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.
Sensei Kyle Pratt