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During my childhood, bullying was the primary thing holding me back in school, and I never wanted to attend school because of it. Schoolwork was incredibly easy compared to the constant verbal and physical assault from my peers and I often wished to be home-schooled. Looking back, I really wish I could’ve had more confidence and assertiveness in dealing with my bullies, I eventually did develop those traits, but teachers and counselors often didn’t offer enough to ever permanently solve my issues with bullying. The only thing that really ever solved the problem was learning martial arts and defending myself when bullies attacked. 

The first thing I should immediately state is that I have never truly believed that violence is the answer to any problem and that learning a martial art doesn’t promote that either. The importance of it is learning to defend yourself when danger or violence strikes you, not spread it to others. It also greatly helps in building a child’s confidence and promoting fitness in their life, it isn’t just about fighting and it certainly wasn’t that way for me. It felt like it was about learning a new way of life, learning how to respond instead of reacting and learning to protect myself both physically and emotionally. 

Martial arts aren’t just a physically good activity for a child though, it can also be incredibly social. When I attended my first class as a kid, I met new people, I realized that not everyone was bad or out to cause harm. It truly expanded my horizons and allowed me to become a much more social person as I grew up. I started having something to look forward to after school, whether it be practicing a new technique with friends or engaging in thrilling tournaments. I would talk enthusiastically with my parents at dinner about impressive new lessons my instructor taught and started finding friends with similar interests in school. It felt like the world was my oyster for the first time in my life and hopefully, your child would also experience that if they choose to practice a martial art. 

Now, I have spoken about the other benefits I experienced with learning a martial art, but in the end, I did learn it to help defend myself when I was attacked at school. I had quickly learned the essential lesson that teachers and other adults wouldn’t always be around to save me in these dangerous situations and that’s why I chose to learn it, so I could defend myself independently of others. This is something I look back on and actually find really interesting too, as I was an incredibly skinny kid that had a lot of trouble standing up to others. After practicing martial arts, I suddenly found myself being able to put bullies that were two times my size in submission holds and actually succeed in getting away from most fights uninjured. Even in the worst situations where I was at a significant disadvantage, I was able to subdue them until adults arrived and could break it up. Either way, bullies started to leave me alone, I was no longer an easy target and other peers with the same issues started to befriend and respect me. I didn’t loathe going to school anymore, it was now a place I wanted to go and without the confidence and techniques I learned from a martial art, I don’t think that change would have happened. 

I believe I have extensively discussed the benefits and how my world changed as a result of learning a martial art, but you may be asking, what specific techniques did I learn and what do I recommend? I personally learned Jiu-Jitsu, a martial art that focuses on grappling your opponent and subduing them. It was founded based on the concept that a smaller person, young or old, can find success in defending themselves against stronger and heavier opponents. Its concept is applied through perfectly executing the techniques one would learn, correctly using leverage and taking fights to the ground to apply choke-holds and joint locks if it was absolutely necessary. Another benefit of Jiu-Jitsu specifically is that its sparring and live drills focus on sparring without hurting the other as it simply isn’t focused on that. Instead, it’s focused on successfully applying the technique and causing your opponent to tap out when it’s executed, meaning no one actually gets hurt. Now, I am not saying that Jiu-Jitsu is the only martial art your child could use for self-defense, as there are many others that can serve the same purpose. Just some of the others that I recommend are: 

  • Muay
  • Krav
  • FMA 
  • Aikido
  • Hapkido

All of these are viable options for learning how to defend yourself in potentially dangerous situations and although I personally use Jiu-Jitsu, I have seen others attain great success with the rest of these. Lastly, I just wanted to mention that these self-defense techniques that I have learned have lasted me a lifetime and have protected me in situations as an adult just as much as when I was a child; Because of this, you and/or your partner could consider learning a martial art with your child, it could be a great bonding experience after all. 

In conclusion, learning a martial art is something that changed my life as a kid and it could change your child’s life as well. It didn’t just allow me to defend myself, it also gave me self-esteem and made me a much more mature person in general. It helped me make new friends and connect more with family as well; I truly got a new lease on life. I personally learned and recommend Jiu Jitsu, but there are other styles that are great for self-defense and I have seen others achieve great success with them. Overall, I think that learning any martial art can help children defend themselves from bullying and help them grow as people.