Bullying has become an epidemic as each month 282,000 students are physically assaulted in some way in secondary schools throughout the United States; and statistics suggest that revenge due to bullying, is the number one motivator for school shootings.
Whether a child is being bullied, or is the bully themselves, a change needs to occur that can teach respect, discipline, control, self-esteem and confidence. Martial Arts is a great teacher for all of these aspects of learning.
For the child being bullied, participating in Martial arts not only increases fitness, but it can also increase positive body image, self-esteem and confidence levels.
For the bully it will teach respect and control, which will help with the release of anger and energy that might usually be targeted at other children.
In general, Martial Arts can truly be a great help, in and outside of schools, to combat the epidemic of bullying we face in the United States today.
What is Bullying?
Bullying is defined by Meriem Webster as, “abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger or more powerful.” Although the first form of bullying that comes to mind can be physical bullying, there are actually many forms of bullying.
The four main types of bullying are:
It can involve tripping, hitting, cornering, or touching in any way that causes pain or seems aggressive.
It can be hard to recognize as it does not leave physical marks, but can be performed with using put downs, using mean words, making racist or sexist comment, or any form of abusive language.
It is meant to emotionally target the victim. This is common among students in school by spreading rumors, excluding one single child from the rest and blocking a child from social acceptance. Cyberbullying is a newer form of bullying due to the rise in internet access and social media.
It can consist of mean messages through email, texting, photos, and anonymous messages sent to hurt the victim.
For the Child Being Bullied
Often a child being targeted by bullying is shy, can be physically smaller, has low confidence but this is not always the case.
Feeling of shame, fear, worry or rejection are normal in a bullying victim. Posture, voice and confidence are three habits taught in Taekwondo that can help children face up to bullying.
Posture is taught by keeping held high, shoulders back, and always keeping the eyes alert. For an introverted child with low self-confidence, they might walk with their head down and it would make sense for a bully to target this child.
For the Bullies
Children who participate in bullying are sometimes thought to be terrible children, who grow up to be terrible people, but this is usually not the case.
Often times “popular and powerful children use bullying to maintain their power and popularity” (Parents.com), or they have been dealt some kind of misfortune in life, so they feel it is fair to hurt others.
Taekwondo can help children who are being bullies focus on, so they will be busy and out of trouble after school. The fitness aspect of TaeKwonDo allows children not only to become in better physical shape, but also to improve their body image.
Better self-image decreases feelings of misfortune, and hopefully, the want to hurt others. Bullying can sometimes be based on race, sex or disability. By exposing children to Taekwondo, they will also be exposed to the Japanese arts, and children of different backgrounds.
This will teach tolerance and diversity.
Martial Arts can help combat bullying in the following ways:
With each level of Taekwondo or advancement in any Martial Art, there is another achievement involving techniques and drills. It teaches children confidence by performing in front of peers, knowing their own strength, and realizing their capabilities.
By accomplishing these goals, the student will be aware that they are capable of achieving anything that they put their mind to. Usually, a child who is being bullied seems unsure in themselves, developing this confidence will prevent them from being a target in the first place.
In some instances, bullies prefer to egg on another child in hopes that the other child retaliates. If the child being bullied is able to have enough confidence in themselves to walk away and not engage, this can prevent physical fights from even occurring.
The other option is that the child being bullied has enough self-esteem to stand up for themselves showing that they will not stand for bullying. For a bully, they might act out of facade.
The bully may be trying to mask their low confidence by taking it out on others. By becoming a part of a group and accomplishing these goals, there will be less of a chance to lash out at others.
The act of bullying is essentially lack of respect. In Taekwondo and Martial Arts in general, children learn how to show mutual respect with bowing, high-fives, and cheering on their peers.
This shows children to respect everyone whether or not they are friends. Showing respect for others also teaches self-respect.
If a child has respect for themselves, they are less likely to be bullied because they will radiate realization of self-worth.
Every Martial Arts class has undertones of discipline. Whether it is waiting in line to kick the paddle held by the instructor, or stretching to maintain flexibility, these teach children patience and discipline. Discipline is obviously important for the child who is the bully.
They need to learn to control their anger and treat others in a positive way. This is also important for the child who is being bullied. It can be easy to retaliate when provoked, but if the child is able to control themselves, then the situation will most likely not escalate.
4. Using Voice
In TaeKwonDo and in all types of Martial Arts children are taught that rather than physically fighting back as the first line of defense, alternatively the voice can be used. Children are taught to use their words and verbally respond loud, clear and full of confidence.
The use of strong vocal tones creates a comfortable environment within each child to have the strength to say for example, “leave me alone” loudly when being picked on.
This shows strength to the bully and that they have not picked an easy target to pick on.
Self-confidence comes in many forms, but one major habit that TKD teaches is the confidence to leave a situation and walk away. Additionally for a child who has been participating in bullying, it will teach them how to listen to others when they speak their mind.
The epidemic of bullying is impacting society in that there are 160,000 children refusing to go to school each day for fear of being bullied (Nation Education Association).
The benefits of Taekwondo are huge for both bullies and victims whether they use discipline and self-control in their daily lives, or their level of confidence and respect help them to grow. Both self-worth and how to walk away are learned from TaeKwonDo.
The positive impacts against bullying that can grow from Taekwondo training are huge and would be great for any child to learn.