Anti-bullying month: practical tools to help stop bullying through use of martial arts training at FFC in Chicago

Bullying starts earlier than you think – but you can arm your loved ones with the tools to combat it. When we think of bullying, we generally envision the jocks in high school throwing the little guy in a locker or the mean girls on the bus making fun of someone’s hair texture. The fact is, it starts a lot earlier than that. Studies show that although bullying activity peaks in middle school, it can begin as early as preschool. What start out as simple disagreements over crayons or who gets to throw the ball quickly turn into teasing. Once a child has shown that teasing gets under their skin, it manifests into bullying. Bullying becomes a habit. Below I’ve outlined some tools one can use to help stop bullying.

Confidence as a Tool to Help Stop Bullying

The key to help stop bullying – especially in those early years of preschool and elementary school when children are forming their own personality – is to teach them to love themselves and know they have value.

At the same time, we don’t want to develop a little monster who thinks they’re better than everyone else. That’s a problem of another sort. The goal is to develop children who build a sense of self-importance and self-confidence in themselves.

They also need to learn whose opinion is important. Johnny – who picks his nose and eats glue – might not like them, but his opinion doesn’t mean as much as that of mom or dad. Developing confidence at a young age is not a quick fix either. It’s a process. It takes time, attention and cultivation. Like raising a child.

And in the age of cell phones, today’s children have it worse than children just a generation before them. Cyberbullies – the bully who doesn’t even have to be standing in front of you to upset you – is the worst. And they don’t just tease children. Most adults have dealt with this on some level. If allowed to fester, bullying could lead to poor grades in school, depression, sleep disorders, drug use, incarceration or even suicide. It cannot be allowed to fester.

Martial Arts as a Tool to Build Confidence

I have a potential solution for you. I say potential because there is no catch-all, quick-fix answer to eliminating all of the jerks in the world. My potential solution is training martial arts. And no, I’m not advocating kids just wallop the guy who stole their pencil. Martial arts, in addition to teaching self-defense, teach self-confidence in the individual from the word go.

In my classes, I tell my students they are individuals and they are part of a class, but I do not promote that they are on a team. I don’t think there is anything wrong with team sports, but I believe in today’s world – where often everyone gets a trophy and having 3 or 4 good players wins you a title – children can get lost in the mix.

In martial arts, you succeed or fail by what you put into it. Sure, Mom or Dad or the babysitter get participants to class, but once they step on the mat it’s all up to the student. And sure, that can be intimidating, but the right instructor – one who is a real educator and builder of people – can inspire that child and arm them with the tools to deal a not-so-friendly world.

Related: learning how to take a step back can help too – here are some simple tricks for practicing mindfulness.

I have more to tell you so stay tuned. Better yet, come train with me at FFC Park Ridge – my classes are for all ages; 4 years through adults. Both classes and private lessons are available.

Post written by FFC Park Ridge Martial Arts Instructor James Hirth.

About James

James started teaching students, ages 4 and up, in Tae Kwon Do and self-defense at FFC Park Ridge in October. For more information or any questions, email him at jhirth@ffc.com.