Martial Arts and Bullying

Does training in martial arts help deter bullying? Here is article I penned for the Children’s Centers of Austin.

I have been teaching traditional karate and Krav Maga in Westlake for eight years. Seven of those teaching years have been at the Childrens Center of Austin on Bee Cave Road. It’s been a magnificent eight years watching students grow, evolve, mature, and generally enhancing themselves. At Jett Garner Martial Arts we teach all of our students in a manner that will enhance their fitness, self respect, self control, awareness, and give them a usable effective system of self defense.
In martial arts the individual consists of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual. We must enhance the physical and the mind in order to enhance one’s spirit. In my mind a strong body leads to a strong mind which leads to a strong spirit also known as confidence and self esteem. In other words, to have peace one must prepare for battle. These are high concepts especially for students of pre-school age. However, one day your child will be in grade school, middle school, and high school.
Bullying was a problem for me when I was growing up. I believe today’s bullying problem is much worse than it was in those days. In grade school and middle school I chose to be a bully to some, while being bullied by others. Once I reached high school I was picked on and bullied occasionally. But, I know longer bullied anyone as I had been found out. In other wordswas this was before my martial arts training and I could not fight a lick in those days. But, because I experienced both sides of the bully coin I can speak from both perspectives. The bullying issue comes from low self esteem. Low self respect and ill manners certainly contribute to the bully paradox as well. The bully suffers from low self esteem. He or she picks on others to make himself feel better. The bully’s victim suffers from the same low self esteem. They feel bad about themselves. They feel helpless. The victim feels incapable of dealing with the bully. I’d like to present to you some frightening bully statistics from the U.S. Justice Department.

¥ 1 out of 4 kids is Bullied. An American Justice Department school bullying statistics and cyber bullying statistics studies shows that this month 1 out of every 4 kids will be abused by another youth.
¥ School bullying statistics surveys show that 77% of students are bullied mentally, verbally, & physically. Cyber bullying statistics are rapidly approaching similar numbers.
¥ In a recent school bullying statistics study, 77% of the students said they had been bullied!
¥ Each day over 150,000 students miss school for fear of being bullied.
¥ 100,000 students carry a gun to school.
¥ A school bullying statistics and cyber bullying statistics poll of teens ages 12-17 proved that they think violence increased at their schools.
¥ The same school bullying statistics and cyber bullying statistics poll also showed that 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month.
¥ More youth violence occurs on school grounds as opposed to on the way to school.
Every 7 minutes a child is bullied.

What can you do as a parent? You must begin speaking to your child now about being polite and kind to others. That kindness is a strength and not a weakness. Let your child know that it is not alright for others to pick on them, call them names, or give them a hard time. Your child needs to feel comfortable telling you about the challenges and difficulties they have at school. If they cannot communicate with you about being bullied school will become a challenging journey for your child. Another step you might take is get your child enrolled into a quality martial arts program when they turn four or five. Committing your child to martial arts training during grade school will help build confidence, self esteem, and respect. Typically, bullies pick on those who will tolerate their actions. A child with a solid martial arts pedigree typically does not fall into the “easy to pick on” category. Martial arts training will not make your child immune to bullies. However, it will give them a wide spectrum of tools to handle the situation, wether it be by sharing with parents, teachers, or other means. I have ten teens in my program who began training with me when they were five or six. Every one of them is more mature than their peers. Not one has ever been in a fight. They don’t pick on kids at school, and they are not picked on. They are kind and respectful because they are strong of body, mind, and spirit. I believed martial arts worked eight years ago. But, now I have ten teenagers that have proven that it works, and I am very proud of them!

Signs that your child might be the victim of bullying include a sudden dislike of school or riding the bus. A sudden disinterest in sports, events, or extracurricular activities. Your child become unusually introverted and quiet. They might start spending more time by themselves. Being bullied is not fun. It can be downright frightening and heartbreaking. But, as parents I believe that if we foster communication with our children at an early age we can be their greatest asset as they grow, mature, and evolve. Our children must feel comfortable telling us about their problems. They must understand that we were young too and faced similar problems in our younger days. They must understand that their parents life experiences can be a valuable road map. They must know that Mom and Dad are in their lives to help, assist, and guide.