Bullying: What the Martial Arts is Intended to Prevent and Remedy

Bullying

What the Martial Arts is Intended to Prevent and Remedy

 

You’re a new sensei who’s been teaching for a couple of months. One day, the parent of a student you teach pulls you aside and asks if they can speak with you about their child. They confide in you that their little boy has been bullied in school and wants to know if you have any advice that will prevent their child from being a victim. Suddenly you are at a loss for words. Maybe you’re scared that you’ll give them the wrong advice or that your advice might contradict what the child has learned about bullying from their parents or teachers at school.

                  Bullying is a controversial topic that many martial arts instructors are hesitant to discuss with their students. We live in a society where meeting someone at the flagpole after school to tussle is no longer the norm and harshly condemned. Politics aside, it is a topic that many martial arts instructors feel they need to approach with caution.

Exercising a little caution, however, never hurts. It should be noted that I am referring to physical bullying—one person putting their hands on another person in an attempt to establish dominance and control— and not verbal or cyber, which are handled differently. It is important to know what kind of bullying your student is experiencing so that your response or even expertise is appropriate. Cyber bullying is very serious and is usually handled by the local authorities, and obviously you wouldn’t tell a kid to go punch their friend in the face because they said he wasn’t invited to their Star Wars birthday party. You have to use some common sense.

In regards to physical bullying, do we as teachers of the martial arts really need to “think” about where we “stand” on that topic? People come to the dojo for a plethora of reasons. Whether it’s teaching children life values or helping adults get into shape, the greatest benefit the martial arts has to offer is the martial arts themselves. They are skill-sets that are intended to protect someone from physical danger that is imposed upon by other people. They can be disguised as a dance, meditation, or just plain fun, but above all they are movements that can inflict bodily harm. The issue of bullying should be seen as an opportunity for an instructor to explain the practical application of the techniques they learn in class.

A martial arts instructor teaches martial arts. They are experts in knowing when one should use their skills and what techniques to employ depending on the scenario and its intensity.  When a student or parent approaches you and asks for your help on the issue of bullying, there should be no question that nobody has the right to put their hands on anybody else. This is the essence of the martial arts and the mentality parents wish to instill in their children.

Respectfully,

Sensei Kyle Pratt 

The Top Three Places to Train

-Sensei P's Top 3-

Written by: Kyle Pratt  

Let’s say you have been practicing a martial art for a few months to a year. The activity is interesting, but you want to take your training to the next level. How do you improve?

Aside from the simple truths of hard work and dedication your sensei or teacher never neglect to emphasize, the challenge of practicing somewhere else other than the dojo can yield tremendous results in your material. In this blog I will discuss the challenges and benefits of practicing the martial arts in three different locations and how it improves the attributes necessary to becoming a more well-rounded martial artist.

Photo Taken By: Heath LaBombard

Photo Taken By: Heath LaBombard

The one thing that a tournament, college campus, and the parking lot outside Starbucks all have in common is there public exposure. Just like in a real fight or confrontation where people crowd around and say things like oooh, ahhh, and oh s#%! Practicing the martial arts in public always elicits a human response. No doubt, this is the most nerve-racking environment to train in. People are watching and judging you while you are trying to concentrate on your material. I myself have had both good and bad experiences in this environment. I have won and lost competitions on the premise of who was watching and how I allowed it to affect my concentration. The moment when my event began, I had to make a decision and decipher what was important from what was not. The noise and looks coming from the crowd had to be second and my opponent in front of me took priority. This conscious effort to exclude the distractions around you enables one to focus on the task at hand, which for a martial artist is preventing someone from inflicting bodily harm to you. The less distracted you are from your surroundings the more control you have on the outcome of a fight or confrontation.

Less nerve-racking but still pretty challenging and uniquely beneficial is training in the woods. While certainly peaceful and perhaps spiritual, the great outdoors’ remote location renders it free from any training equipment found in the dojo. The mirrors that reflect our techniques and body mechanics are absent from our sight. Instead, we have to rely on how our maneuvers feel rather than how they look. The uneven earth below our feet presents difficulties as well. I challenge anyone to practice their stances at the base of a tree, if the strain on your muscles doesn’t cause you to lose your balance the roots underneath you will.

Photo Taken By: Heath LaBombard

Photo Taken By: Heath LaBombard

While mother nature throws plenty of handicaps to negotiate in the woods, there are also pleasant qualities in the midst of her tutelage. The sounds of nature such as birds chirping and water flowing are invigorating. They keep the mind at ease and the body moving in a steady rhythm. One is also free from the pressure of having to perform in front of an audience, unless you count the squirrels and chipmunks. Training in the woods is a challenging alternative to the usual routine but the environment’s landscape remedy’s the difficulties and is in itself a source of inspiration.

Photo Taken By: Heath LaBombard

Photo Taken By: Heath LaBombard

Found both in the outdoors and in public is water. Submerging your body in a lake, pool, or ocean severely limits the way one’s body moves. Trying to do a front-kick or a jab-cross combination feels like an exercise in futility when your used to having something like a bag or an opponent respond to the force you put into it. Not being able to see the fruit of one’s labor can be a disempowering experience when you are putting in the maximum amount of effort to transfer your mass. Instead, you are forced to move the mass around you, the water itself. One does not reap the fruits of their labor while in the water, but rather when they come out. If you’re a Dragon Ball Z fan, think of Goku’s training in the gravity machine; the training is brutal when he’s inside but his power level is through roof when he comes out. Your body moves like a whip outside the water because it is acclimating to a mass-less environment.

Dragonball Z Owned By FUNimation!

Dragonball Z Owned By FUNimation!

All three of these locations have their own unique challenges and benefits. Some places may be more difficult than others and I think it is fair to say that most individuals have a preference of where they like to train. I believe if one wants to take it to the next level in anything, whether it’s martial arts or golfing, it is necessary to take the initiative to challenge yourself and expand your comfort zone. In the case of martial arts, the more geographic one’s training regime is the less of a hindrance the environment will be in a fight or confrontation. By changing the scenery in your training routine, your level of awareness will be heightened, making you a smarter and thus a more well-rounded martial artist.