Amateur athletics is the gateway to professional sports. That’s a given. However, whether someone is in it for a career or just for health and fitness, amateur sports are an essential thread in the fabric of society.
Obviously, sports come with certain risks to physical health. While, generally, most sports are safe when regulated properly, even a golfer can suffer a torn knee or an injured back. For this reason, organizations like the Amateur Athletic Union have been created to not only provide a central registry for athletes and competitions, but also to serve as a source of insurance for athletes who might get injured in either training or competitive environments.
While many combat sports, such as judo, boxing, karate, wrestling and taekwondo, already have organizations in place to provide certain insurance protections against sports-related injuries, the rapidly growing jiu-jitsu community has gone largely underserved. Second-degree Japanese jiu-jitsu black belt Mitch Miller sees this as an opportunity to give back.
“I used to be a gym owner, and I had a few people come after me for injuries at the gym,” Miller told Combat Press. “So, after I got rid of my last gym and started dealing with the AAU, they were wanting to do a jiu-jitsu thing. They contacted me and wanted me to run it for them, in a sense. It got me thinking about the insurance for all these participants in jiu-jitsu. USA Judo offers close to the same thing, and USA Boxing is where I got the idea from. You can’t walk into a USA Boxing gym without being a member of USA Boxing. The reason is, they offer a similar type of insurance. I just wanted to do something for the jiu-jitsu community.”
Miller stated that the new organization, USA Jiu-Jitsu, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that plans to mirror similar organizations to provide protections for jiu-jitsu practitioners, gym owners, and promoters. In addition, he plans to create a tracking system for athletes.
“Another thing I want to do is form a repository for belt rankings,” Miller added. “There’s really nowhere there’s a repository, other than the [International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation]. It’s $350 per year to be a black belt, and there are no benefits. I wanted some kind of repository for jiu-jitsu belt rankings, which doesn’t seem to exist anywhere else. The website that we had built is searchable. I just want to make a community, and it’s not just jiu-jitsu — it’s sambo [and] it’s wrestling.”
USAJJ has a lot of moving parts, but the first and foremost benefit is the insurance aspect. According to the organization’s brochure, the annual membership fee of $80 per year grants members access to $100,000 in medical coverage (with a $250 deductible), $10,000 in life insurance coverage, and $1 million in liability insurance coverage.
“It’s the same insurance company that does AAU, as well, and they do really big clients,” Miller said. “I was able to talk them into letting me participate in the same coverage for an amount of time. I have a certain amount of time to get so many members. I’m not really worried about that. The cool thing about it is that, with me owning gyms, I used to have liability coverage that I thought would protect me, but for these policies, every member has their own policy. It’s not according to the gym, the show, the tournament or anything else. The member of USA Jiu-Jitsu is covered whether they are training or competing or wherever. It’s their insurance.”
In addition to insurance, members will be registered in the ranking system and will also enjoy other benefits, such as donated equipment, free and low-cost tournaments, and other member discounts.
“Once we get enough members and we start getting some revenue, I’m going to start doing tournaments,” Miller revealed. “All you would have to do to participate is be a member of USA Jiu-Jitsu. If you enter a jiu-jitsu tournament, they make you sign a waiver, which basically says if you get hurt, that’s on you. I didn’t like that, and I’ve had students that have participated. We just wanted to figure out a way to get covered.”
Initially, USAJJ plans to hold tournaments free of charge. While that may change to a $20 or $25 entry fee at some point, they plan to keep the fees minimal. However, due to the nature of the non-profit entity, as well as the insurance coverage, low- to no-fee tournaments could actually be a viable option.
“To be in the tournament, we would want everybody to be 100 percent compliant, because we wouldn’t want the liability,” Miller said. “I’ve already spoken to quite a few venues about it, and I’ve spoken to my instructor, and he gave me a bunch of mats. He gave me about 1200 square feet of German mats. They’re great mats. He donated them. I’ve spoken to a couple high schools and different municipalities, and they said they would give me the venue, because I’m a 501(c)(3). Also, they would give me the venue because I assured them that every member would have their own insurance policy. That’s why most martial-arts promoters cannot go to high schools.”
According to Miller, the insurance provided by USAJJ will act as a secondary insurance to the individual’s primary healthcare plan. In the case that an individual has no other healthcare coverage, it becomes the primary coverage. This is a big benefit for those athletes not otherwise covered.
USAJJ is still in its early stages, but it has a lot of good models to emulate. Like AAU, USA Boxing and other similar entities, it plans to allow amateur U.S. athletes to be able to train and compete without the worrisome burden of injury coverage. For more information, or to inquire about specifics, please visit the USA Jiu-Jitsu website.
[Ed. Note: Combat Press, LLC does not endorse any insurance company or other financial organization. Any information contained above is for informational purposes only, and it is up to the reader to complete their own due diligence before beginning a membership.]