Can Martial Arts Training Stop Bullying?

May 3rd 2012

Contributing Guest Blogger Gary Edwards

Head MMA coach at Laurel Mountain MMA, North Carolina

Bullies are here to stay. A recent awareness to the bullying outcry in the media won’t completely deter the bully bashing, but it will bring more awareness to the problem. I can’t say I was ever successfully bullied as a child, but the attempts were always there. The difference in my bully encounters was how I handled myself and reacted to the situation. Would I give credit to my avoidance of insecure bullies to my upbringing in martial arts? Absolutely.

Karate classes started at the ripe young age of 5 for me. I loved martial arts! I didn’t join because of being bullied or because my parents made me, I genuinely loved punching and kicking from the age of 2. (At least this is what my father says.) I also thought that the movie Karate Kid was made just for me, and one day I would enter the Kumite alongside Jean Claude Van Damme for the sequel of Bloodsport.

From an early age, I was taught discipline and to respect others. I was also taught to believe in myself and to walk with confidence. Some people might think the obvious reason I wasn’t bullied was because I could fight back and beat up my foe, but that wasn’t always the case. Being picked on had nothing to do with whether I could beat up the bully. It had to do with my reaction and self confidence to either verbally work my way around the confrontation or sometimes physically fight back, if it was the last resort. I had the confidence to do both and this confidence came from years of martial arts training.

A bully is no different than a robber on the streets. Bullies target the easiest prey. They seek out kids who are easy to bully. If they sense power or danger, most bullies will move on to a new victim. I believe that some sort of social group interaction besides school is great for kids. This interaction doesn’t always have to be sports or physical…it could be music, dance, art, etc. Anything that teaches kids how to interact with different types of personalities. Obviously, this is just my opinion, and I wish all bullying could come to an end, but I just don’t see that happening. A lot of kids who are acting out on others in school are being picked on by their parents or siblings at home. They are just doing what is done to them…so instruction to treat all peers equally would have to start at the top and work its way down.

I am grateful that I had a love for martial arts early on, but it makes me wonder how many other people joined out of fear from bullying or to learn how to protect themselves from bullies? The world would be a better place if we could all learn humility and respect from martial arts training. Throw that bully in a karate class for a few months and I can almost guarantee you he will never bully another kid again, but instead come to their aid to protect them and make a friend.

For more on bullying and how to help prevent it, visit

What do you think is the solution to stop bullying? Did you start martial arts training based on an interest that had nothing to do with bullying or did you seek out martial arts to learn how to defend yourself?

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