Why Do Kids Pick on Kids Who Do Martial Arts? Teacher’s View


When kids are involved in unique events and activities like martial arts, they can become an easy target to be picked on from other kids in the same age range. Usually, this can be very stressful for a child, but when your kid is involved in martial arts, this experience can actually be turned into a positive.

Kids who pick on kids who do martial arts are intimidated and insecure. These bullies lack confidence for a myriad of reasons. They often lash out at kids who step outside the norm, such as doing martial arts. The irony is that martial arts equips its participants to handle bulling behavior.

As said, the lessons learned in martial arts will help your child deal with these bullying tactics. Knowing exactly why a kid is picking on another can also help give more context around the situation and provide possible solutions. Read on to learn why kids pick on others who learn martial arts.

Reasons Kids Pick on Martial Arts Students

Research provides many reasons kids bully others, but generally, bullies tend to pick on children who are either unpopular, less likely to be defended by their peers, or stick out as different. 

Below is a list of popular extra-curricular activities that exist in schools, but even this doesn’t guarantee a child won’t be picked on:

  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Baseball
  • Cheerleading
  • Dance squads
  • Student council

However, if a child chooses an activity that is not the typical or norm, he or she might find themselves the target of bullies. These circumstances are quite often why bullies choose martial arts students to be picked on.

Martial arts are also known as a very physical practice that requires coordination, and this can be seen as a legitimate challenge to kids who want to see how they match up. Essentially, an insecure bully might feel the need to put down the child who does martial arts in order to make him or herself feel better (though we know this isn’t the outcome).

If your child is joining martial arts for the first time, it leaves them vulnerable because the practice is known as a self-defense system. Still, your child won’t actually have the tools needed to defend themselves in any situation. This is especially true for the first year of training.

Bullies will take notice of this and purposefully choose them to see how much they know or how tough they are. And if the bully is successful, it can lead to consistent bullying until your child can defend themselves.

But one of the best things about martial arts is that if your child can use the bullying as motivation, it can actually accelerate their learning. Given enough time, the child can learn the skills and tools needed to take action in a situation where they are getting picked on. 

This is unlike other activities they might be involved in that won’t give them these tools, but the child may end up dealing with the bullying until the oppressor gets bored or the child learns techniques to handle it (However, it is always suggested that the target of bullies reaches out to adults for help at the first sign of bullying, and his/her martial arts instructor will be a valuable resource for support). 

How Martial Arts Helps Children Deal with Bullying

It’s no secret that martial arts can help your child learn the physical skills needed to defend themselves if being attacked. But there are other ways martial arts can prevent bullying with nothing to do with kicks and punches.

Martial Arts Can Improve Their Confidence

Bullies will pick on children who seem less confident about themselves and are less able to speak up and defend themselves. 

One of the major lessons that all martial arts teaches children is to believe in themselves and their capabilities.

Slowly, over time, this will help your child understand that they do have what it takes to get what they want in life and to believe they are capable. 

This improved confidence can change your child’s expressions and demeanor and should prove paramount to stopping the bullying behavior in its tracks (and perhaps, even keep the bullies from bothering other children too!).

Discipline Helps Prevent Strong Reactions

When a child gets picked on, it will be incredibly hard for them not to react or do something that might cause the bully to take the situation even further. Or worse, the bully might take this as a challenge and choose to make it a consistent problem.

Martial arts teaches children how to embody discipline and to act correctly in almost any situation. These skills can help keep your child from saying something inappropriate when a bully is trying to dominate a situation. 

It can also help your children to remember their training in a situation that is often flooded with emotions. These emotions are the typical cause of reacting to a situation instead of remaining calm and being proactive.

Strong Body Language Puts Out Confidence

Along with self-confidence, martial arts can teach your child how to be comfortable in their own body and how to hold themselves to exude that confidence. 

After several lessons from a martial arts instructor, you will notice your child holding their body posture in the following ways:

  • Head held high instead of looking down
  • Eyebrows positioned naturally instead of in a concerned or sad state
  • Shoulders are back (but not way back) and aligned to feet
  • Back is straight, instead of curved and hunched over
  • Walking stride is larger and more direct instead of loose and dangly

When a bully doesn’t see this type of body language in a child that is backed by self-confidence, they can target them specifically because they appear vulnerable. Many times this body posture is all that’s needed to stop a bully!

Kids Learn Self-Defense To Be Prepared

The most apparent advantage to martial arts helping your child from being bullied is the ability to physically defend themselves if needed. 

All of the techniques below will give your child the tools necessary for any physical confrontation.

  • Speed
  • Power
  • Finesse
  • Stamina
  • Punching
  • Kicking
  • Reversals
  • Ground game

What’s special about martial arts compared to other physical activities like boxing is that there is an emphasis on these techniques being used only in self-defense situations.

Pair that with lessons on self-discipline and confidence, and your child should be well-rounded enough to only use these techniques when necessary. This will prevent them from becoming the exact type of person they are trying to avoid.

Preventing Bullying as A Parent

There may be an easier solution to helping your child from being picked on than hoping they can take care of it themselves. Using the following tips to stop the bullying from happening before your child needs to use what they’ve learned from the dojo.

Talk to The Child’s Parent

If you know who the bully is that your kid is suffering from, it may be helpful to give the parent a call or, better yet, head over to their home to have a more personal talk.

Parents don’t want to think their child is a bully, so there is almost 100% chance the parent doesn’t know this is happening. Simply having a conversation will solve the problem. I can attest to this personally!

When I was in middle school, I found myself (and my friends) a target of bullying. My friends and I stuck out because we were shy and a bit nerdy, being in the honors class.

At first the bullying consisted of just verbal insults which we ignored but then escalated to physical threats (as often happens when bullies aren’t stopped right away).

That’s when I told my mom. She happened to know the mom of the ringleader and promptly called her up (I was aghast, of course, thinking it would get worse for my friends and me). But as we all soon learn in life, mom knew best! The other mother was shocked, embarrassed, and vowed the bullying would stop immediately…and it did, making me the hero of my friends!  

If you decide to talk to the bully’s parent, like my mom did, you might even decide to schedule a time for the children to meet and hang out in a more neutral situation with supervision. Chances are, without the pressures of being judged by their peers, the children could actually have a real connection and change how they interact with each other.

Talk to Your School’s Teachers

If talking with the parent doesn’t work, it may be time to take more immediate action where policies and guidelines are in your favor. 

Give a call to your school and talk with your children’s teachers to see if they’ve noticed any inappropriate behavior towards your kid from other students. You can also ask them to keep an extra eye out for the child in case they see anything they can take action on without letting it escalate.

As a former teacher, I know most teachers will do their best to take charge but if it doesn’t work, or you find yourself being ignored by teacher, then it’s time to invest the principal’s support. I guarantee you, the principal will certainly confront the teacher and/or intervene directly with the bully.

Sometimes, it will also lead to the entire school adopting an anti-bullying campaign: assemblies, task forces or committees, lessons from the guidance counseling team and so on. I’ve even seen situations where children who were once bullied, as well as ‘former’ bullies, enlisted in the efforts to stop bullying at the school, empowering them all as part of the prevention.

Picking On Martial Arts Kids Takeaway…

Bullies will pick on children who are different and sometimes this means children who participate in martial arts. But if your child can use these situations as motivations, then it can accelerate their learning and give them the tools needed to defend themselves in any situation.

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