The world is becoming a tougher place for bullies with the help of local martial arts

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Taekwondo champion and Aspire Martial Arts Studio owner Johnnie Morris explained the problems of bullying in no uncertain terms to nearly thirty children who attended his Bullying Prevention seminar in Rancho San Diego on Sept. 21.

Taekwondo champion and Aspire Martial Arts Studio owner Johnnie Morris explained the problems of bullying in no uncertain terms to nearly thirty children who attended his Bullying Prevention seminar in Rancho San Diego on Sept. 21.

An hour of free time on a Saturday is hard to come by for many families, but recognizing the justified momentum of bullying awareness, they carved time into their weekend to learn what constitutes bullying, how to handle it, and how to prevent it. Morris was enthusiastic and prepared to inform parents and their children, who are the most vulnerable demographic to bullies. Morris began his seminar with a sobering statistic.

“One out of three kids are bullied,” he said. 

Morris had the undivided attention the different children sitting on the mat of his studio. Soccer players, siblings, shy kids and quiet kids, and kids who are Morris’ enrolled students as they began watching an interactive bullying prevention video.  Produced by the American Taekwondo Association’s Bullying Prevention program, which is based on the Olweus Bullying System, the first step in the video required the viewers to stand up straight, raise their right hand, put their chin up, and take a Bullying Prevention Promise. They promised to refrain from bullying, help kids who are bullied, include kids who are left out, and inform adults about bullying.

“Bullying is doing mean or hurtful things to those who can’t defend themselves,” Morris told the group of pre-school age to middle school aged kids. He walked through and around the seated group, arms behind his back, speaking amicably and authoritatively.

 “It’s an imbalance of power or strength that usually involves name calling, the most common form of bullying,” he said.

Animated enactments as well as acted situations were used to connect with the young viewers. If the children watching the video had not been in similar hypothetical situations as shown on the video, the subject matter and setting was approachable and familiar, so any child who watched it could not only relate, but react.

If ignoring a bully (denying them the attention the seek) does not work, reaction is appropriate, according to the ATA video and Morris. But what kind of reaction is best? What do you do if you are bullied? 

Morris then divided the children into four groups. Each child repeatedly practiced responses to bullies. From tactical breathing (in through the nose, out through the mouth), to standing tall and looking confident, the body language of the children attending began to change. Morris instructed them to pull their shoulders back, how to pull away from an advancing bully, and verbally assert themselves rather than pleading with potential aggressors. By the end of the hour, they were a group of kids who understood how to handle an unfortunate situation in the school halls or cafeteria when they might be alone. 

“I used to be one of those kids getting bullied,” said Morris. “I truly believe it was martial arts training that helped me develop the self-confidence and courage to handle those bullying situations without getting in physical confrontation.”

A fourth degree black belt, Morris was taught restraint unless he felt threatened with physical harm. As the ATA video and Morris showed the children, so many bullying situations could be diffused before violence escalates.

“Be confident, speak up, and defend,” he told the children as he handed out stickers and wristbands marked “Defenders.” Aspire Martial Arts offers programs for children and adults. 

“No matter what disability or challenge a child faces, they are accepted to train in martial arts here at Aspire,” he said.

For class descriptions, testimonials and more, visit www.aspireata.com.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and Unite Against Bullying Day comes on October 9th (wear orange to show your support). Resources for bullying prevention can be found at www.pacer.org/bullying/nbpm. To learn more about the ATA video log onto www.atadefender.com.