As a martial arts teacher, you get an amazing sense of fulfillment watching your students grow both as martial artists and also as individuals. Sometimes however, you have the opportunity to receive a much greater reward- the knowledge that your teaching directly helped someone in their everyday life. This is such a story…
This weekend during one of the kids classes, we were in our stretching circle talking about bullies. One of my students (who is in elementary school) shared a story about a trip to the park this past week…
So my young friend had walked to the park with two of his buddies to play. As it turns out there was a bully who had been picking on his two friends for some time. The bully was there at the park, and the friends had decided that enough was enough. They were going to turn on the bully and teach him a lesson, bully beat-down style. It was about to go down! My friend was like “Woah, hold on a minute. Let me go talk to him (the bully) and see what’s up before you try to fight him.” So he goes and talks to the kid and was basically like ‘Dude, What’s the deal? It doesn’t have to be like this. Why can’t we all be cool about this?’ After a brief conversation the beef is squashed and they are all cool with each other, and playing together! And wouldn’t you know, through that conversation they found out that the bully was actually being bullied himself! Some other bully was telling him to go pick on these kids, so he was doing it out of fear for himself…
Wow! Not the expected outcome of a typical playground bullying situation… I asked my friend, after a major round of high-fives, “Would you have been comfortable talking to the bully if you didn’t do Jiu Jitsu?” “Nope.” “What made you think to do it?” “I wasn’t really worried about the bully because I knew he couldn’t really hurt me.” “Did you actually have to do any physical techniques on him to make him leave your friends alone?” “No, I just had to talk to him.” That’s just beautiful.
THIS is why you put your kids in Jiu Jitsu, people! Life skills!! Self defense techniques are great, but the martial art is just a vessel for teaching kids how to be great individuals. He was EMPOWERED by his martial art, which allowed him to NOT rely on physical force, but instead use CONFIDENCE and REASON, to confront a bully.
What are the lessons from this story?
- If kids don’t feel like they can protect themselves physically, they won’t stand up for themselves (or their friends) verbally. The confidence that jiu jitsu provides doesn’t come from throwing punches and kicks in the air against imaginary bad guys, the kids are practicing real techniques on a regular basis WITH OTHER REAL KIDS. Holding them down, staying punch safe, negotiating to end a confrontation. It’s all old hat after awhile. The fear of the unknown is gone, so they can handle potentially physical situations with way less apprehension.
- Jiu Jitsu teaches life skills. We role play A LOT in the kids classes. What if the bully does this, what if the bully does that, how do we address it. And the answer isn’t always “Takedown, control, submit, win.” We avoid the fight at all cost, which means look for other solutions to the problem other than physical violence. Once the child has enough confidence in their abilities that they won’t get seriously hurt by an aggressive bully, they are more able to find productive solutions to the situation.
- Not all bullies are bullies on purpose. Everybody has a story, even the bullies. Jiu Jitsu is great for the victims, but often the bullies themselves can benefit from the same training- and for the same reasons! Do you think if the bully who was harassing my friend’s buddies has the skills and the confidence to stand up to HIS bully, that he would have been picking on other kids. Definitely not! He probably felt like he didn’t have much of a choice because he was scared of HIS bully. Jiu Jitsu gives kids that choice. They get to say ‘no’, and mean it. And there’s not much a bully can do about it because their main tool- intimidation- is now gone. And if they DO escalate the situation into a physical confrontation, the child is well equipped to avoid serious injury, hold the bully down, and stay safe until the bully complies.
Imagine if you could make your child confident to stand up for themselves, feel safe in a physically intimidating situation with their peers, and resist peer pressure without fear of reprisals. These are the kinds of thing all parents want for their kids. A good martial arts program will help to provide them with that. And kids well-equipped to deal with bullies become adults well-equipped to find success in the real world.