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Child Bullying, Confidence, self-Defence & Judo

Child Bullying, Confidence, self-Defence and Judo

Having been bullied as a child (in fact it was one of the reasons I took up Judo) I have done a lot of research over the years on this subject. These days we know a lot about what contributes to a person becoming a bully. Unfortunately, there is still a great deal of work needed to solve the problem but here is some of my experience.

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I have a self-defence program (defense is the US spelling) as a regular part of my classes that is based on a program called the Protective Behaviors Program that I learned from the Victorian Police (Australia).

There is a lot of good work going on in schools with Anti child bullying. Nevertheless, from time to time, I still get some parents coming to me about their children having difficulty in school. This is why my mind has been set working once again.

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School Anti-Bullying Programs

Some schools have introduced good Anti-Bullying programs such as but not limited to:
  • Mentoring programs
  • where older children are expected to spend time with younger children

  • Confrontation programs
  • where the child who has been creating problems for other children, is required, with both sets of parents and a moderator present, to confront the child or children they have been creating problems for and helped to understand the effect they are having on themselves and others

  • Child to Child Mediation
  • (my personal favourite) where the children are taught how to mediate disputes between children and under supervision mediation sessions are set up

If your school has introduced such a child bullying program or is thinking of doing so, I encourage you to get behind it as much as you are able. These programs have had some very good results but in order to maintain their effectiveness they need to be monitored and concerned adults who have studied the program well are still the best ones to monitor them.

Sometimes, the only thing that can be done is for the bully to have professional counselling and sometimes you may have to force that issue.

If your school does not have an Anti child bullying program in place, I encourage you to lobby them to do so.

The programs that schools introduce have many different names. Sometimes they are called the above, sometimes "Harm Minimisation".

Ask questions

Just because it has the right name does not mean it is any good. There are some next to useless programs out there and some that are even harmful in my opinion.

Ask questions. Read up on the available material (both from the school and other sources). Be satisfied that the program is working. If there are problems lobby and work with the school to fix them.

Many times programs are adopted because they come from the right source and are assumed to be good. This is not always true and schools are often grateful to have it pointed out to them and have help correcting it. If they are not.....

DON'T just tolerate it.

Fight to have it changed or in the worst-case change schools!!!!!!


Yet all this good work, there is still an ongoing problem. Things like telling the teacher 'do' have some effect but often have as many bad results.

Over time the only thing that has remained constant is that confidence is the biggest factor that affects bullying.

I have literally asked hundreds of Martial artists over the years and all but one have said to me that within a very short time of them starting Martial Arts (just about any Martial Art as much as I would like to say that Judo is the only way, it's not), the bullying stopped without then lifting a finger. Confidence was the only factor they could put it down to.

The one exception said the only way it stopped for him was to beat the living daylights out of those who were picking on him. It seems that despite all our best efforts to avoid it, sometimes force has to be applied to restrain violence.


The one thing in my life that was different to some children is that the ones that are still having the problem don't compete.

I cannot recommend competition enough. Any competition from any sport. I encourage any parents that are concerned about bullying in their child's life to try to encourage their child into competitions. If your child already competes in a team sport and is still having confidence problems, then individual competition is worth a try. Judo of course has regular competitions. There is a huge confidence factor introduced into one's life when one has to confront an opponent who is out to score against you.

Bullying is a complex problem

Bullying is a complex problem and I don't confess to having all the answers. In all my best efforts I have failed in at least two cases that I know of. It is only two students but it's two too many.

My first failure

My first failure was many years before I developed my current self-defence program. In those days, because of my own experience, I had not conceived that one could apply Judo more specifically as I have now.

In this case, the child persisted for many years with Judo and even entered competitions. He never won one, which was normally fine as winning is not critical to confidence.

All my other students who came to me needing help with bullying had, over time, been helped. Most without ever entering a competition. Their own confidence became so developed that, as with all the above mentioned Martial artists, the bullying just disappeared. In the worst cases, I convince them to enter competitions and they found that winning was not necessary to the development of their confidence sufficient to make the bullying go away.

But this student eventually gave up Judo as it didn't help him. Follow up was met with silence. One day I hope to catch up with him to find out how life went with him.

My second failure

In the second case, it was the child's Mum that relayed the information to me. He had only one class and would not come to class anymore.

My first reaction to this was, as I said to the mother, "you need to give it time to learn enough to apply to his situation". But the child didn't care. All he knew was that he was desperate. He needed something to happen immediately. He wanted something that he could apply after one lesson and quite when he was bullied the day after he started because, in his words, "I hadn't learned anything from Judo that helped me".

I felt the child's pain and it was this instance that prompted me to create the self-defence program I have today. It has tactics that can be used the very next day after just one class.

I can't pretend to have all the answers. Nor can I say that my self-defence program is 100% effective. What I can say is that I know it has helped.

Conclusion: Things that we know help

The complexity of child bullying is beyond doubt but there are things that we know help:
  • Confidence (the single biggest factor)
  • Competition
  • Anti Child Bullying Programs

But whilst parental involvement is not the biggest factor, it is imperative. If a child knows that someone cares and is willing to put that care into wise action (actions that protect and do not make the situation worse), it is a huge factor in children overcoming and building confidence.

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