May 27, 2023
Finding out that your child has been getting bullied can trigger a variety of emotions for a parent. The first might be anger but quickly followed up with helplessness. I get it. As a father of 10 year old twins, the last thing I want is for other kids to pick on them or make them feel less than. But unfortunately we live in an unpredictable world with what seems like an infinite spectrum of personalities that surround us.
As the founder of Ko Martial Arts, we receive numerous emails and phone calls every week from parents who are interested in “self-defense training” for their child. It’s usually because the child has experienced bullying at school and the parents wants to make sure it never happens again. Again, I get it completely. But is teaching our children to physically fight back the best solution?
I personally do not feel that teaching a child, what I call, “external self-defense” skills, is the best way to go. Whether it be karate, jiu-jitsu, krav maga, or any other martial art that is more fight and physical self-defense focused, I don’t think it should be the first step to take.
The first set of skills a child should have is what I call, “internal self-defense” skills. Internal self-defense is equipping a child with psychological, emotional, and verbal skills. Psychological is about learning how to control their thoughts and head. Emotional is about learning how to control their emotions and feelings. Verbal is about learning how to effectively communicate with others. Not through a device but face to face.
If a child is taught how to fight but has an anger problem, that child could end up facing severe consequences for assault. Or if a child has a difficult time communicating with others, teaching that child to fight still doesn’t address the core issue. Almost all physical altercations can be prevented through verbal tactics or simply not being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
You might be thinking right now that “internal self-defense” is a bunch of fluff and all that matters is that your child can “handle himself” if a bully won’t back down. Please know that I am full believer that everyone should know basic, external self-defense tactics just in case they are needed. But I do know that bullies only pick on those who they feel they can dominate. Before I get into that, let’s dive deeper into the possible outcomes of a physical altercation or fight between your child and the “bully” at school. First, there is a very high chance both children will be suspended at the very least and possibly kicked out of school. This could stay on your child’s record for a long time and maybe even after high school.
Depending on the situation, legal action could be brought against your child. The last thing you want your child to have is a criminal record before graduating high school. Yes of course, these outcomes might be unlikely but you never know because fights are always unpredictable. You never know what is going to happen in a fight. The “bully” could have a knife or gun and end up severely injuring or killing your child. Getting in a fight is never worth the potential consequences. It is always better to focus on prevention and verbal solutions.
This is where internal self-defense training comes in. We want to help our children learn how to develop themselves from the inside out. Bullies are less likely to pick on those who are confident, focused, and alert. They are also less likely to pick on those who can communicate clearly and effectively. Even adult predators are less likely to assault a woman who is alert and carries herself with confidence.
Internal self-defense is also about letting the words of others roll off of our backs. Not allowing other people control how we feel. Dealing with people saying hurtful words is not something we can protect our children from forever. But we can teach our children how to stay in control of their emotions in high stakes situations. There is much power in possessing the ability to keep a calm face when someone launches a verbal attack. Bullies tend to pick on those who they know they can get a reaction from. Teach a child to not give the bully the reaction she was expecting and the bully moves on.
So where does martial arts fit into this picture? First we must understand that not all martial arts are the same. Be sure to check out the video where I cover the difference in martial art styles and which are the best for children. Some martial art styles definitely focus more on the internal than the external self-defense. The “traditional martial arts styles” such as Taekwondo and Karate focus more on developing the student from within. But it really comes down to the philosophy and culture of the martial arts school. Also check out the video where I dive deeper into the things to look for when searching for a martial arts school for your child.
I personally feel having a child start and stay in a solid traditional martial arts school for at least three to five years before moving on to a self defense focused martial art is a good strategy. This will ensure they are psychologically and emotionally ready to learn a potential lethal form of martial art. They also will be more teachable and able to receive constructive feedback.
When the traditional martial arts school also teaches the child verbal communication skills, it prepares that child much more for the “bullies” in life. We as adults have to deal with “bullies” at the office, grocery store, and many other environments in our lives. The earlier a child learns the more prepared they will be as an adult. For example, our students have the opportunity to train to become an assistant in the beginner classes. The majority of this training involves learning that communication is more than just what we say but how we say it. The importance of body posture, the tone and pitch in our voice, hand gestures, are just a few of the many parts of communication a student will learn about in the training.
In review, my stance on this topic is simple. If your child is getting bullied, first confirm training is in place to develop psychological, emotional, and verbal self defense skills. It is always best to not engage in physical altercations because the consequences are unpredictable and can negatively alter your child’s future. Help your child master his or her thoughts and emotions. Help your child develop sharper focus and stronger discipline which leads to more success which leads to more self-confidence.
I hope you found this helpful. If you feel that we might be a good fit for you child, visit theKOMA.com to learn more about us and to schedule a free intro lesson. Our core focus is to help children develop themselves from within and your child might be our next success story!