Frustrations have been growing over a number of seemingly biased decisions arising from competitions against youngsters from ethnic backgrounds across a four-year period.

A special investigation by Asian Sunday has unearthed a number of complaints from both parents and experts whereby a clear pattern seems to emerge.

Ju-Jitsu Professional

47-year-old Mumtaz Khan is a sixth degree, black belt Ju-Jitsu professional coach, running her own Ju-Jitsu organisation based in Girlington, Bradford called Onna Ju-Jitsu Club. Her club has 750 students, including 600 under the age of 11.

In order for the club to compete in national competitions they needed to be part of a National Governing Body or NGB.

In 2013 Mumtaz joined the British Ju-Jitsu Association, recognised by Sport England and based in Accrington.

Its Chairman, Martin Dixon, accepted a fee of £1300 for her coaches to be retrained toward BJJA accreditation.

Preparation for Competition

Ms Khan told us: “In 2013 I was invited to the National Championships hosted by BJJA GB just to see what it was like, in preparation for the club to compete in the competition the following year. I noted at the time, there were perhaps less than five people from a BAME background at the event.”

The British Ju-Jitsu Association is the Governing Body responsible for all aspects of Ju-Jitsu in Great Britain. They establish codes of conduct, standard practises, competition formats and rules.

Members of Onna Ju-Jitsu club, with Mumtaz Khan (top right)

In 2014 Mumtaz prepared seven people for competition in the national event – she also competed herself, leading by example, winning two silver medals.  She later learned her opponent Dean Agnotti was the son of Janice Agnotti, who is sister of Sheila Dixon, Chairman Martin’s wife and also a student in the Masters of Martial Arts club, based in Accrington, owned by Martin Dixon. Both Sheila and Janice are also involved with the running of the club. This seemed to be the start of a series of frustrating developments.

Upon completing her Empty Hands Kata performing the advanced Sandan Kata, most of the competitors in her category came to congratulate her on an amazing performance.  She remained with the competitors watching everyone’s performance looking forward to seeing Dean Agnotti in action. (Dean had visited the club previously with Heath Blackledge to help the club understand competition rules).  Dean performed the Knife Hand Kata, something usually performed by junior black belts at her club and less challenging.  She was surprised that it was considered the award-winning performance and regardless of Dean being Martin Dixon’s nephew – she brushed off any thoughts of favouritism taking place since the whole martial art is based on the seven Codes of Bushido which are;  Honour, Honesty, Respect, Courage, Morality, Loyalty and Compassion.

Worrying Trends

In 2016 Muhammad Ismail Ghani lost in major competition by a single point to Lewis Blackledge – the referee for this fight was Heath Blackledge, his father. The Blackledge’s are also students of the Accrington based Masters of Martial Arts club. Ms Khan noted the incident and rang Martin Dixon advising that referees should not divulge scores to competitors as per their own rulings.

In 2017 Eessa Ghani suffered the same experience in competition.  Except this time his opponent Ben Kirby, and Ben’s father apologised to Eessa for the ‘win’.  Mumtaz sent a video of the fight together with a recommendation to Martin Dixon via Whatsapp, that it be used as a training tool for future referee courses.

Also, in 2017 Safa Zahid performed brilliantly – in a match up, she had her opponent pinned down and was set to claim a victory – but the referee stopped them at the vital moment – when her opponent was in a better position the fight was awarded the other way – a number of people who witnessed the fight have claimed it was obvious Safa should have been made the clear winner.

Her mother told us: “Safa was fighting really hard and was just about to claim victory under the rules, when the referee stopped them for a few seconds.  When they re-started her opponent eventually got her onto the floor – it seemed as if the whole thing had been manipulated. She was so dejected we haven’t got involved since.”

In 2018, many experts believe Halah Latif should never have lost her fight to Stevie Wilson – the judgement seemed wrong according to the video evidence, at an event at The University of Wolverhampton facility in Walsall. Hamzah Latif, dad to Halah who was 10-years-old at the time explained: “It was so clear and obvious she’d won – a number of coaches and experts in martial arts who studied the video evidence said Halah should have been awarded the win.

“She’d been training since Easter for the event in September showing just what hard work goes into preparing for competition. Halah took the disappointment on the chin though despite the silver and bronze, it took the shine off the day. She fought girls two and three years older.

“At the end of the fight one parent said to me – Did you see what I just saw?

“I did mention it to one of the coaches, but they said nothing could be done on the day and once the decision has been made it’s difficult to overturn it. I’m a Muslim and I was the only one there with a full grown beard and a hat dressed slightly differently of course – I felt out of place though most people in the crowd were really nice saying the best person should get the win on the day. Even at the age of 10 – Halah agreed it would be best if we kept our distance – even she felt uncomfortable.

“It hurt me to see her so disappointed – this is our country and our family have been here for more than 60 years.”

Mother of two Nargis Zeb, sustained a dislocated jaw against her opponent, Karli, a close friend of Mr Dixon’s granddaughter – an injury confirmed by a paramedic on the day. The rules suggest her opponent should have either received a red card or face disqualification. Page 27 of the rule book suggests you’re not allowed to injure an opponent – Nargis was adjudged to have lost the fight – Karli was awarded the gold medal.

It also seems weight groups weren’t formulated correctly according to the stats we’ve been shown – one student was put up two categories fighting at a 27 per cent weight disadvantage.  When Mumtaz approached Martin Dixon over events she claims he pushed her away.

Officers Role

Martin Dixon invited Ms Khan to take up an officer’s position within the BJJA, as part of a Sport England/Ireland backed initiative to help the BJJA move toward a federal structure. She took up the role of Diversity Engagement Officer and official photographer for BJJA GB in June 2017.   Mumtaz felt this role was to be tokenistic as she was never invited to any meetings nor given any job description of any sorts.

In the 2018 event Mumtaz was planning to supervise a mat as a qualified referee. Five days before the competition she received a call to manage the photographs as the official BJJA photographer had let them down. She agreed to help. Her students filmed the action.

On Monday 3 Sept 2018, following the competition, Mumtaz emailed Martin Dixon requesting a meeting to ask for rectification on some of the results. The row quickly escalated, but The National Executive found Mumtaz had no grounds for her complaint.

It all culminated in her not renewing her membership with the NGB BJJA due to biases and discrimination. It means if her club isn’t part of an NGB they can’t be part of national competitions, nor can they gain funding, as it is believed Sport England will only fund clubs who are with an NGB they recognise. Asian Standard has learned from a source that since the emergence of the Black Lives Matter group, the BJJA are actively trying to recruit two Diversity Engagement officers, one of whom has already been appointed.

Martin Dixon’s Response

Asian Standard put these allegations to Martin Dixon at the BJJA. In his reply Professor Dixon included a copy of a letter sent to the MP for Bradford West Naz Shah, who Ms Khan contacted regarding the list of complaints.

In replying to Ms Shah’s correspondence, he said:

“From the time Ms Khan joined the BJJAGB, we have worked extremely hard to promote her and her business. By way of example, Ms Khan has asked both me and members of the BJJAGB executive (who are all volunteers) to attend several functions within her community which we have always accommodated. We also funded Ms Khan to attend various events, including those relating to women in sport.

He went on: “Not only does the BJJAGB not receive any funding from Sport England, we rely totally on a volunteer workforce. We have more than 100 referees and other officials at every British Championships, all of whom are qualified to the highest standard.

“We were informed Ms Khan had instructed her students/colleagues to video the contests that her students were involved in. This was in direct breach of our policy and is an extremely serious matter and one that is even more serious given the seniority of Ms Khan. We expressly reserve our position with regard to Ms Khan and this breach. The BJJAGB will take the appropriate steps to ensure that the policy is adhered to at future events.

“It is always disappointing when parties who have previously enjoyed a good working relationship appear to fall out to such an extent that one feels it necessary to refer the matter to their Member of Parliament rather than attempting to address the issues themselves. To that end, we invite Ms Khan to engage in a mediation process with the BJJAGB where it would be hoped any unresolved issues could be resolved.”

We also contacted Sport England who issued this statement: “Sport England takes concerns raised around governance, safeguarding and discrimination in any sporting organisation very seriously and the concerns raised about the BJJA are no exception.

“Although the BJJA does not receive any public money from Sport England and thus our role is limited as we are not an arbitrator for disputes between governing bodies and their members nor are we a regulator for the sector, we addressed the complaints raised in this matter thoroughly and at a senior level.

“We have set out that the next step in this process would be for the complainant to seek a review of their recognition status as the national governing body for Ju-Jitsu in England. This process is overseen not by Sport England, but by the four Home Nation Sport Councils and UK Sport and details on this process have been shared with Ms Khan.”

In response Mumtaz said: “Following the Black Lives Matter movement there has been an influx of organisations falling over themselves in trying to prove that they have fair, non-discriminatory processes in place.  If Sport England really value BAME participation in sport, then this is the perfect opportunity for them to prove it.  I am not wanting monetary compensation nor an apology.  I am asking Sport England to do the right thing and derecognise the British Ju-Jitsu Association NGB which unfortunately is not fit for purpose.”

Asian Standard discovered BJJA GB issued a press release on the 17th of June – it said:

“The British Ju-Jitsu Association GB has an influential role to play within the Ju Jitsu Community to bring about meaningful change and this period has rightly led us to reflect, listen, question, learn and openly discuss how to take positive action.

It is acknowledged that up to this point, we have not done enough. It is time to confront any racism and inequality that may exists across Ju-Jitsu, from grass-roots participation through to the boardroom.

The latest actions of the BJJAGB: The BJJAGB pledges its support to the Sports and Recreation Alliance “Tackling Inequality”. Constructive work has already been started to address a number of these problems including a committed effort to increase boardroom diversity. This can only be seen as the start. We must become more inclusive.

We must create opportunities which are truly accessible. We must and can do more. We already have in place a highly qualified (EDO Equality and Diversity Officer). The BJJAGB have made the decision to escalate our efforts and have now put in place a policy and program ensuring that every member club and association has its own appointed EDO.

The BJJAGB will be offering FREE online training courses to all the appointed EDO’s to help us achieve this. There has to be a commitment from all of our Ju-Jitsu clubs. We have to be dedicated to address other areas of inequality. The BJJAGB welcome the news of the Sports Minister’s decision to review the Sports Governance Code. “

Asian Standard have also been sent screen shots of chairman Martin Dixon and his sister-in-law Janice Agnotti’s (BJJA Secretary) social media sharing racist, Islamophobic and Homophobic posts, which puts their integrity for a more ‘inclusive organisation into question.