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The best fight, is no fight! But…

Ok, it’s 2 minutes until the home time bell rings. I better get all my pencils into my pencil case and books into my bag. Get to the front of the line and out of school before he sees me…

Oh no, there he is, get going….

If I get across the road and around the corner, he and his idiot friends normally stop chasing me.

Why do I run from this guy? I’m a boxer, a good boxer, for my age. But my dad, (my coach) says “fighting on the street, makes enemy’s and fighting in the ring makes friends. They are worlds apart!”

I don’t understand why he picks on me? What have I ever done to him?

There’s my house, ok, I’m safe for today. 

This was my daily routine for a time when I was 10 years old. I don’t know what triggered it, I knew the guy often caused trouble around the streets of my home town, and was regularly in some sort of trouble in school. I know nothing of him now. But he is part of my consciousness and helped to strengthen and mold who I am today!

I remember the time clearly and refer to it often when teaching martial arts to kids and teens.

From a martial artist point of view how do we respond to bullying? Outside of healthy competition, fighting is the very last thing a martial artist wants to do. It seems a real contradiction to train so hard to gain practical fighting skills but go to great lengths to avoid using them. When asked about this, a kung fu Master responds “I would rather be a warrior in the garden, than a gardener in the war”.

But for 10-year-old me, what were my options?

Firstly, I could have spoken to my teacher. Back in the 80’s it wasn’t the done thing, anti-bullying policies didn’t exist, and it was generally swept under the carpet. Today, every school is obliged to implement an anti- bullying policy and it cannot simply be an unenforceable document or page on a website.

Secondly, I could have spoken to my parents, but with 5 kids in my family and me being the eldest I didn’t want to bring my worries home. They most likely would have knocked on the door of the perpetrator and I could only imagine that escalating the problems I was having. It was also unlikely that the parents of the bully would begin to discipline their child at this stage.

One day I decided that I wasn’t going to run away anymore. I threw my school bag at my bully’s feet and a quick jab/ cross ended any future issues I would ever have with this guy. It only took a moment to solve all my problems. I was lucky, but it could have gone wrong in so many ways for me and it could certainly go wrong for many others who opt to try and solve their problems in this manner.

The best fight is, is no fight!

If fighting is to be avoided at all costs it is best to look at other more esoteric benefits of Martial Arts training. As a martial artist, you will be tested physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You will develop a true sense of who you really are and how you should act and treat people. It is impossible for a true martial artist not to change for the better. If they do not have the will to change their bad attitudes or behaviour, they simply quit! Those with the strength to continue develop a sense of contentment in themselves. This contentment combined with the skills from years of practice and the humility learned throughout the learning process is manifested as confidence. Confidence is one of the greatest shields anybody can carry and can protect you from the attentions of any bully throughout your life.

One lesson on Bullying, I like sharing at my ‘Kung Fu 4 Kids’ classes is about the Lions in the Serengeti.

The Lions are looking through the long grass at a herd of Antelope. Who do they choose to eat? The strong buck with his head held high and watchful eyes? The young feeble ones playing happily in a group surrounded by the other larger animals? Or the Antelope outside of the group strolling around eating on his own and completely unaware of any potential danger? Its an easy choice for the Lion to make. As well as safety in numbers an outwardly appearance of confidence alone can act as a deterrent! A confident person is a happy person. Happy people are great to be around and make great friends. They speak well they make eye contact when they interact with others, they are not afraid to express themselves. They carry themselves in such a way that it is difficult for anybody to dislike them or cause them trouble.

Apart from Confidence, the core tenets of my school are ‘Kindness’, ‘Patience’ and ‘Courage’.

Kindness – This comes naturally to everyone unless there is a sense of competitiveness and insecurity. The happy and confident rarely have issues doing what is right and will automatically develop an empathy for others. Teaching empathy is a key responsibility of all parents and teachers! Developing a sensitivity to other people, their needs and feelings is one way of ensuring that your child is not the bully and doesn’t act as a bystander if they witness it.

Patience – learning any skills, whether it is Kung Fu, playing piano or swimming, will teach a person patience. It results in them learning how to be patient and tolerant of others. Having the patience to learn about others, their likes and dislikes, their backgrounds etc. and to teach them about who you are can create a more open and friendlier environment for all.

Courage – This is the ability to stand up for yourself, what you believe in and to help those who cannot. Have you the courage to speak out when you see someone being victimised? Can you put your arm around their shoulder and bring them some comfort? Do you fall to peer pressure and join in?

I also teach kids the A+ guide to Self-defence and there are some of the same key elements which can help in coping with bullying.

  • Get help. Speak to parents, teachers etc.
  • Be nice and friendly to everyone.
  • Hold your head up high.
  • Pay attention to what is happening around you.
  • Speak directly to people with eye contact.
  • If you don’t feel confident, fake it! With practice it will be easier.
  • Still not sure… sign up for a martial arts class!

Paul Moran (Guest Blogger)

Paul Moran is the owner and operator of The Martial Arts Academy teaching classes on a full-time basis. With almost 40 years of martial arts training he has established specialised training for all ages, including the world famous ‘Kung Fu 4 Kids’ programs in Dun Laoghaire/ Rathdown and Bray.