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A parent came into our school this week and was very open and honest about the experience.  They live in Rancho Bernardo.  She explained her child had been bullied at school and saw an ad for martial arts helping with bullying.  She brought her child in but honestly didn’t see how martial arts could help.  I couldn’t help but agree with her understanding of martial arts.  It is not like we can teach her kids to hit someone in the throat if they hurt her feelings.

Listening to her describe the situation intently, I thought of my own daughter and what I intended martial arts do for her.  I don’t feel I adequately answered her question, never being great at verbally describing things without first writing it out.  So here is biggest factor for bullying I could come up with.

Rancho Bernardo is a very safe neighborhood, but not from the things are kids worry about.  Our kids worry about making friends, fitting in, and being socially accepted.  We worry about that too, which is why we teach them to be respectful, disciplined, honest, and have self control.  All of these things help them interact and become valuable members of society.  Something that isn’t usually socially acceptable though is confrontation.  Arguing, or confronting others, is not something we endorse.  I was bullied in elementary, middle, and high school.  I did not want to confront my bullies elementary school, I wanted them to be my friend.  Eventually I learned after being bullied by them for a year or so they were not my friends.  Well one kid wasn’t, the others were just followers who egged him on.  They never bullied me with the big guy around(Yes Dan Mayer, I am talking about you)

So began my introduction into martial arts, self taught and trying to fight a guy twice my side, a very boy like response I guess.  Trying to learn from television rather than books, and making up my own techniques instead of learning them from a teacher.  I confronted the bully, didn’t exactly win but I don’t remember getting beat up either.  But you know what it did not matter, I was already trying to be a part of a group that did not want me.  That was the real problem.  I was afraid of making new friends in elementary school.  The beast of being made fun of was better than the beast of making new friends.

When I went to middle school, I made new friends, I had kids who made fun of me but it did not matter, I had a group of friends that made me feel accepted.  In fact, I became the confrontational one.  Having confronted my bully in elementary school I knew I could, so when one of my friends was being made fun of I became the guy who could back them up.  Now let’s remember, I was not an extroverted kid, I was a wait and see kid.  But even attempting to fight my bully, verbally and physically confront him, had taught me I had it in me.  I think everyone in the world thinks I am confrontation except my mom, my mom still looks at me with surprise when I say people think of me as “confrontational.”

Dr. Aron in her book Highly Sensitive People discusses “wait and see” kids compared to “let’s go look” kids.  The important thing is she points out all kids have the capacity for both, they just have different natural tendencies for either.  If you don’t nurture the outgoing side of your kids, it will not grow.  When I think of a quiet introverted child coming to try classes and we work on bullying, they don’t like it.  Why?  Because they are uncomfortable!  You know what happens when they are bullied?  They feel uncomfortable!  We are trying to make them uncomfortable in a safe environment so that they can get used to it and know, even if they don’t like it, they can do it.

Finding a place/group that makes them feel socially accepted, learning to be confrontational if the need be, learning to be extroverted if you have to even if you don’t like it.  These are all things martial arts makes you do.  That’s a tough list for adults, let alone kids.  I know it’s working for my daughter.  She loves my school, not karate, but the kids here.  She feels socially accepted.  She can confront others, I have seen it and love it, because she has not always been that way.  We are working on being more extroverted, but that’s a process.  Find something for your kids that builds these things, and you will be in great shape.  if you don’t have anything, I think I know at least 3 martial arts schools with that kind of culture around here.