Facing Bullying Head On
Most of us can dig back into the distant (or not so distant) past and remember being picked on, bullied, or in some way made to feel excluded. Very often these instances tend to occur more in adolescence, or perhaps we just cared more about social interactions at that age, when requisite attendance in primary schools forced us into a reluctant and fairly closed community.
As a response to its epidemic presence among American youth and its increased visibility via school shootings and teen suicides, organizations across the U.S are developing methods for dealing with bullying. The main strategy recommended on a community-wide scale involves creating awareness and presenting a unified message of intolerance. Getting a little closer to the action, schools and schools systems should implement policies that clearly define and govern how students should treat each other, with appropriate consequences for violations of these rules. Schools should also provide an accessible and confidential reporting system.
These tactics are important, but as we all know, the most difficult level to deal with bullying occurs among the kids themselves. Telling a child to act confidently when dealing with a bully, to disregard social exclusion, or to involve an adult in the situation are all solutions that address the problem, but very often do not fix it.
When I look back into my adolescence, I remember more than a few instances of being bullied in one way or another. As an adult, enjoying time spent alone is much more acceptable than as a child. In school, eating lunch by yourself meant you didn’t belong to a group—and that meant that you were an undesirable element who could be ostracized and made fun of. I never felt capable of combatting this type of exclusion and, in fact, put forth quite a bit of effort to embrace and exaggerate it, which wasn’t an effective approach for finding a way to be happy.
It wasn’t until I became involved with martial arts as a high school sophomore that I was able to find enough of a level of self-confidence to, instead of trying to fabricate an identity for the rest of the world, accept who I was, and be proud of what I could accomplish.
While many of the established efforts being made to combat bullying on a community and school-wide level are essential, they fail to directly help those kids who are getting beaten up and harassed on a daily basis. These efforts are changing the social ideology, but what about in the mean-time…before the shift actually occurs?
The best way to discourage bullying is to face it head on. Create true confidence in children and give them the tools to combat their attackers and they will develop pride in themselves and their own abilities.
“When you know you can’t get beat up, you feel invincible. And when you feel invincible you are a better brother, you’re a better father, you’re a better business man, you’re a better husband…you’re better at everything that you do.” ~Rener Gracie
Practicing martial arts made me confident that I could protect myself physically and I learned that very often the best way to overcome an obstacle is by going around and not through it.
“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind; be formless–shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.”