For children who may experience bullying, participating in martial arts is a positive way to build both coping methods and ways to deal with bullies on the spot. The effects of learning martial arts such as karate, kickboxing, or jiu-jitsu, are long-term, and changes can take effect immediately in some children.
The martial arts improve both physical and mental health. The obvious benefit of physical health improvement through exercise can give children and adults alike a feeling of well-being. But Martial arts also allow children to build confidence and self-esteem through goal setting, learning self-defense tactics, and making like-minded friends. For instance, if a child’s quest is to earn a black belt, he or she must take steps along the way and set individual, smaller goals to reach the final result. With each achievement, that child will feel more powerful and resilient.
Children who understand self-defense poses, stances, and maneuvers because of martial arts often have a sense of preparedness when faced with bullies. They are more likely to be able to defuse a bully without having to resort to violence. Role-playing responses on how to deal with a bully can often be helpful, and the martial arts teach just that. In addition, the confidence this preparedness and sense of worth provided by martial arts training may even ward off bullies altogether.
Why, though, do children bully? Commonly, bullying is a cycle: bullies may be bullied at home or have been bullied in the past. Oftentimes bullies haven’t learned the social or problem-solving skills they need to get along with children and in their day-to-day lives. Bullying becomes an aggressive, hateful response to being insecure, socially awkward, or even just bored – all of which are situations where these bullies may feel powerless. Bullying gives them a feeling of power. Regardless of the reason children bully, it is never okay.
Martial arts can provide skills for not only combating bullies, but for helping children not to be bullies. They can help stop the cycle of bullying by providing accountability and structure for children. If a child doesn’t experience discipline at home or at school, then he or she has the opportunity to do so through the martial arts. It takes a particular kind of rigor and focus to be successful, and martial arts instructors do not allow for goofing off during class.
The confidence that the martial arts instill in children can also benefit those who may be at risk for being bullies. The same way role-playing benefits those who have to deal with bullies, it will help children be prepared in case they feel like being angry or mean. The martial arts also teach being calm, as well as breathing in a calm manner to maintain composure.
Lastly, the martial arts teach children the importance of respect: respect for the teachers, for other students, and for themselves. Learning how to respect all kinds of people may help reduce bullying behavior.
For children on the East Coast, Tiger Schulmann’s MMA offers a bully prevention program every year. The program teaches children the definition of a bully, the different forms in which bullying may manifest, and how to stop a bullying situation without getting physical. All of these lessons teach the basic martial arts principles of discipline, respect, role-playing, and confidence to help children to better handle themselves in any situation.
~Tiger Schulmann’s MMA