Redlands Parents Bullying is not going away! Prepare your Children to defend themselves

October was Bully Awareness month, we were thinking about and preparing to make a post to discuss bullying and the ways we recommend preparing your child to be ready to manage and deal with bullying when news broke about a 13-year old boy in Moreno Valley CA, who died today after being sucker punched by a bully. So, we decided to wait a little while before posting to make sure we did this topic right and, in a way, to honor that young man with the hopes that by writing this we share and encourage parents to better prepare their children to not be the target of bullies and to be ready to defend themselves in the event that a bully escalates and tries to hurt them. 

While we agree and teach our students at 5.0 Evolved Martial Arts in Redlands that we should be kind and treat everyone with respect and fairness, the fact is that bullying has been around since the early days of man. As in the theory of the survival of the fittest those who perceive themselves to be bigger and stronger will always look to assert themselves against those they see as weaker than themselves. So as parents you have to prepare your child to be ready to defend themselves in the best way possible to ensure that they can live their lives without fear of being bullied. 

With that said and even though we teach martial arts for self-defense we don't recommend fighting as the 1st answer to bullying. We do tell our parents and students that fighting does have to be an option on the table if it comes to it. So, the following are what we recommend for our 5.0 Evolved Martial Arts students for how to deal with bullying. 

The 1st line of defense to bullying is obviously telling a parent and teacher that you are being bullied and let them try to work things out and nip the issue in the bud before it gets worse. To do this make sure that there is an open line of communication between you and your child so that they know they can talk to you. Way too many times kids are afraid to talk to their parents about these scenarios because the child thinks that the parent will think they are weak or be disappointed in them. As we have seen from numerous news story kids are committing suicide or being seriously hurt in these situations because they were afraid to speak up. In many cases even though the kids did speak up and parents tried everything within their power to work with the schools and administrators who ultimately failed to intervene and the bullying went unchecked. For these reason parents have to make sure you they have a plan B.  

We recommend that parent sit down with your children and help teach them the art of verbal self-defense and we are not talking about just telling the bully that their words are hurtful and that they should not be calling you names or speaking badly about them. Instead teach and practice with your child how to verbally come back against someone calling them names, by responding in kind with something that will make the bully realize that your child is not going to stand for being disrespected. For example my daughter was being taunted and teased in middle school and so my wife sat down with her and asked what kinds of things are they saying about you, what do they look like, how do they act, etc... and then they basically scripted several comebacks to the things that they were saying about her and with that she had the confidence to stand up to the kids that were giving her a hard time and soon after they realized that they no longer had the upper hand on her the bullying stopped.  

Now we understand that in the case of our daughter things worked out but standing up to the bully verbally but doing so may also cause the bully to want to escalate and your child needs to be prepared for that as well. While most schools have adopted a senseless no-tolerance policy for fighting fact is most bullies could care less about school policies and they will attack with little notice and provocation. This is what happened to that 13-year boy that we mentioned earlier and happens every day all over the country. 

So, it is important to make sure you give your kid your blessing to defend themselves at school as needed. If they do end up getting into trouble for defending themselves take them out and do something fun so that they know you fully supported their actions and basically give the school and its administrators the proverbial finger. For years we told the parents of our students that if your child gets into trouble at school for fighting back and defending themselves that they should take the day off and go to Disneyland... We don't recommend that anymore only because Disney has gotten to darn expensive... LOL! Sorry with this subject being. so serious we had to throw a little humor out there just to keep from getting depressed about the fact that we even have to write about this topic. 

This brings us to next suggested line of defense that we teach at 5.0 Evolved Martial Arts be ready for anything once the bully steps up to them. We recommend taking a non-threatening pose by stepping back with one leg in what we consider a fighting stance and then raise their hands as if to say “Hey I don't want any problems” or “I don't want to fight”. By doing this you will have your hands in a position that will allow them to block any potential punch, grab or push. The stance will also position them in a way to minimize the potential angles that the bully can attack. Stepping back also gives your child time to react while also giving your child the ability to quickly survey their surroundings as these days you can pretty much be assured that the bully has brought a friend or two with them to the altercation. 

Taking a non-aggressive stance once saved me in a situation when I was younger and two kids approached me and tried to start a fight because I was walking home in my catholic school uniform and they thought me to be a victim. Once they approached I stepped back placed my book back on a car put my hands up and asked them what they wanted from me and why they approached me. They indicated that I eyeballed them and so they wanted to fight me. I told them I did no such thing and didn’t want to fight but again I had my hands up to protect myself and made sure I had a good line of site on both of them. They moved, I moved to keep them in front of me. I told them while I did not want any problems that I was also not afraid to defend myself. The fact that I stood my ground and did not back down caused them to take pause and when people walking by saw the incident and yelled out to stop the two bullies ended up backing off and leaving me alone allowing me to walk home without further incident. 

If the non-threatening position and your child’s efforts to de-escalate the situation are not working then it maybe it’s time to take the initiative and catch the bully of guard by striking first. Now we understand that this suggestion is considered controversial especially as this could cause your child to be considered the aggressor, however it follows in the same train of thought that most law enforcement officers follow and this is better to be judged by 6 than carried by 6. What that means is that it’s better that your child takes the offensive and have the school and authorities sort out who’s at fault then have your child beaten and or worse. 

This same advice was given to me by my mother when I was kid growing up in New York City. Back then we didn’t have the same no tolerance policies that we have today so there wasn’t that same level of fear for being proactive in defending myself. On a few occasions, I had to do just that and in doing so I not only stopped the immediate threat it also stopped any further bullying from occurring because my actions earned me the respect / fear from others that I was not someone to mess with. 

I passed this same advice on to my son years later when he was experience bullying. His bullying was pretty bad and to the point that after I dropped him off at school I had to wait outside of the school playground area until the teacher took them into class because this one boy continued to bully my son. I saw this bulling 1st hand one day when I saw the child that was bothering my son recruiting two other boys to go after my son while he out in the field of the school playing by himself. I jumped out of my car and over the fence to call the boys off and tell the playground monitors what I had seen transpiring. Since they never made to my son the monitors did nothing about the incident other than telling the three boys that were going after my son to relax and stay away from my son. 

We subsequently complained to the principal and nothing was being done other than to say they were monitoring the situation but until something physical occurred to my son there was nothing they could do. We advised the Principal that our son was at the point where he was going to explode and that if he did that we expected the school to understand and issue no punishment against my son as any action he took would be self-defense resulting from their inaction. 

After that meeting with the Principal we discussed with our son making sure he was aware that he had our blessing to strike and we expected him to take the necessary action if approached by the bully and his friends. Then one day the kid that was bulling my son followed him into the bathroom and my son was scared that he was going to be attacked but he remembered he was ok to take action so when the bully got close to him he delivered a kick to the bully’s groin dropping him to ground.  My son ran out of the rest room. When we picked him up after school we could tell that something was off because he was in a rush to leave school grounds. He then told my mom what had occurred and he was scared now that he would be in trouble. 

This happened on a Friday afternoon so we waited until Monday to see if the Principal would contact us and nothing happened. We approached the Principal and told her what had occurred before the other kid’s parents accused my son of wrong doing. The Principal indicated that the parents of the other child had not contacted them and that ultimately there was nothing she would so about the situation as it appeared to be remedied by my son’s actions. Which in fact it did because from that point forward that boy nor any other kids in his class picked on my son again.  

The results of this interaction as well as my own situations when I was younger provides substantiation that sometimes a pre-emptive strike in a situation that has no hope of de-escalation might just be the best course of action to ensure your child comes home safe from school. 

In conclusion while at 5.0 Evolved Martial Arts – A Jeff Speakman Training Center we teach and recommend to our students that fighting is never the 1st answer, we train them to be ready and to take-action if needed. In following with the original pledges of Mr. Ed Parker the founder of American Kenpo, students here are taught that they should be slow to anger, not lose their tempers and fight only when forced to defend themselves. However, defending themselves sometimes means you need to take-action before an aggressor decides to take-action and hurt your child. 

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