How Martial Arts help end Bullying.
Bullying is in the news a lot these days. Hardly a day passes without there being a story about a child who was at the receiving end of bullying – and it can have terrible consequences.
When we look at the problem of bullying, it’s important to do it from both sides. Why are some kids the targets of bullies – and why do some kids feel that they need to bully others? Let’s start with the kids being bullied. How can martial arts help them?
There are a few things that can make a child the target of bullies. It’s not the child’s fault, but bullies have a way of picking out kids who are vulnerable for some reason. These vulnerabilities might include:
- A lack of self-confidence or feelings of unworthiness
- Non-conformity or something that makes a child different
- Lack of ability to defend themselves
These are all issues that studying the martial arts can address. Let’s take them one at a time.
Some kids are naturally self-confident, and others aren’t. A child who has a high level of self-confidence is unlikely to be targeted by bullies. Why? Because there’s nothing the bully can gain by going after them. Kids with a strong sense of their own worth will brush off attacks by bullies.
A child who lacks confidence, on the other hand, is easy to target. A bully knows that by picking on someone who doesn’t understand their own worth, they can feel superior. They’ll get a reaction.
Kids are creatures of habit, too. Every kid wonders if they’re “normal,” and sometimes, a kid who’s different is bullied because they make the bully feel self-conscious or uncertain. They bully to reassure themselves that they’re normal.
Some kids are more aggressive than others. They might get their sense of self-worth from being physically dominant. It’s easy to dominate someone who can’t defend themselves, and so kids who aren’t physically strong or coordinated can sometimes be targeted, as well.
What does any of this have to do with martial arts? Well, kids who study martial arts:
- Are more confident and learn to trust themselves– they know they can achieve their goals
- Understand that being different doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be confident
- Gain control of their bodies and movements
- Learn how to leverage their body weight to defend themselves
In other words, studying the martial arts makes kids a lot less attractive target for bullies.
Now, let’s look at bullying from the other side. Why do some kids bully their classmates?
The truth is that bullies have a lot in common with their victims. It’s rare for a child who’s truly self-confident to engage in bullying behavior. In fact, it’s their lack of self-confidence that makes kids into bullies.
Bullying is an effort to feel superior. When a child lacks confidence or has no sense of self-worth, they sometimes take it out on other kids. They worry that they’re not normal and they resort to aggression because they don’t know what else to do.
This is a complex issue, but I want to tell you a story to illustrate how martial arts instruction can help bullies change their behavior.
A mother came to me distraught because she’d had a phone call from her son’s school. He’d bullied another kid on the playground, and her child was suspended from school as a result. She didn’t understand why her son had done it, and she wanted to know if we could help.
After I talked to her about some of the core tenets of martial arts – things like respect and self-control, she signed her son up for a class. At first, we had some challenges with him in class. Bullies don’t change overnight, and it took a while for him to learn.
But, after just a couple of months of instruction, she came to see me again. She was in tears – but this time, they were tears of happiness. She’d just had a parent-teacher conference, and her son’s teacher spent their time together describing the remarkable changes she’d seen in his behavior since he started studying with us.
She said he was more focused in class. He was respectful of her and other students, and on the playground, he demonstrated self-control. He’d even stood up to another bully on behalf of a fellow student.
Every child is different, but I’ve seen stories like this many times. When kids learn to respect themselves and others, they no longer feel the need to bully. Instead, they grow in self-confidence and learn to trust themselves.