The first time I was confronted with bullying was probably when I was a child. It’s so vague in my memory that I can’t even remember it, because the concepts of bullying didn’t really exist in Afghanistan. When I came to Canada, I figured it was normal to be taunted and called names. I was called racist names, mocked for wearing cheap clothes and so much more. But I just learned to deal with it, whether it was through humour or standing up for myself, I adjusted and through time, I got better at it. Sure, the words hurt but I learned to pick my battles and also learned to surround myself with people who shared common interests. Unfortunately, telling my parents about bullying was not an option because to them this was a sign of weakness.
At the age of 16, I started Taekwondo and I fell in love with the Martial Art. Looking back now, it helped me getaway from bullying because Taekwondo was a positive and nurturing environment. Also learning the basics of kicking and punching gave me confidence to stand up for myself. This doesn’t mean I got into fights with people, quite the contrary. It just means that when I said “Stop”, people listened. It also doesn’t mean I was never bullied again, instead I learned when to ignore it and when to stop it before it became too much.
After many years of being in Taekwondo, my brother called me to tell me his son was being bullied. He said, he was being picked on in the school bus, and that he was frustrated with the school’s response and that this was a regular occurrence. My first reaction was shock and anger. Why would someone pick on my nephew? At this point, I was a Taekwondo instructor at a recreational school but I had never really confronted the issue of bullying from someone else’s perspective. Obviously, if someone was picking on me, I would talk to them or find a way to solve the issue but how do I teach a child to stand up for themselves and not make the situation worse? At the time, I had no real answers for my brother. I wanted to help my nephew but just felt frustrated and helpless.
After years of research, discussions and talking to classrooms about bullying, I’ve learned the basics of overcoming bullying. First we must clearly define bullying. Bullying is the act of abuse by a powerful aggressor and a target that lacks the ability to fight back.
When children feel like they have a problem we must also teach them that they have options to solve it.
At our Taekwondo school we discuss issues of bullying regularly and we teach our students to deal with bullies with discipline and confidence.
First, we can ignore the bully. The old saying of ‘sticks and stones’ but most often words do hurt. If you can avoid the bully that is probably the best. However, we don’t want our students to skip class or hide. We do expect our students to “act” brave. We don’t want our student reacting to what someone says. We encourage our students to walk away or ignore them by pretending to text. The bully may soon realize that their intended target is not being affected and may move on.
Second, It’s important to talk to the bully and let them know that what they’re doing isn’t right. We teach children to stand up for themselves and confidently say “STOP, I don’t appreciate being called names.” Key is confidence. When a child says it like they mean it, it will make a difference.
Get a buddy or be a buddy because bullies like to pick on individuals but two is better than one. Always walk with a friend, whether at recess or after school. Bullies don’t like to pick on crowds.
If at any point, you feel physically threatened, you must stand up and defend yourself. We don’t encourage violence but we also don’t want our students to be victims.
To deal with problems, we encourage diplomacy and open communication by our students. We encourage students to involve parents, teachers and to clearly express how the situation makes them feel. When you can verbalize the emotions, often times it leads to solutions. We can’t completely eradicate bullying but we can build strong, confident people to overcome the abuse of power.
Master Farah is the owner and operator or Authentic Taekwondo in Markham. He also participates in many school events and talks about bullying and prevention.