Here is where the story begins…
Claudia Doval is a Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt multiple World Champion, she is ranking the n. 1 in the Flograppling ranking. She is one of the rare cases in BJJ of someone who started late in her twenties and who did not compete extensively while climbing the ranks of this martial art, but still conquered her space as one of the top grapplers of her generation.
In this intense interview, Claudia opens up about her story, from when she was bullied in school, until she was abused by the Grand Master of her former Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy. Claudia finally reveals her truth, hoping to be an example to other girls and women who are struggling with the same problems.
“2014 that’s when I got my brown belt and then, well… something really messed me up. That happened in 2015“, said Claudia in the interview.
Do Val said she was feeling mentally drained at that time and during a WhatsApp conversation, Master De La Riva sent a message to her stating: “I am going to your home so you can give me a massage“.
“I was very naive towards him and you can say I was stupid because I was 25 or 26 [years old] at the time. I was very naive because it never crossed my mind that I was a woman and he was a man because he was like my dad [E.N.: a figurative term of endearment] (…) That was the first time I was well… I panicked a little bit but I was like trying to convince myself that it was ok…. I was like ‘he is my dad, I mean, it’s normal if your dad goes to your house to have a massage’. But then I was like: ‘I hope he is just kidding’” – she said, adding that he sent another message saying he was arriving soon.
Claudia said she was a little upset, but at the same time, thinking it was just her father wanting a massage.
“He got to my home, he went over, he asked for a massage. My heart was like you know, almost leaving my body. But I was like: ‘It’s gonna be over soon, I hope he leaves and then the massage was over’. And then he was like: ‘Ok, it’s my turn now’. At that point on I didn’t know what to do with myself… There was something dying inside of me, I didn’t know what to do. He started touching me. I didn’t say no, I didn’t stop him… I was dying inside. I hated him so much because even though I didn’t say no with my voice, I’m sure that my body language was saying no because that wasn’t a choice. I was like a statue“.
And she vented: “I blamed myself so much for this because I didn’t say no with my voice. I don’t know if I can call it abuse because I wasn’t able to say no, but my body… I was petrified, I was dying inside“.
Claudia also referenced that the ordeal left her distraught given how much she regarded him as a fatherly figure for all the years she had trained at the gym. Another starking remark was how, in her desperation, she questioned if her Master’s support over the years had now come with a price tag, including the free membership she had enjoyed until then: “Is that the price I have to pay for training?“, she asked.
According to do Val’s testimony, after this shocking interaction, once Claudia returned to the gym for practice, the young athlete had a chance to explain to De La Riva that she had seen him as a fatherly figure and that such behavior was totally unexpected and unwanted. After this very decisive conversation regarding her feelings on the matter, the well known coach persisted, sending repeated messages asking to continue meeting up which she refused. He also attempted to visit Claudia at her home a few times.
“Sometimes he would say, during training, he would say stuff that only I would understand, you know, talking about what happened, and I would get so mad because he knew how much I didn’t want that and he would talk about it like how it was the amazing thing for me and it wasn’t“, she said.
How Does The Alleged Victim Feel About The Ordeal?
“I remember when I got my brown belt, in 2014. He actually said like ‘there is this person, she is like a daughter to me’. So, I was like ‘I’m not crazy, I’m actually like a daughter to him‘”, Claudia said.
Claudia hid this information for two years until she found the courage to speak to someone close. After leaving the DLR team, Do Val felt as though a few of her former team mates were less than amicable towards her decision.
“I’ve always been angry at myself for not being able to voice. I blamed myself for a very long time and then I think he understood that there is no point in this. He never said it to me but I think he actually got offended and angry at me because I didn’t… I think that’s why he was doing everything he could to push me out of the academy“, she said.
“I had him so high up on a pedestal – and that’s like, a lesson I learned from life: That is, never put people on pedestals anymore“, she said.
Currently, do Val is out of De La Riva team and, earlier this year, she won first place at the European Championship in the heavyweight master I category while representing her new team, Soul Fighters.
Days later Ricardo Del La Riva responded:
“ For the past 40 years, I gave start to a great history on the mats with a lot of teamwork, strength, determination, respect, character, and passion for Jiu-Jitsu, which got us united as a real family.
There are over 80 De La Riva schools around the world and approximately 3 thousand students guided by me and by the other coaches associated with us.
In all these years, my reputation was built on and grounded by ethics, respect, and commitment to all my students.
As everybody knows, this path was paved with a lot of dedication and honor. I have always had a code of ethics, which has been respected by my family, friends and all my students.
It was with perplexity and consternation that I heard Claudia do Val’s, allegations last Saturday – an athlete of De La Riva team for about 10 years. My family and I were surprised by this irresponsible and false accusation.
For a while now, her statements do not live up to the spirit of this partnership that we are all so proud of, and reached its peaks over the past few days, revealing ingratitude to all the work, support, and coaching that were given in favor of her professional evaluation.
In the past 5 years, Claudia has reached her professional peak, winning a lot of championships, conducting seminars, gaining great notoriety in Jiu-Jitsu world, which reflects, for sure, the great team and professional work that was done by the De La Riva family.
It is important to say that in these times ruled by social media, as you all well know, any reckless statement can grow into epic proportions, having the power to irreversibly harm a reputation, since the mere allegation is enough to convict in the court of public opinion, without the opportunity of a counterpoint. ”
Now in the latest turn of events Ricardo has decided to reopen his gyms following Covid-19’s forced lockdown, he has decided to teach only men.
Here is his message translated from Portuguese:
Dear good afternoon
As was already communicated through Zoom at the meeting on 06/26, we inform that there will be no mixed classes (jiu-jitsu and no-gi). If there is a possibility in the future, exclusively female classes will be opened. If you have values to receive, please contact us through this phone as of 06/29 for the settlement to be made.
Ricardo de la Riva
What do you all think about this? Sound off in comments.
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