The issue of bullying in our schools is one that is in critical need of being addressed head on. Current efforts, involving little more than suspensions and other punishments, are producing little meaningful change. It's important to recognize the characteristics of students who bully, in these common traits reside potential answers that can be provided by careful application of martial arts training.
Here are three common traits of bullies identified by Dr. Olweus and how experiencing martial arts training can address them:
Common Trait #1: Bullies have a strong need to dominate other students and get their own way.
The children that bully others often have natural leadership desires but are unable to act on them in a positive manner. These children confuse leadership (positive) and domination (negative). They may be mimicking the types of leadership they are seeing in their lives, seeing how the adults around them get what they want through power and manipulation. If we can give them a new model, a consistent model of servant-leadership, we can redirect these natural tendencies. Using the type of training and leadership modeling done in a good martial arts school can make a significant difference in the behaviors of these students.
Common Trait #2: Bullies are typically more impulsive, aggressive, or easily angered
Early bullying behavior most commonly takes the form of impulsive words and actions and lack premeditation. The child may not even intend to behave in an aggressive manner; they are simply acting impulsively and attempting to mirror the words and actions they have observed in the adults around them. Introducing the self-control and focus of a traditional martial art will often help the student moderate their behavior. The student will learn to focus frustration and aggression into actions that help them become better instead of tearing others down. Training in a traditional martial art also allows students that bully the opportunity to develop better impulse control and anger management through coaching and mentoring with a senior.
Common Trait #3: Bullies often show defiance and aggression toward adults, including teachers and parents.
Children who bully often act aggressively towards everyone, not just other children. They have learned, through observation and experience that open aggression can result in “getting what they want”. They have also discovered that acts of defiance towards the adults in their life can also result in gain for them. What these children need is to be shown a better way to behave through positive example. Introducing children to the martial arts early on can give what they need to change the path of their life. Instead of trying to force a defiant child to change behavior through punishment, give them a better choice. Kids involved in the martial arts begin to view themselves against a better metric for behavior and begin to self-regulate. When the change is self-driven it is much more difficult for the child to resist!
Martial arts training and the concepts and environments presented in a traditional martial arts school may help prevent bullying. By introducing a young student to the positive influences of a good martial arts program we can set them up for success through early intervention. Martial arts is about far more than just "punching and kicking" and can serve as the early intervention needed by children who are beginning to bully.