Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A few thoughts on bullying

From time to time the mum's will ask us about a bullying situation that their child might be encountering at the school and what they should do.  This is mostly with the little kids, aged between 4-9 years old. It might be that they are getting pushed or shoved and/or called names.  As a parent it's the worst feeling in the world to think your child is a victim.  Parents always assume that because their children are training in martial arts they won't be victims because somehow they will learn some killer techniques that will stop it.  

We need to make a few things clear here.  Kids can be horrible little monsters sometimes - it's what they do.  Often it is a result of their upbringing and role models.  When a little kid is being bullied at school the first step is to let the teachers know about it, and quickly, before it develops into something more serious.  If you don't act, next thing the children are older, the bullying is worse, your kid's taking days off or staying in at night to avoid it.  So we always tell them to tell a teacher no matter what's happening.  It is the schools job to deal with that.  Sometimes the mum will say 'I always say if they hit you, then hit them back'. OK, I totally agree with that, but the school has rules and they want you to abide by them, so perhaps saying that isn't a good idea. 

What is happening in the kids ninja classes to make them bullet proof?  What is this magical formula to stopping bullying?  The simple answer is there isn't one.  Nobody has it, and you can go on lots of courses about it but there isn't a cure. I've been to Italy and spoken with an organisation out there who try and combat bullying, and they were interested in our approach, but they know there isn't one thing that stops it.  What normally happens is bullies look for victims - someone they perceive as weaker than themselves either physically or emotionally.  What the little ninja classes do is fill your child with real confidence, so hopefully they don't become victims.  They can walk feeling proud, heads held high, about their latest belt for example, and that should hopefully be enough to keep them safe. 

The other idea is that we don't let young children spar or do forms or fill their little minds with nonsense.  A lot of gyms have little kids in padded gloves sparring and pretend fighting.  Little Johnnie is great at it. One day at school a rough kid picks on him and hey presto he suddenly finds out it's nothing like what he has learned in class.  In the young children's classes we concentrate on building solid fundamentals - punches and kicks, accurate and fast with control. Not teaching them moves that would never work.  We have them running about the gym fast all the time playing games so if need be they can run away and be quiet and hide.  There is method in everything we do. 

Overall, we want to build confident young children.  The young classes are from 4-9 years old.  It's ideal because the young kids mix with older kids and the older kids mentor the younger ones. It instills good values in them.  And you never know in years to come, when they grow up, when that older kid might just help them out. 

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