How I Stopped Being a Bully

Andrew Boquet

I've been involved in Martial Arts for a long time, and recently opened Impact Martial Arts here in Draper, Utah. Throughout my time in the martial arts I've been able to work with lots of kids and have seen the devastating ways bullying can hurt people. I've also been able to see both sides of bullying because in my youth I was actually the one bullying others. It's not something I'm proud of, but it does give me a different perspective when considering the bullying issues kids are facing today.


The Debate About Bullying


Even with the increased awareness about bullying there always seems to be an ongoing debate when it comes to bullying. Some people see bullying as a major problem facing society, and one that needs to be addressed as often as possible in order to protect those who are exposed to it. Others think that bullying really isn't that big of an issue, arguing that people might just need a thicker skin to deal with bullying incidents.


While I don't agree with the notion that bullying isn't an issue, I can understand why some parents might feel this way. I don't think they're necessarily bad parents, in many instances they're just doing what they think is best to prepare their kids for what life might have in store for them. There are always going to be people who are mean, or people who try to put you down. Adults face those things in the workplace and kids face them at school, but they're never going to go away entirely. So in some ways we do need to teach kids to have thicker skin and have the ability to not let every little thing bother them. However, bullying isn't the same as being bothered. Bullying is ongoing and hurtful behavior that can have lasting issues on the victim, and is most definitely an issue that should be addressed.


Bullying Evolves


It's easy for parents to say they had bullying in their day so they know how things are now, but they're actually very different. Yes, bullying existed twenty years ago, thirty years ago, seventy years ago, and even much further back than that. To say that bullying is the same now as it was that long ago is like saying cars are the same now as they were then. It's not the case because time moves things forward and evolves them.


Bullying is not static - it is dynamic and ever changing. No situation is entirely the same, especially nowadays. When I was in school bullying was really a face-to-face interaction. A bully might harass another child by calling them names, pushing them around, or getting more physical. Of course that type of bullying still exists now, but things have been made even more complicated with the way social media and technology have taken over kids' lives. Bullying doesn't have to be face-to-face anymore and can happen miles away.


Because if this, I think the online bullying is actually a lot worse than the face-to-face. One big reason is that with online bullying it can be much lonelier. Online bullying victims are probably alone when it happens, on their phone or in their room on the computer. They could be on Facebook or browsing the Internet and get a message saying "everyone hates you" or "kill yourself". When that happens the victim is alone with no one to turn to and I think this is why we're seeing more instances of suicide. During a face-to-face interaction at least there might be other people around, friends or adults to turn to. When it happens and the person is all alone it makes it that much more difficult to cope with.


Bullying And Schools


While online bullying is on the rise and a major issue, the majority of bullying incidents are still happening in schools from peers. It makes sense because it's a place where children spend six or more hours a day, five days a week, dealing with the same kids over and over and not always supervised. In some cases schools are very well prepared to deal with bullying, but oftentimes they're very lacking in proper bully prevention.


I don't want to paint every school with a bad brush. Public schools all across America are underfunded, understaffed, overworked, and shoulder an intense workload. Increased pressures in testing, hitting standards, and other classroom mandates add more stress to an already demanding job. That being said, it does seem that a lot of teachers are either woefully underprepared or simply unwilling to look at the bullying problems and do anything to fix them. I can't say if it's out of fear of facing administrative action or of parents suing, but too often it seems like nothing happens at all in schools when bullying it apparent. Kids are left on their own to deal with things. It's very sad, especially because for some kids school is the closest thing to a safe place they have in their lives.


Martial Arts For Bullies


Since schools aren't able to handle the threat of bullying well enough to protect every child, my number one recommendation for how to bullyproof a child is to enroll them in a martial arts program. I've seen firsthand how a martial arts program can help on both sides of a bullying situation. I mentioned earlier that when I was a kid I was actually the bully, and martial arts changed the course of my life. Although I bullied more than one kid, the one who got most of my attention eventually started in a martial arts program. I saw the changes in how he carried himself and what martial arts did for him and decided that I wanted to join, also. It was a very humbling experience for me because the master instructor of the school told me that if I wanted to join I had to call the kid I'd bullied and ask him for permission to join the school. Thankfully he said yes, and I don't think I'd be where I am today if he hadn't.


For me, as the bully, martial arts helped because it gave me something I was lacking. I think that anyone who bullies does it because they have issues in their own lives and that was certainly true for me. I didn't have a great childhood and spent a lot of time alone. There were a lot of things that happened in my life that I blamed myself for and I was just a really sad kid. Bullying was my way of lashing out, of making other people feel the same kind of hurt that I was because I didn't know how else to cope. I guess I needed to know that others were feeling bad, also, and if I was the one causing them to feel bad it gave me some control so I could feel better for a short time.


Almost immediately after starting martial arts I stopped being a bully. The training gave me a sense of belonging that I hadn't felt before. I became a part of a peer group that I felt safe with and who made me feel like I was important, and I knew that bullying was never tolerated by anyone. Once I felt better about myself I didn't have the need to make other people feel worse. I had more respect for other people and a sense of pride in myself, and I felt like I represented the martial arts school and wanted to be a good example.


Martial Arts For Anyone


The classmate I'd been bullying was my first exposure to martial arts training and how powerful it can be. When I started bullying him he was shy, introverted, and afraid of his own shadow. He wouldn't talk to anybody and was an easy target for someone like me who was looking to hurt another person. Martial arts completely changed that for him. I don't mean he turned into Bruce Lee and beat me up, but he didn't need to. Instead, he gained this air of confidence that completely changed how he was perceived by others. He didn't need to punch me in the face to get me to stop, all he had to do was look me in the eyes and say, "This isn't ok, and you're not allowed to treat me this way!" Martial arts gave him the ability to know how he deserved to be treated and not be willing to accept anything less.


Being a martial arts school owner myself now I'm able to see how many other kids have similar experiences. Some students come to me so shy that they can't even speak up, and within a few classes they're yelling and using their voice. They see that they're in a safe place where no one is going to be a bully, and it's amazing to see how they grow into the young people they're meant to be instead of letting bullies control who they get to be. We develop both physical and mental skills, so kids learn to be social and develop their confidence there. They also build up self-esteem through self-defense training. When a child has true confidence in their physical ability along with their social ability they genuinely feel good and proud about themselves, and that's why martial arts are so unique.


Further Steps For Parents


Like I said, I think the first step is to enroll a child in a martial arts program. Whether the child is a bully, a victim, or you're taking a preemptive approach before either happens, it's a great thing for anyone to be involved in. Once you find a program I encourage you to get personal with the instructor. They're there to help you and will be willing to do whatever it takes to help your child. If you don't feel like that connection is there, you should immediately find a different facility and meet with that instructor. Most people I know in the martial arts are good and caring professionals that you'd love to work with, so don't be willing to settle for anything less.


Also, be ready to be a part of something bigger than just you and your child. When you join a quality martial arts school you're joining a community of like-minded people who all share in common goals for their kids. It's almost like being a part of a family - everyone is there to help and support one another. The great thing about that is between the instructor and other parents in the school you'll have access to people and resources that you wouldn't be able to find on your own. You'll never have to worry about dealing with bullying issues or other concerns on your own because you're part of a team that will be there for you. It's a very powerful thing, and another reason why martial arts is such a great place for families.


Moving Forward


I recently competed in and won my second mixed martial arts fight. With me at that fight was one of my best friends and someone I wouldn't have been able to get through the fight without - he was also the kid I used to bully and who allowed me to train with him when I was younger. I share this story to show that bullying is complex, but can be overcome regardless of which side a child falls on if they have the right opportunities.


Bullying is a hard thing for anyone to go through whether they're the victim, bully, parent, friend, or family member, but it's not something that's impossible to combat. By getting a better understanding of what bullying is and how it works, as well as some strategies and resources that can be used, we can make a difference in the lives of children everywhere. It's also important to remember that bullying isn't something you have to go through alone. Seek out a program like martial arts that can help, and good luck in your bullyproofing!I've been involved in Martial Arts for a long time, and recently opened Impact Martial Arts here in Draper, Utah. Throughout my time in the martial arts I've been able to work with lots of kids and have seen the devastating ways bullying can hurt people. I've also been able to see both sides of bullying because in my youth I was actually the one bullying others. It's not something I'm proud of, but it does give me a different perspective when considering the bullying issues kids are facing today.


The Debate About Bullying


Even with the increased awareness about bullying there always seems to be an ongoing debate when it comes to bullying. Some people see bullying as a major problem facing society, and one that needs to be addressed as often as possible in order to protect those who are exposed to it. Others think that bullying really isn't that big of an issue, arguing that people might just need a thicker skin to deal with bullying incidents.


While I don't agree with the notion that bullying isn't an issue, I can understand why some parents might feel this way. I don't think they're necessarily bad parents, in many instances they're just doing what they think is best to prepare their kids for what life might have in store for them. There are always going to be people who are mean, or people who try to put you down. Adults face those things in the workplace and kids face them at school, but they're never going to go away entirely. So in some ways we do need to teach kids to have thicker skin and have the ability to not let every little thing bother them. However, bullying isn't the same as being bothered. Bullying is ongoing and hurtful behavior that can have lasting issues on the victim, and is most definitely an issue that should be addressed.


Bullying Evolves


It's easy for parents to say they had bullying in their day so they know how things are now, but they're actually very different. Yes, bullying existed twenty years ago, thirty years ago, seventy years ago, and even much further back than that. To say that bullying is the same now as it was that long ago is like saying cars are the same now as they were then. It's not the case because time moves things forward and evolves them.


Bullying is not static - it is dynamic and ever changing. No situation is entirely the same, especially nowadays. When I was in school bullying was really a face-to-face interaction. A bully might harass another child by calling them names, pushing them around, or getting more physical. Of course that type of bullying still exists now, but things have been made even more complicated with the way social media and technology have taken over kids' lives. Bullying doesn't have to be face-to-face anymore and can happen miles away.


Because if this, I think the online bullying is actually a lot worse than the face-to-face. One big reason is that with online bullying it can be much lonelier. Online bullying victims are probably alone when it happens, on their phone or in their room on the computer. They could be on Facebook or browsing the Internet and get a message saying "everyone hates you" or "kill yourself". When that happens the victim is alone with no one to turn to and I think this is why we're seeing more instances of suicide. During a face-to-face interaction at least there might be other people around, friends or adults to turn to. When it happens and the person is all alone it makes it that much more difficult to cope with.


Bullying And Schools


While online bullying is on the rise and a major issue, the majority of bullying incidents are still happening in schools from peers. It makes sense because it's a place where children spend six or more hours a day, five days a week, dealing with the same kids over and over and not always supervised. In some cases schools are very well prepared to deal with bullying, but oftentimes they're very lacking in proper bully prevention.


I don't want to paint every school with a bad brush. Public schools all across America are underfunded, understaffed, overworked, and shoulder an intense workload. Increased pressures in testing, hitting standards, and other classroom mandates add more stress to an already demanding job. That being said, it does seem that a lot of teachers are either woefully underprepared or simply unwilling to look at the bullying problems and do anything to fix them. I can't say if it's out of fear of facing administrative action or of parents suing, but too often it seems like nothing happens at all in schools when bullying it apparent. Kids are left on their own to deal with things. It's very sad, especially because for some kids school is the closest thing to a safe place they have in their lives.


Martial Arts For Bullies


Since schools aren't able to handle the threat of bullying well enough to protect every child, my number one recommendation for how to bullyproof a child is to enroll them in a martial arts program. I've seen firsthand how a martial arts program can help on both sides of a bullying situation. I mentioned earlier that when I was a kid I was actually the bully, and martial arts changed the course of my life. Although I bullied more than one kid, the one who got most of my attention eventually started in a martial arts program. I saw the changes in how he carried himself and what martial arts did for him and decided that I wanted to join, also. It was a very humbling experience for me because the master instructor of the school told me that if I wanted to join I had to call the kid I'd bullied and ask him for permission to join the school. Thankfully he said yes, and I don't think I'd be where I am today if he hadn't.


For me, as the bully, martial arts helped because it gave me something I was lacking. I think that anyone who bullies does it because they have issues in their own lives and that was certainly true for me. I didn't have a great childhood and spent a lot of time alone. There were a lot of things that happened in my life that I blamed myself for and I was just a really sad kid. Bullying was my way of lashing out, of making other people feel the same kind of hurt that I was because I didn't know how else to cope. I guess I needed to know that others were feeling bad, also, and if I was the one causing them to feel bad it gave me some control so I could feel better for a short time.


Almost immediately after starting martial arts I stopped being a bully. The training gave me a sense of belonging that I hadn't felt before. I became a part of a peer group that I felt safe with and who made me feel like I was important, and I knew that bullying was never tolerated by anyone. Once I felt better about myself I didn't have the need to make other people feel worse. I had more respect for other people and a sense of pride in myself, and I felt like I represented the martial arts school and wanted to be a good example.


Martial Arts For Anyone


The classmate I'd been bullying was my first exposure to martial arts training and how powerful it can be. When I started bullying him he was shy, introverted, and afraid of his own shadow. He wouldn't talk to anybody and was an easy target for someone like me who was looking to hurt another person. Martial arts completely changed that for him. I don't mean he turned into Bruce Lee and beat me up, but he didn't need to. Instead, he gained this air of confidence that completely changed how he was perceived by others. He didn't need to punch me in the face to get me to stop, all he had to do was look me in the eyes and say, "This isn't ok, and you're not allowed to treat me this way!" Martial arts gave him the ability to know how he deserved to be treated and not be willing to accept anything less.


Being a martial arts school owner myself now I'm able to see how many other kids have similar experiences. Some students come to me so shy that they can't even speak up, and within a few classes they're yelling and using their voice. They see that they're in a safe place where no one is going to be a bully, and it's amazing to see how they grow into the young people they're meant to be instead of letting bullies control who they get to be. We develop both physical and mental skills, so kids learn to be social and develop their confidence there. They also build up self-esteem through self-defense training. When a child has true confidence in their physical ability along with their social ability they genuinely feel good and proud about themselves, and that's why martial arts are so unique.


Further Steps For Parents


Like I said, I think the first step is to enroll a child in a martial arts program. Whether the child is a bully, a victim, or you're taking a preemptive approach before either happens, it's a great thing for anyone to be involved in. Once you find a program I encourage you to get personal with the instructor. They're there to help you and will be willing to do whatever it takes to help your child. If you don't feel like that connection is there, you should immediately find a different facility and meet with that instructor. Most people I know in the martial arts are good and caring professionals that you'd love to work with, so don't be willing to settle for anything less.


Also, be ready to be a part of something bigger than just you and your child. When you join a quality martial arts school you're joining a community of like-minded people who all share in common goals for their kids. It's almost like being a part of a family - everyone is there to help and support one another. The great thing about that is between the instructor and other parents in the school you'll have access to people and resources that you wouldn't be able to find on your own. You'll never have to worry about dealing with bullying issues or other concerns on your own because you're part of a team that will be there for you. It's a very powerful thing, and another reason why martial arts is such a great place for families.


Moving Forward


I recently competed in and won my second mixed martial arts fight. With me at that fight was one of my best friends and someone I wouldn't have been able to get through the fight without - he was also the kid I used to bully and who allowed me to train with him when I was younger. I share this story to show that bullying is complex, but can be overcome regardless of which side a child falls on if they have the right opportunities.


Bullying is a hard thing for anyone to go through whether they're the victim, bully, parent, friend, or family member, but it's not something that's impossible to combat. By getting a better understanding of what bullying is and how it works, as well as some strategies and resources that can be used, we can make a difference in the lives of children everywhere. It's also important to remember that bullying isn't something you have to go through alone. Seek out a program like martial arts that can help, and good luck in your bullyproofing!

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In adhering to current recommendations and/or requirements given by local government and health departments, we our current policy for our classes is as follows:

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