The “Other” Kid

Also known as “One Reason Why Your Kid Needs Martial Arts, Part II”

Anyone remember the first article?

I made myself a note to write about the “other kid”. In case you didn’t catch the clip (go back and watch it!) closely enough, at the end of the altercation between the boy who body slammed the bully the other boys approached as if they were going to fight him. But something not many people noticed. A girl walked over and got between Casey Heynes and the approaching boy. She’s the “other” hero in the clip, but it appears no one noticed.

How many of us watch an injustice occur and do nothing? I doubt many of you have actually done nothing. The reason for this is that if you are reading this blog, you are a martial artist. We are not the kind of men and women who will do “nothing”, therefore we are the “other” guy in someone else’s altercation. In my entire life, I have only pulled a weapon on a few occasions and the first time I pulled a knife with the intention to use it was at the Baltimore Inner Harbor when I was with some students and a man was being beaten on the sidewalk. I wanted to walk away. (Yes, I was guilty of minding my own business) We didn’t know if those guys had a gun or not, and then getting involved with an altercation is scary stuff. But the young woman who was with him begged some passers-by to help, and I couldn’t do nothing. So I pulled my knife, and without a fight–the guys stopped. Thinking the knife did the trick when I turned to look at the guy, I saw that my students had run across the street behind me. Good work guys.

But what is it that makes people do nothing? Fear. And two things usually help you overcome fear–self-preservation, and fear of not doing anything. Often, for the untrained man, even those things will fail to empower him to fight back or assist, even when the person being hurt is himself or a loved one. Training then, helps you face that fear and do something. Lack of training intensifies your fear, and this is what makes victims and witnesses to victimization. I have broken up fights on several occasions when the fights are “fair” fights, that’s the easy part. The hard part has been to break up fights where they weren’t fair fights, and I regret to say that I have failed to do it more than I have gotten involved. This is a demon I fought against as a young man, and I have done it more lately than I did when I was in my prime. It is something to think about in your training–and in your own level of courage. One thing to fight when transgressed, but what if you encountered a stranger? And you know nothing about it? You don’t know if the man being beaten has done something to warrant his beating. You don’t know if the beating will result in the victim’s death. You don’t know if you will feel the torment of guilt if you don’t involve yourself and something worse happens.

Tell you what I’d done in recent years. I watched, and when the altercation looks like it had run long enough, and the combatants have had their fill. I step forward and assure the winner of the fight, “You got him, he’s had enough. Don’t go to jail over it.”  It works. You stop the fight from going on, you’ve reassured the winner that he’s accomplished what he set out to do, and you did it without being confrontational and was able to calm the guy down. Plus it gives you a chance to be nosy and find out what happened. But most of all, you know that you’ve stopped the beating from becoming fatal. Some may criticize this because it isn’t soon enough, but to each his own…

Back to my topic, few people will involve themselves in an altercation that is not close enough. The martial artist–excuse me, the warrior–should have one extra factor helping him overcome the fear (or “hesitation”, call it what you want), and that is duty. If we have the ability to stop a man from being hurt unnecessarily, we should act on it. Imagine how you would feel, as the witness to a fight or beating, doing nothing, and then discover that the man being beaten was a father who was just minding his own business and going to work? Well, a good friend of mine had this experience. His brother-in-law was beaten, but not robbed, by a group of thrill-seeking teens while walking home from work in Southern Maryland. He ran while being beaten and chased, and finally a woman blew her horn from her vehicle and the boys ran off. This man–in his 40s with a teenaged boy himself–is a good man. He is raising three young children and a teenaged step son, on two jobs so that his wife can stay home with the children. He had lost his home and had to swallow his pride to live with his mother-in-law. His second job was a weekend job at a fast food restaurant, where he was mistreated by his uneducated, immature and young manager–but he endured it to take care of his family. He is a gentle man who had never been in a fight in his life. His pride was hurt, and who knows what emotional or psychological issues he may suffer today as a result of the humiliation? Would you have done something to help? Of course, which of us wouldn’t? But when the altercation happened, no one knew this about him. All they see is a middle aged, pudgy man being chased and beaten by young punks, and no one helped.

Well, one guy did, but in my opinion–he helped himself.

While licking his wounds, he was approached by a witness offering to give a statement to the police. The man then handed him a card for his business, offering discount Tae Kwon Do lessons. Excuse me??

Yes, a martial artist saw it, and then did nothing but seize an opportunity to try and recruit a student. I’ll let you ponder on that one.

We must train ourselves and prepare ourselves to do what is right, even if the idea of fighting for someone else frightens us. What’s the use if we don’t use it? There is a saying about blessings: that often we are not blessed with gifts to be used by us, but to share with others. Perhaps we were led to the martial arts–not because we may become victims, but so that no one around us would become victims? Ponder over that one as well…

So, the girl in the video was the real hero, along with Casey Heynes. She was unlikely a martial artist. And she was a girl. Yet she still got between those bullies and the victim, as if to say, “no you won’t–not today.” Without a doubt, other children saw Casey Heynes being bullied. Sadly, the only two people who raised a finger to do something besides himself were two girls–his sister, and the little girl in the video.

Mrs. Mom, Mr. Dad–your child taking martial arts lessons keeps more than himself/herself safe. It gives your child the courage to protect his siblings and the other children around him. To act when most others won’t. Let your kid train with me–even for just one year–and he will never be a victim or the do-nothing-witness to a victim, again.

Thanks for visiting my blog. For your entertainment, I found this commercial on Youtube, that addresses school bullying. Hope you like it!



One Reason Why Your Kid Needs Martial Arts

If you teach kids, I want you to save this article, print it, and read it until you have my bullet points memorize. Then I want you to watch the video at the end of this article and understand why I write what I write, and why you are so important to your community. Then after that, think of a way to add something similar to your school’s website.

By the way, I decided to put this article under the “Business” section of the blog, because this message will make a huge difference in your school’s bottom line–as well as it may give you some new purpose or mission in your martial art career’s life.

Bullying Can KILL Your Child

Whether your child is the victim or the prey, or just a bystander, bullying can get your kid killed.

Parents often don’t know that their children are being bullied or are bullying other children until it’s too late. Kids have come home with injuries they hide from their parents, but the psychological scars never heal. Grades plummet, their attendance suffers, their self-esteem drops to a horrible low, they contemplate suicide. Sometimes, your children never tell you because they are afraid that you will be disappointed in them. Your child might have even come home and hinted that they were being bullied and you failed to protect them. What do you tell them?

  • “Man up”
  • It’s just teasing.
  • They’re jealous of you. Ignore it.
  • Tell a teacher.
  • Stand up for yourself.
  • Sticks and stones may break your bones, but…

Do you know what all this means? It means, “I don’t know what to do, so it’s your problem.”

Perhaps you didn’t mean to send that message, but that’s the message they got. And the truth is, you probably don’t know what to do about it. But you’re not supposed to, Mr. Mom/Ms. Dad–that’s my area of expertise. The good news, however, is that you’re here. This is what we can do about it…

Kids have brought knives to school to deal with bullies. Children fantasize about killing their tormentors often, because to some children–this is the only way they believe it will stop. They are channeling their frustration and anger, and the adults apparently can’t or won’t stop them. Let the bullying continue until the victim acts out, by refusing to do schoolwork, or disobeying teachers and parents (the same ones who won’t help them)–and no one will care that the child is being bullied. Look at some of the school shootings, and you can see how the failure of teachers, school administrators and parents can explode into multiple lives ruined.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the kids who just want out. They run away, they run into the arms of deviant adults who will pretend to care about them–or bad kids–or they run to alcohol and drugs to try and fit in. Worst of all, out of the 280,000 children that were attacked in American schools last year, thousands have committed suicide (also known as “bullycide”). There is no exact figure, because quite often, the kids don’t say why they do it.

One child losing his life to this behavior is too much.

I am not trying to say martial arts is the cure to this, but martial arts is the cure.

  • Martial arts will give kids a means to defend themselves. Maybe you can’t go into the school and wring that boy’s neck who is pushing your son, but your son can certainly push back himself. But he needs to feel confident that he can do it. I will teach him how, and give him the tools.
  • Fighting in school is often not fighting–a lot of it is self-defense. You wouldn’t go into a job without the proper training, why would you send your school into the jungles of school life to defend himself without the tools?
  • Many girls lose their virginity to boys who force themselves on them. Do you really want your daughter to not have a way to protect herself? Surely, you are not in such denial that you believe the police will protect your daughters 24 hours a day? Don’t fool yourself, please, at the expense of not wanting to spend $70 a month. Few girls will come home and say, “Mom, this cute boy at school is telling me every day he wants to have sex with me.” Especially when all the other kids are doing it (so they think). Martial arts helps kids stand alone with confidence, in whatever stance they happen to stand.
  • Kids are abducted, they are beaten, they are mentally bullied by their peers. You wouldn’t leave your cars unlocked outside, unattended, would you? Why send your kids into this horrible world unable to protect themselves?
  • Martial arts restores a kid’s self esteem, it gives them something to feel good about. It makes them stronger so they can excel at other sports. It helps them sleep better at night. It makes their bodies require less sleep to function. It allows them to relieve stress and focus better in school. It gives them friends with like interests that WON’T bully them. No other activity does this, not even Sunday school.
  • Martial arts combats obesity. Obesity causes your kids to have health problems. Such health problems as cholesterol, thyroid disorder, diabetes, heart problems. Diabetes is even deadlier than bullying. You know this. Do something about it!

Parents, you love your children. Protect them. Let us help. It’s so much more than belts and uniforms and trophies. Don’t wait until your child comes home with an injury or a bruised spirit before you decide to do something about it. Makes as much sense as buying car insurance AFTER an accident. Protect your child, and I can help.

Now, watch this video. Thanks for visiting my blog:

In case it doesn’t show up, here is the link:

UPDATE:  The original video I uploaded was missing so the one above was not what I originally posted. HERE is the video.

Choosing a School for a Child Being Bullied, pt II

Why do you want a Martial Arts School again?

Let’s review our reason for finding a martial arts school for your kid again:

X  He needs to lose weight

X  I need after school day care

X  He needs more discipline

X  I want my child to win a few UFCs

X  My kid needs a Black Belt

–>  Ding! Ding!  We want to stop schoolyard bullying

Okay, so now that we remember why we were looking for a school for your kid, Ronald McSensei can save the sales pitch about his wonderful Black Belt in three years program, or Coach Beatemup Wannabe can save the talk about how Gracie used to pound on guys 50 lbs heavier with this art, and the “Program Director” can keep those fliers advertising their new Teenaged Minja minja Turtle classes. We want to stop your kid from getting hurt by  names at school, or so that he can eat his lunch in peace for a change. The school must have something to address that. We’re not here so that your kid can make good grades. If his grades are slipping, Karate won’t help with that; take away his Playstation and close his Facebook account and put his butt in tutoring and make him do his homework.

Schools offer many things, and you want to find the one that has what you want. There is a certain atmosphere you need for your kid to have for the purpose of building his sense of self, self-worth, and the confidence that if another kid wanted to hurt him, he’s got the skills to ruin that kid’s day. It shouldn’t take a 12 month contract to assure him of those goals.

Choosing the Martial Arts School

The martial arts school is not a substitute for strong parenting, but it can help. The environment you want for your kids is not necessarily an intimidating one, but it should not be so friendly that he might as well be at a Cub Scout meeting. I may step on some toes with this one, but I don’t think you want to run down to the nicest gym with the mirrors and cartoon characters in the window. At the same time, you don’t have to join the school whose Sifu looks like he just got out of prison either. However, there are some benefits to all martial arts schools and instead of judging a school by its cover you might consider judging a school by its sales pitch.

The first thing you want to ask is how big the children’s class is, and if the ages are separated. An age-specific class will be more directed at your kid’s needs than one that just lumps all the children together. I believe that each age group should be dealing with the martial arts at its own rate. So the challenges that a 16 year old would face are going to be vastly different than those your 10 year old would face. The two are so different that if you addressed one in class, the other group will be wasting their time. In a school that is adult-oriented, there may not be enough children in the school for them to really having a good system of teaching kids. While their martial arts are valid, you cannot treat self-defense among 12 year olds the same way you would teach a grown man to defend himself. I would advise finding a school that specializes in teaching kids.

The environment should be one that is competitive, fast pace, somewhat aggressive, yet fun. Another reason I don’t recommend adult-oriented schools. I am an adult-oriented teacher, and I admit that although I consider my martial arts to be top notch–I suck at teaching kids. I lecture, I get mad, I don’t have much patience. One of the best business decisions I ever made was to hire a young teacher named Daniel Cook, who was not just a good martial artist, he was a master at teaching kids. He was stern, detailed, and tough. Yet he was also a fun teacher who made the kids laugh and enjoy coming to class. The fact that the kids would leave sore, but in a good mood, meant that they were coming back next week and getting in more training. The kids would get on the floor and bang, and when one got his pride hurt or got hit too hard–he was very good at toughening up the children to get up and keep at it. Kids aren’t like adults. They need the technical side of the art. But unlike adults, they must be entertained and the activity needs to be fun if they are to keep at it. The teacher must balance play with work, and this is how kids will learn their lessons–at an age-appropriate level.

I believe that a school should also have a good mixture of soft kids, and tough kids, kids from both sides of the train tracks, and kids of all physical sizes and abilities. I have seen schools where only white children were there, and schools with only black or only asian kids. This does not teach an important part of bullying–how to mingle with those unlike themselves. If you take two young kids–rich and poor, black and white, foreign and American–they will play as if there were no difference between them. But as they get older, they will notice things, like race, accents, etc., and who do they learn it from? Us. They will be taught all the little nasty things that grown ups say and think, and eventually, you get the discriminatory behavior and beliefs. And many of those things lead to social problems, including bullying. “Watch out for the Mexican kid, he might steal your stuff.” “That white kid thinks he’s better than us.” While we may live in segregated neighborhoods and communities and schools, the martial arts school is one place that your social status, your race, where you live–nothing matter. If the school has a familial environment, your kid who has never been around Black children will have good friends from that side of town. Your kid who has never experienced immigrants will have dojo brothers fresh over the border. Your kid who has only been around other upper-middle class kids will have friends from neighborhoods with gang bangers. And in the end, your children learn to be comfortable around everyone, even those who are unlike themselves. This comfort level will make your kid more relaxed all the time, and will become less of a wierdo to other children.

And adding to the idea of the martial arts school being a melting pot, kids at elementary school tend to hang around other kids like themselves. Athletes hang around athletes. Rich kids hang with rich kids. Etc. But in the dojo, everyone belongs to the same group, regardless of their background or interest, because the one interest they have in common–martial arts–binds them together. So in that group, you have the tough kid, the pencil neck kid, the athlete, the immigrant. They are learning social skills, and in an adversarial environment. So when they have had to spar a couple of bigger tougher boys, with martial arts training, the bigger boy at school with no martial arts training at all is going to be a cake walk.

Finally, I believe that the school should encourage some type of competition. Of course I am biased towards the karate tournament, but anything is good. There is a level of discomfort and anxiety you will experience in fighting competition that is unmatched by anything at high school, and when you are not just at ease with it–but unmoved by it–a fist fight at school is nothing. This is not to say that you won’t get good anti-bullying skills from a school that doesn’t compete. But your child will be more prepared for adversity when he has had about 15-20 fights under his belt. And not that I’m hoping that your kids will be challenging bullies to a fight! On the contrary, when your kid is more confident with fighting, he will find it easier to stand his ground and avoid a fight. Especially since most bullies don’t fight that often; they are masters at talking about beating people up.  I have a student, Malik, who had been bullied a year earlier, approached in high school by the kid who use to taunt him in Middle school. Malik responded by promising to kick his butt afterschool for the fight they had a year earlier. Of course–being California–the school suspended him. But those boys never messed with him again because they realized that he was not the same kid. Bullies rarely want a fight. It is the threat of fighting–and the fear that it causes–that gives them their power. Being one of the kids who are not affected by it–whether because of a change of personality or fighting skills–will ensure that your child robs those bullies of that power.

And I am reminded of two sayings:

  • don’t just speak loudly, carry a big stick
  • don’t let your mouth write a check that your butt can’t cash

Bullies prey on the weak, those who refuse to fight back, and those who will accept bullying. It’s that simple.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Choosing a School for a Child Being Bullied

Recently, I was asked by a friend of mine to recommend a school for her to take her son, who had been bullied at school for the last year and a half. I applaud her for taking the initiative to getting her son some help–since her son’s father doesn’t seem to be interested in doing anything about it.

I have a few things to say about childhood bullying, and then I want to share with you my recommendations for a good school for the purpose of stopping bullying behavior.  After all, there is a difference in what criteria you would use to find a school, and it depends on what you are looking to get out of a school.

Understanding the bully

I’m no psychologist, but I know a few things about people. The kind of person who bullies others is not “insecure”, like most people would think–he is self-assured. But to a point. The bully is confident that he can defend himself, but he only looks for people who project being defenseless to push around. That is why you don’t see the bully trying to prey on the popular kid (popular kids usually don’t look they can fight, but they have strength in numbers) or other bullies. No, for them, it’s a weakness thing. They get pleasure in pushing around the weak, those who have no “back up”, the kids who seem like they would accept it. The victims are not always small frail kids–a victim is nothing more than a person who won’t stand up for himself. So, for that reason, even a big strong kid can be bullied by a small, ratty boy.

The “Bullied”

As I stated, the kid being bullied isn’t the victim because he is incapable of defending himself; he is merely chosen because he won’t defend himself. You can teach him drills and defenses all day long, but if the boy (or man) refuses to stand up to the bully–it will never stop. But why does a kid accept this kind of behavior? Are all kids who stand up for themselves trained in self-defense?

No. The type of person who stands up for himself simply values himself and his desires more than he is willing to please. Some kids will give up a toy he wants to play with because he doesn’t want to say “no”. Others will give up a toy because he is afraid to refuse another kid’s demand. But on the other hand, you have some kids who will put your eye out trying to keep you from taking his toy. If you are to stop the bully from getting his way with your kid, you must find a way to turn your kid into the selfish brat who has no problem saying “NO”.

What can be done about it

That being said, ending bullying behavior is more of an internal change than an external one. You can stop bullying without learning a single self-defense move, just by changing the way your child thinks and interacts with his peers. I believe that by rough housing with your kids (male and female), wrestling, sparring, slap boxing, challenging your kids to a game of hoops and trying to kick their butts even with a dance competition–you are developing that sense of indominatability in your children. You are teaching them how to overcome another, and helping them get a sense of comfort with competition. You are getting them accustomed to going one-on-one with another person and striving to outdo him or her, even to defeat their opponent. Your kids are learning how to struggle to get to the head of the pact. The kid who wants to be the fastest sprinter, the king of the hill, the best dancer in the house–is not going to accept another kid trying to get over on him. Bullying is not always physical, by the way. It can be in the form of teasing, insults (you’re ugly/fat/talk funny/etc.), or by ignoring your child (don’t be his friend/you’re not going to be on my team). When you give your kids a sense of self-worth, few external factors will ruin your kids’ day.

I would also like to add that your child must feel completely comfortable with coming to you to tell you about his problems, and he must know that you are in his corner and will do something. My son had a problem with a bully when he was 6, and he came home the first time it happened and told me that another boy was pushing him and “being mean” to him. The next day, I went to the school with a vengeance, and demanded a meeting with the boy’s father (which they denied) and demanded action from the school about the bullying. I was not going to accept anything less, and if they didn’t stop the behavior, I was going to confront the parents and their child myself. That foolishness was dealt with immediately and my son never had a problem with it again. Regardless of what kind of school you put your child in, if he or she feels alone in dealing with problems, they will always be a target for bullies.

In part II, we will discuss what you want in a school to solve this problem.

Thanks for visiting my blog.