Why am I writing about bullying? First, because I was bullied as a teenager. In fact, this is one of the main reasons I started to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the first place. Second, because bullying is a major issue in the lives of many children.
If you are a parent, you should have a close look at the recent statistics I found online and be aware that your child may one day become a victim of bullying, or even become a bully themselves!
Here are some of the statistics on bullying:
• 1 out of 4 teens are bullied.
•9 out of 10 LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender) students experienced harassment at school and/or online.
• As many as 160,000 students stay home on any given day because they’re afraid of being bullied.
• 1 out of 5 kids admits to being a bully, or doing some “bullying.”
• 43% fear harassment in the bathroom at school.
• A poll of teens ages 12-17 proved that they think violence has increased at their schools.
• 282,000 students are physically attacked in secondary schools each month.
• More youth violence occurs on school grounds than on the way to or from school.
• 80% of the time, an argument with a bully will end up in a physical fight.
• 1/3 of students surveyed said they have heard another student threaten to kill someone.
• 2 out of 3 students say they know how to make a bomb, or know where to get the information to do it.
• Every seven minutes a child is bullied on a playground. An adult intervenes 4% of the time, and peers intervene 11% of the time, but 85% of the time, no one intervenes.
These are alarming numbers. So what is the solution? The bottom of line is that there isn’t one specific solution for this problem, because there are different types of bullying, and different reasons someone can become a bully.
But no matter what the reason is, I believe the number one way a person can overcome bulling is by being confident! Confidence comes with achievement and by being successful at something people look up to. You can also gain confidence when you develop the ability to defend yourself.
Looking at it from a martial arts perspective, when you know you can defend yourself well, that gives you extra power, the power to conquer your fear and standing up for yourself and controlling the pace
of the situation. By controlling the pace of the situation, I mean your tone of voice, the type of eye contact you make and your posture. But in order to have the confidence to control the situation, you need to be mentally ready to go “all in” if necessary, and by that I mean ready to fight the bully in case something the situation escalates.
Unless you are a natural-born fearless person, which is the great minority of people, in order to have this kind of self-confidence, it really helps to experience similar situations so you can become more comfortable in them. That’s why martial arts training and sparring are so important—they create this kind of experience and give you a true sense of how you can defend yourself on a weekly basis. Then, as a student of martial arts, if you face a situation like being confronted by a bully, your reactions are more accurate and natural.
I’ve being confronted by bullies many times in my life, maybe because I wasn’t a physically strong person when I was young (I developed my thick neck and cauliflower ears a few years later!), so I had the chance to experiment different kinds of approaches. I tried being loud, angry, and aggressive… but I discovered that the approach that is most successful is to be calm and speak with a firm but smooth voice, with a certain smile on my face. In my mind, I was being rational, getting mentally prepared for the worst. But most of the time, the situation was solved before it got out of hand. One time, however, I had to actually fight the bully, and because I knew how to defend myself, I taught the bully “a lesson.”
So I can clearly state that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has given me the confidence to stand up against bullies, or to cope with any other situation when I was feeling under pressure. And I believe it has given the same confidence to many other people as well.
Girls get bullied, too. The kind of bullying girls suffer is often not of a physical nature, but a social one. Being able to defend yourself only solves part of the problem, but I believe that high self-esteem and self-confidence can solve them all.
In all cases, parenting plays a big role into helping kids to overcome present and future problems due to bullying. Parents must help their children to find something worthwhile they can be confident doing, with a group of people that accept their children as part of the group. Martial arts, sports, arts and other activities can really help boost your child’s confidence. A person who succeeds in anything is admired by others who share similar values.
Also, talking with your children and instilling them with positive thoughts can definitely help. For example, if your child is bullied because he or she is intelligent but not popular, you can help your child to understand that only dumb people will bully intelligent ones, and that intelligence is much more important for their future than popularity. If they are bullied because of their looks, why not emphasize that looks are relative? Some people might not like a certain look but others might. You can also emphasize that looks are only “skin deep” and that personality is more important than looks anyway.
The bottom of line is that there are things you can do, and that your kids can do. What you cannot do is to ignore the problem. Bullying is a societal disease, and it needs to be addressed. That is why I wrote this and also why I am developing an anti-bullying program in my martial arts school in San Clemente.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a great way to help kids build confidence, and I invite you to learn more about how we can help. But if you don’t do it with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, please find some other way to help your kids build the confidence they need to avoid becoming a victim of bullying.