Batman and Spider-Man love to beat up bad guys. How do they beat them up? They use martial arts (along with some exceptional gadgets and strength). When I was young, Martial Artists were thought to be superheros. They had “special” powers that a great majority of the people around them didn’t have. After being an instructor for over 14 years now, I use the superhero analogy to teach kids about the power they possess. What is the advantage to this? Well, the world is made up of several different kinds of people. Some of the people in this world are not nice. There are people out there who enjoy hurting others or animals. There are people who sit idly by while others hurt people.
There are then those people who try to protect others from people who mean to do harm.
Now, when you are in charge of teaching children, you never know which of these people your students will turn out to be. It is the wolf, sheep, and sheepdog example.
I have encountered a lot of bully situations over the course of teaching kids for years. I have been told about students of mine who are being bullied and that is one of the main reasons they are now involved in martial arts. I have also heard about the people who have witnessed bullying and are now enrolled in order to avoid ever being one of the victims. I have also been involved with kids who have decided to go down that path of bullying others. It is present in schools, public, and even in gyms where kids are learning martial arts. Now, is it my duty as a coach to intervene when I know these situations are going on? Am I over-stepping my bounds by getting involved? Is it even my business? My answer to these questions is yes, no, yes respectively.
It is my duty as a coach to teach those who would be bullied to defend themselves. It is not to teach them to go out looking for trouble, or to teach a bullied child combat tactics with the intention of that child going out to do harm to the bully. It is a responsibility that I take very serious when I am informed about any situation that involves bullying on any level. It is my duty to teach kids that are in a situation where they are a bully that it is wrong and there are people out there that they should protect, not hurt. Through the process of martial arts training, bullies learn that it is painful when someone bigger, stronger or more skilled than them does physical damage. Empathy is a great teacher. It is also great when kids who stand by, or are being bullied gain confidence that there are techniques that can help them overcome situations where they would otherwise be harmed.
Is it my business? Of course it is. Literally and metaphorically, it is my business. I am paid to teach martial arts and the mentality that goes along with it. When I am entrusted to teach martial arts, I am also entrusted to help with kids that may otherwise cause problems in society. Martial arts teaches virtue and discipline. Those kids that are the wolves described in the first paragraph, will actually probably become the sheepdogs. One thing is for certain, they won’t be the sheep…