Can Teaching Martial Arts To Your Kid Stop His Bullies?

Using martial arts to stop a bully goes far beyond the physical moves taught in each practice. Bullying comes in many forms, and being prepared both physically and mentally can help your child address different bullying situations appropriately and most effectively. Martial arts teach essential lessons in relationship development and management. 

Teaching martial arts to your kid can stop them from being bullied through mental skills preparation and training, as well as self-defense practices. Developing different areas of mental strength are just as if not more important than the physical moves they can use to stop bullies.  

One in five students report being bullied at some point in their school careers. Continue reading to see how teaching your kid martial arts helps stop bullies and builds important life skills that will serve them well beyond these difficult interactions.  

How Teaching Martial Arts To Your Kid Can Stop His Bullies 

When using martial arts for bullies, you may immediately jump to being able to protect your kid in confrontational situations. Martial arts can actually be much more beneficial for other mental skills before it even escalates to the point of physical contact. Let’s look at how martial arts can be used to stop bullies in more detail. 

Martial Arts Builds Confidence and Self-Esteem 

One of the most beneficial aspects of martial arts is the self-esteem and confidence that come with the practice. This can be used both before and after your kid is bullied to build up and potentially repair confidence that may have been impacted by bullying. It is challenging for many to build self-esteem, but martial arts integrates it easily into the training programs. 

Self-esteem and confidence are built through martial arts in the following ways:

  • Achievement-based practices: Many forms of martial arts allow you to reach new levels and accomplish goals with continued practice. Working your way up to these new challenges can help to bolster self-confidence as milestones are successfully hit. Overcoming challenges is also an essential component in building self-esteem.
  • Physical strength: Improvements in fitness and muscular strength can also manifest emotionally as kids find themselves improving physically and feeling more capable of tackling new challenges. Knowing that you can protect yourself or others in physical altercations can also boost confidence levels. To learn more about how martial arts helps childhood obesity, read this other article I wrote.
  • Risk-taking and decision making: Deciding to try a new skill or taking a risk to beat an opponent can not only be a learning experience but help a kid to build their confidence. As more successful actions are taken, the kid becomes confident in their own decision making, which carries over outside of the sport. 
  • Perseverance and failing: In nearly any sport, you are going to fail a couple of times. There is no exception in martial arts, which will challenge you physically and mentally. Overcoming these setbacks and challenges and trying again makes you more resilient to uncomfortable and painful situations. 

Higher self-esteem and confidence are important in stopping bullies because they help eliminate much of the bully’s power and strategy. Often, bullies aim to elicit an emotional reaction from those they target. Kids who can quickly shake things off due to their self-confidence or offer no reaction are not attractive to bullies.

While this is not a fool-proof system to avoid bullies, self-esteem and confidence are important not only to avoid bullies but also to stand up to them. Having the courage to ask for help or calmly handle the situation shows a sense of maturity and belief in oneself to talk through the problem effectively. 

Source: VeryWellFamily 

Martial Arts Teaches Discipline and Respect 

One of the ultimate goals of martial arts is to honor the ideals of self-control and respect. Through meticulous body movements and technique, one learns to practice self-control and only use the necessary amount of force to beat their opponents. This ties in to respect, where participants show regard for both their peers and opponents.

While a kid who is being bullied will not respect their bully, they can practice self-control in their response to bullying and practice respect to avoid escalation. These are two complicated concepts to master especially in the face of distress, but having these skills tested with each martial arts practice will make situations with bullies easier to face. 

Part of respect is understanding and realizing that bullies are dealing with their own psychological problems. While it can be challenging to approach harm with respect or tolerance, it is beneficial for both parties. “Killing with kindness” can be an effective approach to many bullies who cannot achieve the desired power dynamic or get what they want.

In martial arts, practitioners are taught to remain disciplined with their aggression and agitations. This discipline not only helps to control these feelings but also trains assertiveness and good decision making in the face of adversity. With an advance from a bully, the kid can approach the situation with trained responses and an ability to adapt. 

Source: Thrive Global  

Martial Arts Enhances Emotional and Social Intelligence   

The previously mentioned skills are also crucial for approaching relationships and interactions with others. One thing your kid will learn quite quickly in practicing martial arts is their strengths and weaknesses. To beat an opponent, they will also need to be perceptive to understanding these attributes in others. 

Identifying your strengths in communication styles as well as physicality can drive the direction of your response. The same is true of your weaknesses. For example, if you will likely respond emotionally to a bully, it may be best to avoid them altogether. If emotional regulation is a strength, masking feelings to show their ineffectiveness on you may be a better approach. 

Interactions with bullies can appear in many forms but analyzing the situation and how to best handle it can be improved with martial arts. Observing the behaviors of a bully, including their:

  • Interactions with your kid
  • Interactions with others
  • Physical behaviors

Can be really helpful in effectively responding to them. 

These principles can apply to nearly anyone you interact with and your ability to evaluate a situation effectively. Managing and approaching relationships in a practical and civilized manner can reduce conflict with bullies and other people you interact with. These are skills that will be beneficial professionally and personally throughout your life.   

Source: Kids Health

Martial Arts Teaches Self-Defense Skills 

The mental and emotional aspects are crucial to stopping bullying, especially in a digital age. But these skills also work in conjunction with self-defense and physical techniques that can be used to combat a bully in the event of a physical altercation. Some of these physical signs of self-defense can be used well before a bully makes physical contact with your kid. 

These are some critical self-defense skills that are taught and can be used to protect oneself from bullying: 

  • Posture and body language: Confidence can also manifest itself physically. Martial arts teach body movements that emphasize control and will provide students with more positive body language. Bullies may be less likely to approach someone who exudes confidence. These postures can also be learned and “faked” until they become real. 
  • Spatial awareness: Being aware of your body and the space around you is necessary to anticipate an opponent’s attack. This applies to bullies, who may quickly transition from verbal to physical violence. 
  • Diffusing situations: Many martial arts practices focus on minimizing harm to an opponent. If the situation can be approached with calmness and control, physical combativeness can be avoided entirely. Using your voice assertively and with confidence is one way in which you can deescalate. 
  • Blocking: Using your arms and legs to block advances is a skill that your kid will learn in most practices. This requires training and an ability to anticipate advances. As they practice more, these reflexes become quicker and they can use the bully’s advances in their favor to end the altercation. 
  • Punching and kicking: The type of martial arts will dictate the offensive movements that are used. Many of these practices will incorporate some kind of punch or kick to weaken the opponent. The goal should be to use this only to get away from the situation. In a “fight or flight” response, the flight response should be the goal to avoid violence.
  • Grappling and controlling: Well rounded martial arts will offer strikes as well as throws and ground controlling positioning. These can be used to subdue a threat until help arrives. This is especially important in environments that punish even those that defend themselves such as public and private schools.

If the situation does escalate physically, being equipped with the tools to protect yourself is crucial. Most martial arts practices emphasize self-defense over violence, allowing your kid to use necessary techniques without hurting the other person too much. Here’s another article I wrote about martial arts and self-defense to learn more.

Source: Harvard Medical School 

Best Martial Arts to Stop and Prevent Bullying 

There is no ranking as to which martial arts are best, but those that emphasize both self-defense and mental skills training are prioritized. This will allow your kid to be prepared for nearly any situation that may present itself with a bully and their destructive behaviors. 

These are the best martial arts practices to stop your kid’s bullies: 

  • Muay Thai: One of the most combative sport martial arts that some recommend for kids, it is similar to boxing and can be used in some real-life situations to repel a bully. Offensive and defensive moves are both valued. This sport requires great mental concentration and requires a high level of physical fitness, helping to promote resilience.
  • Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Emphasizing non-violence, BJJ and Judo teach students to only use necessary force to take down their opponent and hold them till help arrives. This requires excellent self-control and makes strategy a vital part of the practice.  The sports also promote stress relief, which may be needed as a healthy outlet for bullying in addition to addressing the issue directly.
  • Karate: The art promotes self-esteem through belt-based achievement and skill mastery. Building confidence through accomplishments and using the skills to protect yourself are key benefits. The sport incorporates both self-defense and combative movements to take down an opponent. For the most well rounded of the systems for self defense it is advisable to teach a base in Karate with a specialization in a grappling and a weapons system.
  • Kali martial arts: This is a system that utilizes and teaches defenses for most of the handheld and improvised weapons that will be encountered in normal daily life. The training is based on using environmental objects and dedicated objects to defect aggressive armed and unarmed attacks. In the world of self defense, Kali is at the pinnacle of effectiveness.

Combative sports, including mixed martial arts (MMA), can be effective practices in stopping a bully physically. The problem comes in the fact that there are not as many foundational character principles inherent in MMA. It is a fine line once proficiency is gained in the martial arts between defense and aggression. Character training is vital.

In many cases, you may not need to be an aggressor at all and can use simple defensive techniques to dominate the bully. The methods mentioned above are a good mix so your child can find the practice that will best match their interests.

The instructor is an important consideration in making this choice as they have a large impact on how effective the training is. This is especially true for mental skills training, which is necessary for both combatting bullies and character development. Look closely at reviews and consider sitting in on a class to find the best fit for your kid. 

To learn more about our ONLINE martial arts classes, read here.

Source: UC Berkeley Wellness, ACTIVEKids

How Martial Arts Prevents Bullying 

The skills developed in martial arts are not only used to stop bullying but can be used to prevent it. This is particularly true if kids who may become bullies are taught martial arts at a young age. The mental skills training is very valuable in instilling the essential values of respect, discipline, and self-esteem into a child. 

Bullies aim to get what they want through harmful tactics as they often do not possess the social skills to do so or the ability to recognize others’ feelings. At young ages, these tactics are often successful and turned into trained behaviors that can become more destructive over time. 

Martial arts will not directly address all of these issues, but can help to train more productive behavioral patterns: 

  • Improved social perceptions: Reading your opponent and anticipating their movements is vital for martial arts strategy. These activities require one to be more perceptive to cues around them, which can help improve recognition of feelings and behaviors in social settings. 
  • Respect for others: Respect is highly valued in martial arts. If you embody these principles, bullying directly opposes the teachings. Any signs of disrespect in martial arts are addressed and criticized. This can help to avoid using violence or verbal harm towards others. 
  • Self-control practice: Control is both physical and mental, requiring you to have a better understanding of and ability to regulate both emotions and body movements. When these are not in balance, it is easy to exhibit emotional extremes for personal gain. 

Martial arts benefits both the perpetrator and the victims of bullying. Being taught these principles before experiencing or doing the bullying can help both parties prevent these harmful behaviors and respond effectively to a bully’s advances. 

Source: Psychology Today  

Martial Arts Address All Types of Bullying

A classic image of bullying is being made fun of or physically harmed on the playground. These situations are still relevant in today’s world, but bullying extends far beyond them. Especially in the digital age, cyberbullying has become a large problem among all age groups. This can happen on social media like Facebook, but even on newer sites that parents might not even be aware of. Martial arts can help to address bullying behind a screen and in person. 

Practicing martial arts for physical and mental training can help to combat all types of bullying. As this article demonstrates, martial arts provide many psychological benefits that can both prevent and stop bullying from occurring. Understanding the different types of bullying can help best address what martial arts skills can help stop these abuses.  

Bullying can be divided into the following categories:  

  • Physical bullying: Bullies who make physical advances will require the use of self-defense skills taught in martial arts. Even if your kid does not stick with the sport for long, having them take a self-defense class can teach them basic moves for dealing with future perpetrators. 
  • Verbal bullying: This can be one of the most harmful forms of bullying as it dramatically impacts your feelings of self-worth. Confidence and self-esteem play a large role in ignoring these comments and responding to them most effectively. Control and discipline also play a role in avoiding an emotional reaction. 
  • Social bullying: Designed with humiliation in mind, this form of bullying uses social forces to alienate a person. This is often done by spreading rumors, embarrassing someone, or using others to create social divisions. This is usually best handled with direct communication. 
  • Cyberbullying: Both verbal and social bullying can be included in this category, which involves some type of bullying electronically. This is a particularly harmful form of bullying because it can be used to easily manipulate one’s emotions or share information about a person that spreads quickly. 

Martial arts practice can help stop all of these types of bullying by encouraging good decision making in how your kid will respond to the situation. The decisions will vary case by case, and having the awareness to identify which is best will require patience, discipline, and self-control. 

Source: National Centre Against Bullying

Martial Arts to Stop Bullying Takeaway…

Being physically prepared for a bully may be necessary for some kids, but the psychological and emotional abuse bullies use can be even more common. Being able to respond to these non-physical abuses in a healthy and productive way can be trained through martial arts. Emphasis on confidence-building and discipline can have positive outcomes against most bullies.  
Source: US Dept. Education

Mathew Booe

Mathew Booe is a father of four, husband to Jackie since 1994, retired international competitor with over 50 wins, an international seminar instructor, a master instructor of hundreds of Little Ninjas each week, and the one bringing you the great content like you just read. Sign up for the newsletter to hear about his upcoming books before they are released to the public.

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