The inaugural class of a new elementary charter school has been proactive in the way they plan to approach bullying behavior in their new school. In the late spring, the kids and two facilitators met over a weekend to conclude a semester-long class on personal choices as they pertain to bullying. As in any program worth its salt, the children were told that self-defense is a last resort.
A role-playing activity involving volunteer bullies and victims highlighted how a student’s posture can attract or repel a bully. “Target denial” was the first step students learned to keep bullies at bay. A confident, positive, unafraid student is less likely to be picked on than a apparently timid, weak, and scared student. Teaching children confidence is a difficult task in a culture that tells them daily that they need to be different: prettier, stronger, wealthier, more popular, or cooler. But one time-tested confidence builder is still available to any student who wants to learn: martial arts and self-defense.
Students who are trained in martial arts but never have to use it in self-defense appear more confident than their peers. Perhaps it’s because they know they have a secret weapon up their sleeves, but it could be because the mental and physical discipline instilled with the practice of a martial art actually increases the mental and physical sense of well-being in practitioners, whether elementary or secondary students, women, men, or seniors. When the discipline takes root, it manifests as strength of character, the equivalent of bully repellant.
No self-defense plan is fool-proof, and these kids know it. Target denial, adult involvement, and self-defense are all part of an anti-bullying plan, but there are certainly situations for which a student can never be prepared. But equipping our children with the discipline of self-defense and martial arts skills is just common sense in a violent culture. Whether you choose taekwondo, karate, judo, or any other martial art, you can be sure you’re giving your student a head start on the road to confidence and security.