Martial Arts as a Remedy for Bullying

I encountered this article about jiu jitsu and was pleasantly surprised:

I’m not really into ego, and I wouldn’t consider myself an expert in martial arts. But I have had enough exposure that some of the overall attitude of most martial arts, ‘Your art is no good! Try mine!’ (picture me in a fighting stance with a frowny face and my mouth moving out of sync with my words) seeps into my mental state when I’m not looking. I took kung fu for a few years, and a little bit of krav maga. I found both useful in different ways, though my first love will always be kung fu, as a lover of myth. Kung fu is complex and layered. It can be breathtakingly athletic, even to the point of seemingly redefining the laws of physics, if one practices diligently (cough). And it is peppered with references to ancient and powerful Chinese myth from different ages. It is mystifying and mystified, and like traditional Chinese medicine compared to straight western biomedicine, takes a holistic approach in unifying internal energies with external. I love this about it. It is truly art, engaging intellectually and spiritually, as well as physically.

I loved krav maga because it was uncomplicated and frank. This is not the same as easy. It was NOT easy. The practical Vulcan side of me that appreciates simply doing what needs to be done just really loved that it was no-nonsense. It had a purity of purpose, and that purpose was to make sure that a soft-spoken and mild-mannered person who is used to always acting with civility, even in a deadly situation when civility is not appropriate, could put down their attacker and get away alive. And the workouts were undeniably amazing. You could not be involved in such a class and remain timid. It engaged needed aggression and attached it to appropriate triggers, the belief that a situation is life-threatening. It’s history as a system designed by the Jews of a ghetto to escape the Nazi soldiers and secret police they knew were coming to kill them, obviously holds a special place in my heart as well.

At least I got some perspective that two very different arts or systems have a lot of value. But there is always a tiny bit of prejudice lurking in the cobwebby corners of my mind. I look at other arts and pick apart their flaws, from the sidelines, and think, ‘Oh, that art is nice, but this one is better because tactically…blah blah blah (insert technical jargon here).

Reading this article was a fresh breath of perspective that swept away some of the martial arts prejudice cobwebs. I have been guilty of watching the Ultimate Fighting Championships once when I was in kung fu and imagining how different it would be if a real old-style shaolin monk were in the ring. But upon reading this article, I was very impressed by the attitude and the effectiveness of this art regarding school bullying and the messages it gave kids. Instead of being ego-laden jocks, which had crossed my mind occasionally in the past, they advised kids very soundly to first try to resolve the issue with a bully verbally and politely, then by going to the authorities and communicating the continuing problem, and then finally, and quite sensibly, and as a last resort, by engaging the problem directly and re-asserting control of the situation, by pinning them down without throwing a punch. All of that in first-grader terms was meant to say, try to talk to them, go to a teacher, and if they still won’t listen, don’t let them hurt you and show them they can’t, without needing to do the things they do like hitting. In today’s overly-litigious and easily politicized environment, this method of engagement seems one of the best ideas for schoolyard bullying that I can think of. Self-defense and control without real violence, or at least injurious violence. It has the potential to give the bullied child back his/her sense of safety without making them too much of a target. This is the ultimate goal of all martial arts.

But whether it is jiu jitsu or kung fu or any other martial art, I am all in favor of teaching kids martial arts. It all depends on the quality of instructors, no matter what art it is. If you have a school that teaches kids to defend themselves, to respect themselves and others, that relying on size and might to get what you want is not the right way of living (or fighting), that teaches them that good things are often hard to learn, but if they keep at it, they will eventually learn it, and (this is really important for younger kids with lots of energy) they get to roll around for a while and then come home nice and tired, it is a good art and a good school. Period.


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