How martial arts combats bullying
By Kerrie McLoughlin
According to StopBullying.gov, a study found that approximately 49% of kids in 4th through 12th grade said they had been bullied at least one time in the previous month. Bullying can lead to low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, poor performance in school and, in some extreme cases, even suicide.
Where is bullying happening? It’s happening most often at school, including at recess and on the school bus, but school isn’t the only place. It also occurs where kids are gathering in large groups, like at amusement parks, block parties, campgrounds and swimming pools. And of course we can’t forget about cyberbullying, which includes using cell phones and computers as ways to bully with words and spread untrue words and embarrassing photos.
So what can we, as parents, do about this widespread problem? Well, it turns out martial arts is a great place to start. Of course, martial arts can’t necessarily tackle the cyberbullying issue, but it can give our kids the self-confidence they need to handle people who are not treating them well in a specific situation.
Lindsey Watts, mom of a daughter who has been in martial arts for four years, says, “Martial arts gives kids discipline and teaches them respect. They learn self-control, perseverance and integrity. They learn to help build a more peaceful world.”
One mother shared a sad situation that happened to her son, “My son was in 2nd grade when he was being bullied. We had no idea it was going on; we just knew that something wasn’t right ...” Her son ended up bullying another child and was sent to see the principal, where the story came out that a boy at recess, someone her son called a friend, had been bullying him. Later other issues came out; like that he had been pushed, tripped and poked. “We then realized our good-natured son … may be setting himself up for more bullying. Our son was very shy, but just wanted everyone to like him so he befriended everyone.”
Dave Kovar, founder of Martial Arts Against Bullying (MAAB) and life-long martial arts professional, shares on his website www.DoneWithBullying.com “I believe that no other industry is in a better position to do something about bullying than the martial arts industry. The mere act of training in martial arts and having children develop a higher level of confidence decreases their chances of being bullied in the first place.”
The mom from the previously mentioned bullying situation shared her family’s resolution. “We decided our son needed help with handling himself and building his confidence up. [Tae Kwon Do] gave my son confidence to know that he had the strength within him to stop something first with his words, and as a last resort, defense. Never to hit first, never to intentionally hurt the person hurting you, but to just keep yourself safe. My son is now 10 years old and has his high brown belt in TKD. My son walks tall now. He’s not afraid to stand up for himself or others. TKD has taught him that fighting is never the answer. It’s only a last resort to protect himself from harm or to protect someone else from harm.”
Robyn Morrow, mom of a Tae Kwon Do student, “I was teased and called four eyes as a child and had a hard time feeling connected to people, but that pales in comparison to the stories I’ve heard happening nowadays. My oldest child is skinny and tall, but holds his head high and walks tall … I think his confidence is in large part due to his years at Taekwondo … He knows he has the power to break boards, so I would guess that gives him more confidence too. I am so glad we made the choice to enroll him in Taekwondo classes before he reached the awkward teenage age he’s entering now.”
Martial arts comes with other benefits as well. Jody Jones, mom of 3, says, “I think martial arts helps form a great foundation for understanding the benefits of structure, discipline and hard work. Attaining a black belt, or any higher belt rank, is a manifestation of what you can gain through the physical and mental discipline of martial arts. It’s an experience that’s hard to duplicate for your children, and the concept of working extremely hard to attain your goals is one that you carry into your adult life and work.”