselves, often publicly, on our inclusivity, people want to know – and have the right to know – that their trust isn’t misplaced.
I hope that you can understand how responding to these types of accusations is difficult, especially when the people involved have worked hard to paint me in the worst light and undermine any response I might make as “gaslighting.” I know people wanted a faster response, but it was necessary for me to pause, reflect, and get advice from people I trust so I could respond in a way that most represented my values and didn’t perpetuate more hostility.
In these recent weeks my and the school’s supporters have been treated brutally in the HEMA community when they have stepped up to offer their own firsthand accounts that challenge the narrative of the accusers, or even simply shared Duello’s Open Letter speaking out against bullying and harassment. It has been disheartening to see how people with little to no firsthand knowledge of me or the school have piled on, perpetuated harm, silenced voices, and added to the atmosphere of anger and fear in our community. This has included hostile language, online harassment, banning people from group discussions for offering respectful counter-perspective, and even threats.
For me personally, besides the emotional pain and shock they have caused me, these accusations have done significant damage to my career and the school that I have put so much of my personal time, money, and life energy into developing over the last 16 years. My desire has simply been to share my passion for swordplay and the journey of mastery with anyone who is also inspired by this art. It makes me angry and deeply sad that there has been so much damage done under the righteous guise of causes I care deeply about.
I do not pretend to be a perfect leader or person, even if I have sought to be. Like all of you, I have been doing my work to learn and grow in a world that is increasingly more attuned to the plight of oppressed groups. Our world is changing and evolving fast. There are ways that I would approach things different today than I would have 5 or 10 years ago.
Part of the problem with the interrelated letters posted on the internet is that they weave together a small number of spurious allegations, rumours, and complaints from across a decade to create the semblance of a persistent, ugly pattern of predatory behaviour. In all of this, the only clear accusation of misconduct toward me in these accounts is of allegedly grabbing a student’s bum during a hug while supposedly intoxicated at a work party in 2013.
I did not do this. This kind of behaviour would be completely out of character for me, and I rarely drink or get drunk–especially not at professional events.
A small number of people have also said that I made them feel uncomfortable with comments or information I shared with them about myself or my relationships. They have made their own decisions about what they felt was my motivation for sharing this information. None of these concerns were raised with me directly at any time prior to these attacks, so I can only unilaterally apologize if anything I have done or said made people uncomfortable, it was not my intent. I have been and continue to be open to respectful dialogue and opportunities to make meaningful repair in relationships where there has been hurt or misunderstanding.
That is the extent of the allegations of impropriety against me.
There are accusations that in my role as the leader of Academie Duello that I suppressed women’s voices and ignored issues raised with me. This is not the case. Any time an issue has been brought to me directly or passed up to me I have treated it with respect and involved outside professional counsel to help with anything of a sensitive nature, or where bias may influence the assessment (my own, or others).
I am bound by my personal ethics and the privacy laws of British Columbia to not disclose the details of any issues that we have addressed without the express consent of all parties involved. For this reason I believe some issues that were addressed in the school have resurfaced in the form of rumours as people seek to fill in the details for themselves. We are working as a team now to determine how to best close the loop on concerns when they are addressed while meeting our obligations for privacy and confidentiality.
Though I am a prominent member, Academie Duello is a team effort. The school is a large organization that sees as many as 3000-5000 customers in a year, served by an administrative staff and team of 30 instructors. Though some might wish I was omniscient and omnipresent I am not. Please read Academie Duello’s response to the accusations against it, as an institution, to learn more about the process that the school has followed before and throughout this extended conflict.
In the last few days an account of an investigation and disciplinary action from 2019 has been posted online without complete details. I am sad that the person who shared their story feels that the harm they experienced was not fully or appropriately addressed. At the time, we fully investigated the allegations in a professional and confidential manner with outside consultation with a professional lawyer and psychologist. Based on that guidance, and with consultation and consent of all parties (including the victim), we built a disciplinary action for the instructor in question that involved him losing his full-time employment and retaining only limited involvement as a teacher with set boundaries for his behaviour, rehabilitation, and repair.
I care about restorative justice, and the role of martial arts for learning and growth. I work always to see the best in people and to find paths forward that bring the greatest good without putting labour on those who have been harmed. I do not feel that I have done this perfectly but I have sought to do my best and to learn each step of the way. I am always open to respectful feedback and am not afraid of doing the hard work to grow or make amends where that is needed, which I intend to do here.
I continue to stand against bullying and harassment as a means to achieve any result. I cannot condone and will not participate in any form of communication that involves defamation, misinformation, rumours, and hostility. I do not believe these behaviours can lead to true healing for anyone involved. If you want to have a respectful conversation about any of these matters with me, please feel free to reach out.
Thank you to everyone who has offered their support through this profoundly challenging time, I have truly appreciated it. Great efforts are needed to help make swordplay accessible to people everywhere and that is where I intend to keep putting my energy. I hope that is something we can all do collaboratively.