Do We Really Have A Bullying Epidemic Going On Right Now?
My no bullshit take on bullying , if it is more widespread now than ever and how/if we can ever stop it.
You may have read my Blogs in the past, be a member of my Martial Arts gym or this could be your first experience reading one of my blogs. While I normally cover Wrestling and Martial Arts , today I am delving into a topic that while doesn't directly involve them, does reflect on how they can help prevent it. Before we get started , let me say that I am not always what some may call politically correct and I tend to shoot from the hip. So , I am going to give you my no bullshit view on how I see Bullying today. It seems to pop up on our social media feeds every couple of months. Some story of a kid who had gotten bullied at school with a heartbreaking video of him crying in his moms car. Bullying is nothing new , it has been around since the beginning of time and it is prevalent in our species among many others. Does the quote " only the strong survive" ring a bell? Well , our species has evolved since the stone age so while other species may kill their old , sick , weak or deformed counterparts , our societies have matured and evolved to not follow these practices. Is it still in our nature to do these things ? Who knows? But what I am trying to get at is that bullying is nothing new and I actually feel that it is happening far less than it used to. We as humans and our society is still continuing to evolve and whilst doing that , we are more compassionate towards others no matter what their shape , form , culture , beliefs etc. The thing that has grown is social media and the exposure certain cases of bullying are getting. I myself was born and raised in a small city called Hudson NY. I lived their until my mid teens and growing up in the 80's and 90's in a mixed race inner city school came with its exposure to bullying. Times were different back then, kids were much more physical and able to get aware with so much more with less punishment. You could say I was a late bloomer so I was probably the shortest and one of the smallest kids in my grade up until my later years in high school. Boys would always be trying to figure out who was who in the pecking order and that came along with bullying.
What is bullying exactly? I would define it as making fun of someone to an extent that they feel pain or embarrassment as well as using physical intimidation to do the same or get something from that person. Thats just my definition , shooting from the hip. Honestly , did this happen to me growing up? Not that often but it did. I was small but still pretty tough and played sports so I didn't have to face this so much. But coming from an inner city school, I was tested. I cant tell you how many times a bigger kid tried to intimidate me or bully me into getting something from me or for their own satisfaction. I think most of us can think of at least one or a few times for that matter in which this has happened. We may still be facing this as adults.
In todays society where cameras are everywhere , we are all seeing the effects of bullying first hand as people are recording the events and kids reactions afterword. While I think it is less accepted and widespread than it used to be , it still goes on and it is not ok. Here is the thing , I DON'T THINK IT IS EVER GOING TO STOP.
I think the best thing you can do is prevent it from happening to you or your child. I think most of the time , the victims of bullying have things in common. One of those things is a strong lack of self confidence in some way. Maybe they don't have a strong family or social structure at home. Maybe they are small , weak , have a disability or deformity or just feel like they don't fit in. There could be so many different reasons on why someone could be lacking the confidence it takes to not let others affect you in a negative manner. Sometimes Bullies can be cruel so I know its easier said than done when your told to just ignore someone. But if you are confident in yourself it makes it a whole lot easier. In my 20 years in Combat sports and Martial Arts , the one thing I have seen spread to my students that has helped them out in all areas of life is just that. SELF CONFIDENCE. Im not magic and either is stepping into our classes , but the self confidence a child gets from coming into a class and learning such strong techniques along with knowing they can REALLY defend themselves if they ever had to is invaluable. That coupled with belonging to a strong group of peers in our program has worked wonders. Having a strong group of friends to talk to , share your life with ,support you and vent to if needed is something unfortunately some people do not have. Ive been doing this 20 years and I cant think of 1 out of thousands of wrestlers Ive been in close contact with over the years get bullied. Same goes for my many students in Jiu Jitsu. Many of these children came to us after being bullied. They were in most cases shy , maybe a little different in their own way but in time after coming to a place where they could just feel they fit in , make friends and have fun , you start to see things change. At first they come out of their shell in the gym and later you see that spread into their everyday life. The sports of wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu also put you in many many vulnerable positions and situations that you have to defend from and work out of. Someone else is doing their best to impose their will on you. In a safe setting you get to learn to mentally cope with that and find a way out. I cannot tell you have valuable this is in life.
Unfortunately , just like most problems in society , we have people trying o exploit them and make money from them. Whether it is the media, the victim themselves or all of these anti-bullying programs. The media uses the videos to draw traffic . I actually saw a false case of bullying about a year or 2 ago when a kid got beat up from school. His mother posted a video of him in the car crying and the family actually ended up getting a huge amount of money through a go fund me page after. Turns out the family ended up having social media accounts toting confederate flags and racist comments and material and the kid was actually a pretty nasty kid who was video'd himself bullying others. He finally got what was coming to him and the family cashed in on it. This , I feel is a rare case but it is a case. Then we have the anti-bullying campaigns and programs. Im sorry, but I just don't feel like sitting down and listening to a speaker is going to change a bully mentality. I also don't think an hour speaker will be enough to help someone who is being bullied cope with more of these situations. Then we have some of the other martial arts.... I won't name them but.. standing on a safe mat with no real live sparring going on is not going to teach you to cope with a real life situation. Doing a kata and punching and kicking the air won't help either.
The best thing we can do is help ourselves and our children learn to cope with the negative things that society sometimes brings. Whether is be mentally or physically. Sometimes we don't know how to do that or teach it and if that is the case , get yourselves or your children into something like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu . At our academy , we not only push all of the things I stated above but I also preach accountability . I make sure our children know the difference between right and wrong and to think of others feelings. We have a strong support system here as many schools like mine do where a child or adult can come in and feel like they are home and a part of a family. Our adults have peers and our kids have lots of brothers and sisters and we are much stronger in life as a unit. This stuff isn't magic and Im not perfect or a genius. I myself as a kid have been a part of bullying that I am not proud of but just like maybe yourself or your child, what matters is that we identify that doing it is wrong and change. Like I said when I began this Blog , I think bullying will always be around but if we change ourselves so we aren't doing it and prepare ourselves so it doesn't affect us, the world will seem to be a better place. No one is going to do this for you. Telling on the bully at school will only make it stop for a day or so, so don't expect someone to save you or come to your rescue. It is up to you to keep yourself and your children safe. If your having a bully problem , come in and I will teach you how to solve it. Im not trying to cash in on bullying and Im not putting out anti bullying fliers or going to schools talking about it. I just hate seeing a video like the one I saw last night with a kid saying they want to kill themselves. You can come to my school or many of the ones like it and it will help.