Gene DeMambro asks a couple of good questions relating to duties owed by participants an martial arts competition.
I prefer to use the duty standard reasoning as do the modern courts because these standards establish the degree of negilegence or conversely care owed, by participants or sponsors (organizations).
These are the questions posed by Gene:
If the Superior Court ruling stands, does this give license for one tournament opponent to completely disregard the safety of the other, then willfully and puposefully hit him with such force to cause injury and successfully cite this case to protect himself from criminal or civil liability?
What about the Sensei in the dojo who, to show how great and powerful he is, tees off on a student while said student is standing there in this tremendously powerful Sanchin stance and then subsequently becomes injured?
The Superior Court decision was in accord with the quoted SJC case which established a precedent that the court recognizes the need to allow participants in sporting events to assume some degree of risk in their sport engagement.
The court also further acknowledged that the degree of risk was directly related to the nature of the sport, citing non contact sports such as golf and other sports where there is expected to be some contact.
To me, karate/martial arts would be good examples of contact sports, as would be tackle type football.
The court merely points out that to create vast duties on sponsors or participants beyond normal reasoning would dilute or frustrate the performing of these events in the Commonwealth.
In the case presented, we had a volunteer girls softball coach who coached for a non-profit girls softball league, who entered into a competititve softball game with other coaches in the league. He was injured as a result of a defective base pad and sued the non-profit sponsor.
What the court did in its decision was to elaborate on the various types of sports and their incidence of risks, and declined the theory of some special duty, the breach of which would create negligence.
The court recognized that sports have varying degrees of risk, and that participants who volunteer assume such risks.Language in the decision als recognized the need for some protection to non-profit sponsors and to municipalities allowing the use of their facilities.
To directly answer your first question, we all have to be aware of the doctrine of reasonable conduct owed by sporting participants to the other.
Any unprivileged contact by one to another is normally assault and battery, or negligence.
The courts recognize that participants in MA events have assumed the normal risk of injury associated with contact. However, while normal or accidental contact may result in injuries wherein the injured may not recover for negligence on the voluntary assumption of risk theory, the question you pose is one of gross negligence, or wilfull wanton misconduct which is actionable, and in its extreme tantamount to assault and battery.
The second question you pose concerning the abusive sensei who injures a student to advance is own ego, while sanchin testing,would create civil liability, making the assumption that credible witnesses could testify that the testing was in fact excessive to that particular student.
There have been such actions brought for this type of injury in the past.
Here again, one cannot say that all tough testing in sanchin would be actionable.
If two high dan rankin karate students volunteer to demonstrate the hard style of testing, each knowing the other, and each equally participating there would be no liability other than if the testor went nuts and really slammed his partner (reasonable rule)
I had the good fortune, a few years ago, to watch a demonstration of Sanchin testing the likes of which I had not seen in many years.
Justin Testa was the testor (no pun intended) and Paul Giella was the testee.
This, in my humble opinion, was classic uechi ryu which demonstrated what force and power an advanced Uechi student can absorb without loss of balance, and without injury.
This would have probably dropped me or any number of lesser students at the test directly on opening.
The point is that in many aspects of applying law in this state (and most others),the courts utilize the "reasonable man theory" and in the cited case the court does relate that cases "in sporting events brought as the result of injury are predicated upon reckless disregard of safety."
Summing it up, the case does present good news, but also warns about recklessness and the varying degrees of duty.
Safety standards must still be maintained in the dojo, or at sporting events both in terms of safeguarding the participants and the fans observing the event.