Competitor’s Adversity: James Clingerman

When entering a grappling tournament as competitors we are all aware of the dangers that might occur when we compete. It is very common in almost every tournament you go to from the small tournaments to the high level events that an injury is bound to take place. Although most of these injuries are apart of the game and totally unintentional by our opponent, there are some injuries that can’t help but draw attention to spectators and viewers alike. This video (above) of a match at the Ohio Grappling Challenge between  Black Belt James Clingerman and wrestling standout Cody Butzer has been the talk on many online chatfourms & on YouTube, due to the controversy over the illegal slam (spiking on the head).


As a competitor anyone can’t help but be shocked and concerned about what happen in the video because you never know it could happen to anyone of us. On one hand you have a bunch of people who feel Cody’s actions were despicable and a poor act of sportsmanship because under no circumstance should anyone be dumped on their head. Then on the other end of the spectrum you have people who feel James brought it upon himself because hey it is competition right, he walked in knowing the danger of what could happen.
With all of the talk online about this very controversial video with backlash aimed at both competitors, I got the opportunity to get in contact with James and have him discuss his feeling about what happen that day.
1. Monta: When the slam occurred, what were your feeling while laying there on your back (mentally & physically) ?"
James: Well, That mat was really hard, so when I got slammed, I was knocked out. After I figured out what had happened I tried to get up. My head and neck hurt a little, but I felt fine, like I could get up. However everyone really insisted that I stay down, so I laid there. That was the worst part, just laying there for who knows how long. After I realized what had happened I was pretty mad that I had gotten slammed after letting up.
2. Monta: It’s been awhile since the incident, what are your feelings about the situation now?
James: They are about the same as they were then. Well, after I got X-Rays and CT Scans to make sure my neck wasn’t broken that is. It happened and there really isn’t anything we can do about it now. I’m not mad about it. One of the more disappointing parts is that I wasn’t there to see the rest of my team win or get my picture taken with them (it was a 5 vs. 5 invite).
3. Monta: Obviously there has been a lot of talk about what happen in the video , have you received any supporters since this has happened to you?"
James: Of course, I still get comments all the time on Youtube or facebook from people that want to know how I’m doing etc. The truth is; I was never really hurt. I went to the hospital got cleared and came back to the tournament to ref. I did go and get some more tests the following week, just to double check. I think any normal human being can look at that video and go, "Oh that isn’t good". Regardless of whether or not the slam looked cool (which it did), you have to realize there is a person there who is getting hurt.
4.  Monta: What type of backlash did you received from others online viewers?"

James: Just your typical keyboard warriors, talking trash. Typically either about how I got "beat up" and was "losing anyway" (although there was no score) or people saying that I didn’t stop choking him.

Did I let go of his head completely? No. I wanted to keep my position after we moved back to the middle. I let the pressure off of the guillotine and removed my left arm from over his shoulder. So, yes, I did left off the choke. I didn’t defend the takedown because I didn’t really think he was going to slam me. Luckily I turned my head at the last second!

5. Monta: After the incident do you view competition in a different light ?
James: Every situation is different. I’ve been hurt in tournaments before. Most competitors have. It really leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth when things happen maliciously. I’ll even give my opponent the benefit of the doubt and say that it wasn’t malicious. Maybe he couldn’t hear and was half-way choked out. He is a high level wrestler, with explosive power. He felt an opportunity after I loosened the choke and took advantage of it.

6. Monta: Is their anything you feel that needs to be improved at tournaments so senseless acts like this won’t happen?

James: Well, it is the nature of the sport that you either have accidents, which really can’t be avoided or you have people who intentionally hurt others, which can result in a DQ and maybe banning individuals from tournaments. Overall, I think that tournaments need to have certified staff, that not only understand the rules of the tournament (which happens less than you might expect), but they need to understand how to move around to the optimal vantage points during the match and understand how to control the competitors before, during, and after the matches. Let me say that the tournament at which this happened, the Ohio Grappling Challenge, is a very well run, organized tournament, with good refs, and I totally support their event.

7. Monta: What do you have to say to all the competitors out there ?

James: Overall I think that everyone needs to understand that it is a sport, and we aren’t out there to permanently injure anyone. Sure, go out there be competitive and make your opponent "suffer", but never look across the mat and think about sending him/her away in a stretcher or worse.

8. Monta: Finally do you have any advice for someone that has experienced a similar situation like yours  ?
James: I hope that no one ends up in a situation like that. Fortunately, in mine, I wasn’t hurt. I was able to get up walk away and chalk it up as experience. I feel that you always need to learn from the past, but you can’t dwell on it. Never let a single moment define you. Heck, back in 2000 I was shot in the head with a 9mm while sitting at a stoplight. I still have a bullet in my head and I’m blind in my left eye. Some people would let something like that ruin their life. It would change them, you know? Bad things happen to good people. It’s part of life. We just have to look forward and live your life the best you can.
9. Monta: Well that wraps things up thank you for your time James and good luck with everything.

James: No problem. Thank you!

While many people have their own opinion on whether the slam was wrong on Cody’s part or whether James brought it upon himself for not releasing the choke. The fact still remains that unfortunately accidents like this do happen in our sport. This article is not made to bash anyone or point fingers, it is made to show how a competitor deals with a bad experience and is able to move on and keep training. In all as competitors we have to learn and grow from our experiences just like James has. Because as a famous poet once said “Fractures well cured make us stronger”.
Please feel free to offer your own opinion on this video.
Also for all you grapplers hoping to add new techniques to your game visit James Clingerman’s youtube page at

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