◊   Childen's Self-Defense (Tip #6), by Sensei Jayne Butrum, Nanadan
◊   Childen's Self-Defense (Tip #5), by Sensei Jayne Butrum, Nanadan
◊   Childen's Self-Defense (Tip #4), by Sensei Jayne Butrum, Nanadan
◊   Five Myths About Bullying, by Susan M. Swearer
◊   Childen's Self-Defense (Tip #3), by Sensei Jayne Butrum, Nanadan
◊   Childen's Self-Defense (Tip #2), by Sensei Jayne Butrum, Nanadan
◊   Childen's Self-Defense (Tip #1), by Sensei Jayne Butrum, Nanadan
◊   The Art of Teaching Children, by Sensei James A. True, Nanadan
◊   The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Karate Kids, by Sensei Jayne Butram, Nanadan
◊   Thoughts On Bullying, by Christopher M. Clarke, President
◊   Why Karate Is Good For Children, by Christopher M. Clarke, President

Childen's Self-Defense (Tip #6)

Jayne Butram, Nanadan

Adults shouldn't ask kids for help. (your parents can ask you to help though!) Sometimes they are trying to trick you by asking you to help find their lost pet or help them carry something to their car or give them directions. Adults should ask another adult for help. If you think a person really needs help tell your parents first. Talk to your parents about how people might trick you. Have them pretend to be the tricky adult and you get away. Be Smart, Be Safe.

Childen's Self-Defense (Tip #5)

Jayne Butram, Nanadan

You can't tell if someone is a good stranger or a bad stranger just by the way they look. Good strangers might not look so good and a bad stranger might look like a really nice person. Talk to your parents about who would be a good stranger and who would be a bad one. Be Smart, Be Safe.

Childen's Self-Defense (Tip #4)

Jayne Butram, Nanadan

All kids 3yrs old and up should know their name, address and phone #. Kids 4-5yrs and up should know at least one parents cell phone # and how to use it.Try making a song out of these, it's easier to remember all the numbers! Parents, if you're out in a crowd and your child doesn't know how to call you, write your cell # on them under a sleeve or pant leg where it doesn't show. Be Smart, Be Safe

Five Myths About Bullying

Susan M. Swearer
Washington Post

January 2, 2011

From schoolyards to workplaces and now to cyberspace as well, it seems that bullies are everywhere. New efforts to stop them and to help victims cope - such as the "It Gets Better" campaign - are gaining attention and popularity, but are they the best ways to protect kids and others from the worst forms of bullying? For them to have a fighting chance, let's first dispense with a few popular fallacies about getting picked on in America.

1. Most bullying now happens online.

Cyber-bullying has received enormous attention since the 2006 suicide of Megan Meier, an eighth-grader who was bullied on MySpace. The suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi - who jumped off the George Washington Bridge near Manhattan in September after his roommate streamed video of a sexual encounter between Clementi and another male student online - also grabbed headlines.

As tragic as they are, these high-profile cases should not distract from more traditional - and more prevalent - forms of bullying. Whether battling rumors about their sexual orientation, enduring criticism of their clothes or getting pushed around at recess, kids are bullied offline all the time. While it's hard to stereotype bullying behavior in every school in every town in America, experts agree that at least 25 percent of students across the nation are bullied in traditional ways: hit, shoved, kicked, gossiped about, intimidated or excluded from social groups.

In a recent survey of more than 40,000 U.S. high school students conducted by the Josephson Institute, which focuses on ethics, 47 percent said they were bullied in the past year. But, according to the 2007 book "Cyber Bullying," as few as 10 percent of bullying victims are cyber-bullied. Meanwhile, a study of fifth, eighth and 11th graders in Colorado that same year found that they were more likely to be bullied verbally or physically than online.

Of course, with increased access to computers, cellphones and wireless Internet - not to mention the exploding popularity of social media sites - cyber-bullying will be on the rise in the coming years. But for now, traditional forms of bullying are more common.

2. Bullies are bullies and victims are victims.

Actually, it is common for kids who are bullied at home by an older sibling or abused by a parent to become bullies themselves at school. Domestic violence and bullying feed each other. Researchers have found that elementary school bullies are more likely than non-bullies to have witnessed domestic violence during their preschool years. According to a 2007 study of bullying in Japan, South Africa and the United States, 72 percent of children who were physically abused by their parents became a bully, a victim of a bully or both.

But taking out their frustrations on kids at school doesn't help bullies. Researchers have found that bullies who are bullied themselves have higher rates of depression, anxiety, anger and low self-esteem than kids who are only bullies, only victims or who are not involved in bullying at all.

3. Bullying ends when you grow up.

Bullying is negative, mean, repetitive behavior that occurs in a relationship characterized by an imbalance of power. It can happen in a middle school - but it can also happen in an office. According to the Journal of Management Studies, nearly 50 percent of American workers have experienced or witnessed bullying in the workplace, even if they did not recognize it as such.

In that study, more than 400 workers in the United States completed an online survey about negative workplace behaviors. They were told that bullying occurs when an individual experiences "at least two negative acts, weekly or more often, for six or more months in situations where targets find it difficult to defend against and stop abuse." The workers reported verbal abuse (threatening, intimidating, critical and humiliating comments), physical abuse (throwing a paperweight, shoving, pushing, slapping) and sexual abuse (unwanted sexual advances and sexual assault).

Columnist Dan Savage's It Gets Better campaign is a worthy effort to convince bullied adolescents that their lives will improve. However, anti-bullying programs and legislation focused on schools should - and probably will at some point - extend to adults in the workplace. According to the sponsors of the Healthy Workplace Bill, 80 percent of workplace bullying is legal - and 72 percent of bullies outrank their targets.

4. Bullying is a major cause of suicide.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, behind traffic accidents and homicide. And while individuals who are bullied are at increased risk for self-harm, it's too simplistic to blame the deaths of victims solely on bullying.

According to the CDC, risk factors for suicide include a family history of suicide, depression or other mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse, a personal loss, easy access to firearms and medication, exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, and isolation. Bullying can be a trigger for suicide, but other underlying factors are usually involved. Interpreting a teenager's suicide as a reaction to bullying ignores the complex emotional problems that American youth face. To understand the complexity of suicidal behavior, we need to look beyond one factor.

5. We can end bullying.

Can we? The debate rages on.

In 2008, a study of school bullying-prevention programs over nearly 25 years found that they changed attitudes and perceptions about bullying, but not bullying behavior. This isn't great news. Victims of bullying don't want to know more about bullying - they want it to stop.

Nonetheless, when schools collect data about bullying and intervene when they observe it, they can change the culture that supports the behavior. Programs such as Steps to Respect, Second Step, Bully-Proofing Your School and the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program have proved particularly promising. A 2009 study in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that Steps to Respect - whose Web site says it "teaches elementary students to recognize, refuse, and report bullying, be assertive, and build friendships" - reduced bullying by 31 percent in some schools in Washington state. Parent training, increased playground supervision, effective disciplinary methods, home-and-school communication, classroom management and the use of training videos have also been associated with reductions in bullying.

No program can end bullying in every community, and no program has eliminated 100 percent of bullying behaviors. However, when awareness of bullying becomes as much a part of school culture as reverence for athletics or glee club, we'll have a shot at finally stopping it.

Susan M. Swearer, an associate professor of school psychology at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, is the co-author of "Bullying Prevention and Intervention: Realistic Strategies for Schools" and the co-director of the Bullying Research Network.

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Childen's Self-Defense (Tip #3)

Jayne Butram, Nanadan

Know how to dial 911. Be able to tell the operator WHERE you are and WHAT the emergency is.Talk to your parents about what is a real 911 emergency. Practice calling 911 with your parents and have them pretend to be the operator and ask you questions about what is wrong. Hint: DON'T REALLY DIAL 911, just pretend by pointing to the numbers on the phone. Be Smart, Be Safe

Childen's Self-Defense (Tip #2)

Jayne Butram, Nanadan

Just because you've seen someone around your neighborhood or at school doesn't mean you really know them or that they're your friend. They still can be a stranger. Always ask your parents or teacher if it's O.K. before you go with anyone. Be Smart, Be Safe.

Childen's Self-Defense (Tip #1)

Jayne Butram, Nanadan

Never put your name on clothes, backpacks, or jewelry where people can see it. Someone can trick you into thinking they know you! Just because they know your name or someone in your family's name doesn't mean they really know you. Be Smart, Be Safe

The Art of Teaching Children
Or the Art of Motivating Youth Students

James A. True, Jr., Nanadan

Welcome to the exciting and fun-filled world of teaching martial arts to students, ages 3-14.

The ability to teach youth students is an art in itself. I believe that in order to be an excellent instructor, one needs to acquire the ability to teach, educate and finally, motivate students of all ages. This includes adults as well as children.

Let's first examine these three levels of transmitting knowledge before we embark on understanding and developing some guidelines, teaching strategies, learning methods and development of teaching skills for youth students. Teaching, is the ability to communicate knowledge and to show how to do something. Teaching alone is not a guarantee that the student will be able to understand the material being taught. As instructors, we must also learn to educate the student.
The word educate comes from the Latin word educere, which means to draw out.

A student beginning to understand and develop the knowledge necessary to perform the skill being taught in itself is not enough. If we are truly committed to helping students develop their full potential by learning the "how, what and why" of this development process, we must learn to motivate them. To motivate a student, the sensei must bring forth the student's inner drive, the desire to continue the learning process. The old adage of "give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish he eats for a lifetime," would certainly apply here. Motivating the student to learn and develop on their own is the ultimate goal of the instructor.

As an instructor, our goal is to become a motivator with the end goal of achieving students who can become highly self-motivated individuals eager to pursue their martial arts journey. To be successful we must examine the guidelines, strategies, methods, and skills necessary in developing a youth curriculum that will develop the physical and mental benefits that we as motivators seek to instill in our students. Let us begin by looking at several guidelines for building a a successful youth curriculum.

Guidelines for a successful youth curriculum

The following three guidelines give the instructor a base for a successful youth curriculum:
* keep it safe,
* make it fun, and
* Provide readily usable material

The specific activities and teaching methods will vary with age groups. Although the age groupings may vary from dojo to dojo by a year or two, they generally break down within the following age levels: 3-5, 6-9, and 10-14 years old.

Keep it Safe

Safety is first and foremost for all classes, youth or adult. Instructors and dojo owners must teach with an attitude of safety, while providing a safe and clean environment to train in. An attitude of safety indicates that the instructor has the knowledge and ability to teach the physical and mental skills required in learning the martial arts using proper safety methods. Knowledge of safe and proper warm-ups, calisthenics, flexibility exercises, cool downs, drills, kata, kumite, and games are mandatory teaching skills all instructors should have.
Remember that new skills, games or exercise may involve the use of previously unused muscle groups, therefore a proper warm-up, knowledge of the student's ability and a carefully supervised teaching method will greatly reduce the risk of injury.

Instructors must make sure the skill or exercise being taught is age-appropriate as well as safe for the number of students in the class. Always teach students the concept of understanding their own personal space, relating it to standing in line during class, lining up during partner drills, and in personal safety towards strangers and bullies.

Don't forget to examine your training equipment from time to time.

When left unchecked, equipment can become faulty over time and lead to serious injury. Look around your dojo for loose carpet, threshold, or mat that a student could trip or fall over. Are there unprotected sharp corners on benches, heaters or windowsills? Learn to prevent the possibility of a lawsuit before it happens.
A safe and clean dojo, provides instructors and students with a fun and supportive atmosphere for teaching and learning.

Make it Fun

Make it fun! I mean real fun! Kids love fun. Who doesn't? My secret? Be a kid. Remember what it was like to roll around in the dirt, ride your bike in the rain, play hide and go seek, tag or dodge ball? You can almost hear the sound of laughter as you recall these childhood memories.

Get down to your students' level, talk to them on one knee, see what they see, don't be a big menacing figure.

Learn more about the age group you're teaching. What are their physical and mental abilities? Gain a deeper understanding of the skill to be learned that corresponds with the developmental level of students in each age group. Identify with your students, don't compare. Each one is different in their own way. Learn about the hot new topic, movie, song, comic book hero, or TV shows that kids are into and relate it to your teaching.

Learn names. Make it a point to remember your students' name, as well as those of their parents. Children don't like to be called a wrong name or have their name confused with one of their siblings in class. Learn to associate the student's name with his or her face or physical characteristic, or use a rhyme or mnemonic device like, Jumping Johnny, Mighty Matthew, or Amazing Amanda.

Kids love games. Create a multitude of games that are not only fun but motivate your students to learn and build on the development of their physical and mental skills. A brief list of games appears on pages 68-69.

Interact with the parents. Children would love an opportunity to teach their parent some of their martial arts skills. Create the environment to make it happen. Get parents involved in their child's development by participating in a class. Teaching the parents how to hold a kicking bag and focus mitt as well as having them learn several "stranger danger" or "bully buster" moves can greatly motivate the student to increase practice time at home.

Use your equipment. See all those pads in the corner of your dojo? Put them to use. By using the pads more, you'll develop your students' physical and mental skills more quickly and easily. How about a Ukemi Ball? It's great fun for kids of all ages as well as adults. The ukemi ball will improve their balance, agility, groundwork ,and ability to perform proper break falls. Challenge yourself to find as many ways possible to use your equipment.

Provide Readily Usable Material

The last of the three guidelines is providing material that is not only useful but can be immediately applied if need be. Students can quickly become bored with too long a lesson, too formal or technical a teaching method, or too much pressure on achieving success. Many students and parents need to see results right away. This doesn't mean you need to teach them the kata Bassai on their first day. Just a basic combination of hand strikes and foot strikes and a set of eclectic blocks for low, middle, and high will certainly get the point across.

Talk about conflict resolution and stranger safety while showing them one or two quick self-defense techniques against a stranger or bully. Let parents know that stranger awareness and dealing with the bully is one of the main objectives of your class curriculum.

The content of material you provide is up to you, but should be fun and easily assimilated by any of the three age groups previously mentioned.

One teaching method is to stick with the basics and teach in sets of threes.

The following is an example of beginner-level material taught in threes that can be applied to 3-5, 6-9 or 10-14 year olds.

After you bow in, give your students an affirmation they can easily understand and believe in, such as a karate creed or even simpler, the three rules of concentration. Parents will love this and you'll be amazed at the focus you get from the students.

The 3 Rules of Concentration
(Repeat after the instructor)

1. Focus your eyes
(point to your eye)
2. Focus your mind
(make a touchdown symbol close to your ears)
3. Focus your body
(slap your hands and arms against the side of your body)

Next teach them how to stand for class: ready position, knuckles down, hands in front of their body. Explain how this stance denotes confidence. Progress to a protective stance with hands in an open position in front of them at the same time using their voice to say "STOP! I DON'T KNOW YOU, YOU'RE A STRANGER". Finally, teach them a fighting stance and explain the difference between that and the protective stance, and when each should be used. These three stances instill a sense of confidence and empowerment right from the beginning, as well as providing protection in the event of a school-yard scuffle or the unwanted advances of a stranger.

The same approach can be used in teaching blocks, strikes, stances, and other elements of traditional karate. Traditional blocks can be complicated for young students and even tougher to apply in an actual self-defense situation. Try using an easier set of eclectic blocks for the student to learn. Keep hand movement simple. Hand strikes are not as complicated, but can be taught at first in a more readily useable and less traditional manner. Begin teaching a left jab and right cross with both hands retracting to cheek-and-chin position, for example. Follow with elbow or palm heel strikes. Again, the idea is to keep it simple, effective and readily usable.

When teaching kicks, have the students make a muscle with their biceps. I call this "Muscle Check". Ask them how does it feel? Their answer, Strong! Next, show them how to get into a front stance and then do a "muscle check" on their quadriceps. Which one is larger, stronger, and longer? What's their answer now? As a youth student, their best striking weapon will be their legs. This is true for adults, too. Explain this to them so they may begin to understand the development of their anatomy and how to use it. The foot stomp works well to the instep-big strong foot to little tiny bones. Knees are bony and sharp-strike to the inside and outside of the thighs to weaken the stance. Front kicks should be directed at the shin and knee and recoiled quickly. Young students most always have their kicks caught, because they leave their foot out.

Keep it simple. Don't overload the student.
Providing simple and effective self-defense techniques against a stranger or bully is always a plus in the eyes of a parent. Students will gain self-confidence more quickly when they are taught material that can have an immediate effect on their self-defense situation.

Teach what is a stranger? A person you don't know. Who can be a stranger? Anyone. Explain the things you don't do with a stranger.

* Don't talk to strangers
* Don't take things from strangers
* Don't get into a stranger's vehicle.
* Never let a stranger touch you.

These three guidelines-keeping it safe, making it fun and providing readily useable material- will assure a rewarding and successful youth curriculum.

Some Games for Youth Students

Ball Games
◊ Ninja dodge ball - use two balls with two instructors, one on each end of the dojo floor.
◊ Bowling for ninjas - set students up like bowling pins. They can only take one step to left or right to avoid a ball being rolled at them.
◊ Danger ball - Have several students hold different colored balls, which represent danger, as they move around the room. Students learn awareness by staying out of the danger space.
◊ Storm the Castle - Set up obstacles students can hide behind as they make their way up to the instructor, who stands behind several mats or bags with three or four balls. The instructor will throw balls at the student, who must tag the bag with out getting hit by a ball. A 30-second time limit works well. Do not throw the ball at the student's head.

Kicking Bag and Focus Mitt Games

◊ Knights in armor - Students use chest protector and headgear, along with a blocker (padded stick) as a sword, and focus mitt as a shield. No face strikes! Keep it controlled.
◊ Pizza delivery person - Have students balance a focus mitt on one hand as if they are delivering a pizza. Have other delivery students try to knock pizza out of their hands as they make a delivery to the instructor at other end of floor.
◊ Batting practice - Use one focus mitt and one blocker. Have one student toss the mitt to another student who bunts it back at him, a good eye hand coordination game.
◊ Karate baseball - A variation of the batting practice game, only without a blocker. Use kicks, punches or blocks as the mitt is tossed to you.

Relay Race Games

◊ Animal race - Have students choose different types of animals and mimic their physical movement: snake, monkey, crane, and tiger. Divide into two or three groups, have them race as similar animals-monkey against monkey-then race as different animals-e.g., tiger against crane. What fun! Wait till you see snake against tiger.
◊ Kicking race - Students get into groups and race down the floor doing different kicks.
◊ Zigzag race - Set up cones or mats, have students zigzag down and back the floor.

Self-defense practice

◊ Release from a strangers' grab. Yell and scream: "Stranger! Your not my Dad [Mom]! Stomp foot, pull away with two hands.
◊ Stop, Drop, Be a Rock! If the two-handed pull away doesn't work and the child is being dragged closer to a vehicle, have the child stop and drop their weight as if they are a heavy rock. Begin kicking the legs of the stranger, then bite at the stranger's hands to release and escape.

The preceding article is from the SKKAA publication Sensei: A Handbook for SKKAA Instructors and Their Students, click on the link to read more and order this book.

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The Seven Habits of
Highly Effective Karate Kids

Jayne Butram, Nanadan

   How does karate build character, make kids act responsibly, and help them to set and achieve goals? What can we do as parents and sensei to teach these attributes to our kids? I've found that many useful hints are contained in the book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Steven R. Covey.

   Now, I'm sure Mr. Covey never envisioned some of his ideas to be used exactly in this way. These habits are actually deep, life-changing principles and we're introducing them in a simplified form, but if we can get youngsters to start to use them early on a simple level, they can later learn to integrate them more fully in their lives.

   Habit Number One - Be Proactive. If I had to pick only one of the seven habits to make youngsters more effective, this would be the one. Being proactive means being responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our condition. We have the ability and responsibility to make things happen. Karate training helps kids see that all actions have consequences: if they practice, they progress. They are the ones responsible for being prepared for class. No more, "My Mom forgot to pack my mouth guard." Without their pads, they can't spar. If they lose their gear, they have to pay to replace it from their allowance or by doing chores around the house to earn the money.

   I ask the kids to think of things they know need to be done (karate practice, chores, homework) and see if they can get them done before they're asked to do them. They begin to see that they have a choice in how they respond when reprimanded by Mom or Dad. They can choose how to respond to name-calling or bullying by other kids.

   Habit Number Two - Begin With the End in Mind. To be effective, you must start with a clear understanding of your destination. Mr. Covey says this "means to know where you're going so that you better understand where you are now so that the steps you take are always in the right direction." Covey says that this habit is based on the principle that all things are created twice, once as a mental process and again as a physical outcome or creation.

   I have kids tell me what they hope to accomplish in each class, or we all agree on what we want to get done before we begin. We talk about what we need to do to reach our aim. What are their goals in karate? What sort of karateka do they hope to become? Someone without a clear sense of purpose can end up drifting like a boat without a rudder.

   Habit Number Three- Put First Things First. This habit is closely related to the discipline we're always hearing about in the martial arts. Many people believe this discipline comes from standing in straight lines, doing push-ups, and saying, "Yes, Sir" or "No, M'am." That's all part of it, but there's much more. Habit Number Three needs Habits Number One and Two to succeed. If someone knows what he or she wants to accomplish (Habit Number Two) and understands that he or she is responsible for and capable of achieving it (Habit Number One), then they can plot a course for doing what is needed to get there (Habit Number Three).

   If a youngster's mission is to become a black belt, he or she needs to realizes they must turn off the TV or video games and practice. They need to get off the couch or stop playing with their friends and go to class. This is the heart of discipline in karate-doing what needs to be done even when you don't feel like it. Setting priorities and following through-putting first things first-constitutes self-discipline. This, not push-ups or standing in straight lines, is the heart of martial arts discipline.

   Habit Number Four-Think Win/Win. How can situations be resolved so everyone is happy? Can kids learn to share and compromise? Do they learn these skills on any other sports playing field? I especially like to apply this to our sparring sessions. The kids need to work together to help their partners block and spot openings, not just get out and try to score points on, or beat, each other.

   Habit Number Five-Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. If you want to interact effectively with people, you need to understand them first. When an argument arises, we try to get the kids to stop and see things from their parent's or friend's perspective. What can they do to work things out? Why does the school bully act the way he does? How can they let him know how they feel and avoid a conflict?

   Habit Number Six-Synergize. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Synergy is teamwork, team building. Each karate class level should have its own name-Dragons, Tigers, Samurai-to enhance group solidarity. I like to let the kids make up rules to some of the karate games played in class. We have them work on drills that require cooperation, such as working out a bunkai (application) to a complete kata. What can they accomplish together that they couldn't alone?

   About every other week, we have what I call "spirit classes." These are very hard, physically demanding classes. The kids constantly encourage each other during class to do just a few more techniques and to keep going. Sometimes we use the "buddy system." Sometimes the kids will just see who is on the verge of giving up. Then, they do whatever they can to keep that person from quitting. These classes are made up of kids as young as six years old, but they are tougher than you'd think. The physical energy and spirit they generate is amazing. It's rare for anyone to give up before the class is done.

   Habit Number Seven-Sharpen the Saw. You are the "saw" and must constantly sharpen the four dimensions of your life to be effective:

   * Physical - Take care of your body. Exercise. Eat right. Get adequate rest.
   * Spiritual - This can be done in many ways. Pray. Meditate. Immerse yourself in great literature or music. Do whatever makes you feel strengthened, centered, and recommitted to serve.
   * Mental - Limit TV watching. Continue your education. Make it a habit to read good literature (and good martial arts books). Keep a journal.
   * Social/emotional - Make a commitment to serve others. Kids love to participate in community service projects. How do you treat others? Goethe said, "Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be." Don't underestimate your kids or students. Expect the best from them and they will rise to meet those expectations, time and time again.

Sources and Suggested Reading

      Covey, Steven R. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990.

      Covey, Steven R. Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families. New York: Golden Books, 1997.

      Covey, Sean. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens: The Ultimate Teen Success Guide. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.

The preceding article is from the SKKAA publication Little Dragons and Tigers: A Handbook for Youth Students, Their Instructors, and Parents, click on the link to read more and order this book.

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Thoughts on Bullying

Christopher M. Clarke, President

    Seems pretty obvious. A bully is someone who picks on others. But is it that clear? Just how serious a problem is bullying? And what can we do about it? Recent studies show how difficult it can be to answer these seemingly simple questions.

    A 1993 study by the American Association of University Women, for example, reported that 80% of American students have been sexually harassed, including 76% of boys. Hard to believe? Well, the outcome of the study depended largely on the definition of "sexual harassment." In this case, researchers included glances, gestures, gossip, and naughty jokes, a relatively loose definition that artificially inflated the extent of a very real problem.

    The same problem exists in assessing the extent of bullying. A recent study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development surveyed more than 15,000 students in grades 6-10 in both public and private schools around the country. The study defined bullying as involving behaviors that could be verbal (e.g., name-calling, threats, etc.), physical (hitting and the like), or psychological (spreading rumors, shunning or excluding). Even with such a broad definition of bullying--one that would include not allowing a child to sit with you at the lunch table--the study said that only about 30% of the students reported frequent or moderate involvement in bullying of some type. And this figure lumped together the 13% who said they were bullies, the 11% who said they were targets of bullies, and the 6% who said they were sometimes the victims and sometimes the perpetrators of bullying behavior.

    It is widely believed and repeated as fact that America is a violent society, and one in which bullying is a major problem. But a recent study by the World Health Organization found that the US ranked behind a number of European countries in which bullying was a far more prevalent occurrence. In Lithuania and Germany, for example, nearly two-thirds of 15-year-olds said they had been involved in bullying someone during the current school term; in the US, the number was less than one-third. Similarly, in Lithuania and Germany, more than half of the 15- year-olds surveyed reported having been bullied, while less than one-third of American students said they had faced a similar problem. Switzerland, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Israel, Russia, Canada, and France all reported higher totals of both bullies and victims than the US. (See chart.)

    None of this is to deny that bullying is a real problem, or that it can be devastating for those who are victims of bullies. Studies suggest the US is well behind several European countries in studying and devising programs to deal effectively with bullying.

    Children should learn to cope with bullying behavior at an early age, both because doing so will enable them to lead happier, more productive lives and because, with fewer victims, there will be fewer bullies. The long-term problems occasioned by bullying behavior that is not dealt with early are alarming. According to a recent article on bullying in The Washington Post, studies have shown that children identified as bullies or victims at age 8 were still identified as such at age 16, and both groups had more psychological problems than other students. The professional association of American school psychologists estimates that every day as many as 160,000 children stay home from school out of fear of being bullied. The problem may be as serious for the bullies as for their victims: 60% of boys identified as bullies in middle school had at least one criminal conviction by age 24, and 40% had three or more convictions, according to The Washington Post.

    So, what's to be done? "A lot of people believe that bullying toughens kids and that if they learn to handle it, they'll be better competitors," a former president of the National Association of School Psychologists told The Washington Post. Just the opposite is the case, this expert states. Some parents encourage their children to fight back; others recommend calling in an adult. But most people tend to oversimplify what is actually a complicated set of behaviors and interactions. Behavioral modification requires consistency, long-term attention, and multi-faceted intervention by parents, teachers and schools, communities, and peer groups. Even so, "solutions" are difficult and evasive. Some programs to raise the "self-esteem" of bullies, for example, seem to have backfired. "If you give bullies self-esteem training, all you get is better bullies," says one expert. An innovative program in a Virginia middle school reportedly reduced fist-fights by 90%, but even the program's advocates acknowledge that more subtle bullying behavior persists.

    SKKAA schools have a well-developed program for teaching students the psychological and physical skills needed to cope with bullies. Parents should encourage their children to learn and practice these skills, just as they should learn what to do in case of a fire or other emergency in the home. The statistical chances of ever having to put that knowledge to use are relatively low-- but the potential cost of not having the skills should the need for them arise can be very high.

Some Myths About Bullies

◊    Only boys bully -- Sadly, not true. Boys are more often bullies--and often bully girls--but girls can be bullies too. They are more likely to be "verbal" bullies who spread rumors and gossip, say hurtful things, or exclude others from their "in-group" than to use force.

◊    Victims are singled out because of the way they look -- Usually, victims become victims because of the way they interact, not the way they look. Withdrawn, unassertive children with few friends and poor social skills are more likely to be bullied. This, even more than the physical skills, may be where martial arts training is most helpful in making "bully-resistant" kids.

◊    Kids should work things out for themselves -- Yes and no. Bullying is a complicated phenomenon that requires complicated measures to combat, including parental support, adult intervention, peer pressure, and in serious cases, professional help. Leaving kids on their own to sort it out has been compared by one expert to asking victims of sexual harassment to work things out with their tormentors.

◊    Bullies are insecure and have low self-esteem -- Not usually. Many bullies are popular kids, with both peers and adults. In fact, bullying, especially for boys, is often associated with being popular. One eight-grader summed it up perfectly: "I think guys are almost expected to bully each other." Bullies have a control problem--an inflated felt need to control others and a low capacity for controlling themselves or empathizing with their victims.

◊    Bystanders should not get involved -- Tough call, but usually wrong. Teachers, community leaders, and parents should definitely be involved in seeking solutions and curbing bullying behavior. How about other kids? Won't they just draw the bully's negative attention to themselves? Maybe. But bullying thrives in an particular environment of fear, permissiveness, and assumed admiration. If peers make it clear that they don't consider bullying "cool," will not be a party to rumors and gossip, and will report problems to responsible adults, the necessary oxygen disappears from the bully's environment and the fire goes out.

◊    We should take a "zero-tolerance" approach! -- Well, let's not get carried away. Bullying behavior takes place along a continuum ranging from relatively trivial to very serious. A sense of proportion is in order in dealing with the problem. Moreover, even good kids can get in trouble. Issues that once would have been handled as in-school transgressions now escalate to criminal charges and community causes. Good behavior--like bad behavior such as bullying--is learned; positive reinforcement strengthens good behavior. Punishment can sometimes strengthen bad behavior. Ask yourself, "Is this kid better off in school, under some kind of interventional supervision, or at home for five days watching MTV?"

◊    Bullies are born, not made. -- By now, it should be clear that bullying is a learned behavior. Pre-school corporal punishment, inconsistent discipline, abuse, and other signs of a dysfunctional family life may trigger such behavior very early in life--and such powerful reinforcement may be very difficult for schools and community to overcome--but most children can "unlearn" bad behavior.


Boodman, Sandra G. "Teaching Bullies a Lesson," in The Washington Post, Health Section, June 5, 2001.

Leo, John. "Bully, bully," in U.S. News and World Report, May 21, 2001, page 15.

"Spotlight on Bullies," in The Washington Post, May 26, 2001.

You can find more information about issues related to bullying on the Web at:

www.pta.org/programs/sycsch.htm (The >National Parent-Teacher Association)

www.cfchildren.org/Pubully.html (The Committee For Children)

www.colorado.edu/cspv/blueprints/model/ten_bully.htm (The Blueprints Bullying Prevention Program)

The preceding article is from the SKKAA publication Little Dragons and Tigers: A Handbook for Youth Students, Their Instructors, and Parents, click on the link to read more and order this book.

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Why Karate Is Good For Children

Christopher M. Clarke, President

    "I want to sign my son up for karate lessons because he's always being picked on at school." "I'm interested in signing my daughter up for karate because she's clumsy." "I want my child to take karate because he lacks self-confidence." How often does every karate instructor hear these reasons from the parents of prospective students? No one ever comes into the dojo and says, "I'd like to sign up my son (or daughter) because I know that karate is a Way of Life that can shape everything he (or she) does from this point onward." And yet, that is what karate training is really all about.

    "The value of karate (or any traditional martial arts training) for youngsters has far less to do with self-defense skills, fitness, or poise than it has to do with shaping an outlook toward life of confidence and determination in overcoming obstacles; maintaining a realistic view of one's self, one's capabilities and weaknesses; setting goals and working toward their accomplishment; and keeping success and failure in proper perspective. Even youngsters who stay with the martial arts only a fairly short time can absorb these lessons and apply them in all spheres of their life as they mature. Long after the self-defense techniques and kata have been forgotten, the Black Belt Attitude will remain.

Emotional maturity     In short, karate training helps fill what may be the biggest void in modern child-raising and education: emotional training, including

        * Self-awareness

        * Identifying, expressing, and managing feelings

        * Impulse control and delaying gratification

        * Handling stress and anxiety, and

        * Handling relationships with others.

Epidemic problems

    American children today are beset by emotional and psychological stresses far more powerful than those experienced by people of their parents' or grandparents' generations. A recent re-analysis of some 300 previous studies found, for example, that typical school children and college students in the 1980s reported more anxiety than did young psychiatric patients in the 1950s-put another way, "kids who were diagnosed as suffering mental disorders in the 1950s are less anxious than average kids today," according to a recent article in The Washington Post. (Squires.) The National Centers for Disease Control has reported that suicides among adolescents nearly tripled between the 1952 and 1995. Experts attribute these increased feelings of anxiety to a combination of changing social patterns-increased divorce rates, lower participation in community activities, more frequent changes of residence, and a higher proportion of the population living alone-and "environmental threats," such as higher rates of violent youth crime, peer pressure for drug and alcohol use, premarital sex, and a consumption- oriented life-style. The positive developments of greater personal autonomy, higher living standards, more mobility, and more choices in life provide increased challenges and opportunities, but also have a flip-side of "greater isolation from others, more threats to our bodies and minds, and thus higher levels of anxiety" for many youngsters. (Squires.)

    Handling this anxiety-and the aberrant behaviors it can give rise to-is probably the greatest challenge today for children and their parents. And studies suggest that, as a society, we aren't doing a very good job of it.

    Depression - One of the most common mechanisms children adopt for handling anxiety is clinical depression, a phenomenon once virtually unknown (or at least unrecognized) among children. Studies have shown that for boys and girls between 10 and 13, the rate of major depression over the course of a year may be as high as 8 or 9 percent. The rate for boys from 14 to 16 remains fairly steady, but the rate of depression among adolescent girls may be as high as one in six. Withdrawal from social contacts and activities, excessively moody behavior, falling grades, behavioral problems, and substance abuse are all possible results of depression that can become life-long handicaps if not identified and treated early. (Goleman, 245-247.)

    While karate training is certainly no substitute for professional diagnosis and intervention, it serves as a very useful method for addressing some of the root causes of depression. And studies show that in many cases children who are most prone toward depression tend toward a pessimistic outlook before they become depressed. Thus, activities that can help break the cycle of depressive thinking and behavior can contribute to heading off major problems later. One promising study, for example, found that an after-school program which focused on handling disagreements, thinking before acting, and challenging pessimistic thinking lowered depression rates by one-half in the study population of 10-to-13-year-olds, results that persisted as long as two-years after the program ended. (Goleman, 246.) This suggests that learning these emotional skills as one arrives at the transition to adolescence can be especially beneficial.

    Eating disorders - Obesity is killing us. Obesity-related diseases cost the United States more than 300,000 lives and $100 billion a year, according to a group called P.E.4.Life. And the situation is worsening as youngsters of each generation tend to become more fat and less fit. "We have a health crisis coming down the road because we have a whole generation of kids who have not been active," said Jim Baugh, president of Wilson Sporting Goods and founder of P.E.4.Life, in a recent Washington Post article. (Strauss.) According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, only about 44 percent of schoolchildren have daily physical education, and one-quarter attend no gym classes. (Strauss.)

The problem goes far beyond the lack of exercise, of course. It is basically a problem of emotional management. Many children grow up unable to distinguish between such feelings as anger, fear, anxiety, and hunger; they literally feed their fears and anxieties rather than facing and dealing with them. Others-especially girls-handle the stresses of social expectations and fear of rejection by succumbing to anorexia or bulimia. In one study of 900 girls in the 7th to 10th grades, for example, emotional deficits-particularly a failure to tell distressing feelings from one another and control them-were found to be key among the factors leading to eating disorders." (Goleman, 247.)

    Substance abuse - Studies show with depressing regularity the high rates among teens of abuse of drugs and alcohol. Kids seem to be experimenting earlier and drinking more and more often; researchers suggest that today over 90 percent of youngsters have tried alcohol before leaving high school. Kids have always experimented, but today's kids often seek respite from the greater stress and anxiety through heavier and more frequent substance abuse. One research project involving several hundred 7th and 8th grade students tracked for two years found that those who reported higher levels of emotional distress went on to have the highest rates of substance abuse.

    The results are often catastrophic. Alcohol-related accidents, for example, are the leading cause of death among young people between 15 and 24. (Goleman, 253.) For many others, the problems become life-long. Depression and alcohol or drug abuse, for example, often are intertwined in a destructive and mutually reinforcing cycle, and one research project linked unresolved problems with anger management to addiction to heroin and other opiates. (Goleman, 255.)

    Behavioral problems - Emotional distress and immaturity are also linked to all sorts of behavior problems, many of which are easily discernable in the earliest school grades. Up to half of the first-graders who are disruptive, unable to get along with other kids, disobedient to parents, or uncooperative with teachers become delinquent in their teen years. (Goleman, 236.) Boys with difficulty managing their emotions as elementary or middle-schoolers are more prone as teenagers to become violent, get in trouble with the law, or drop out of school. "Antisocial teenage girls don't get violent-they get pregnant," according to one expert. (Goleman, 257.) One study of 4th grade girls, for example, showed that of those who were often in trouble with teachers and were unpopular with peers, a staggering 40 percent had had a child by the time they finished their high school years, three times the average pregnancy rate for other girls in their school. (Goleman, 257.)

Karate as part of the solution

    Karate cannot solve all of society's ills. No one suggests it can. But the skills and behaviors-especially the emotional and psychological skills and behaviors-that are cultivated by martial arts training can be central to heading off such problems as depression, substance abuse, and behavioral problems by teaching youngsters emotional self-awareness, emotional management, impulse control and delayed gratification, stress and anxiety management, and proper handling of relationships with others.

    Karate students learn a number of basic lessons: everyone starts out as a beginner. Everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed or excel, depending on the amount of effort he or she is willing to expend. No one wins all the time. Losing gives us another opportunity to learn. Everyone makes mistakes and can look like a "fool"-it's no big deal. Everyone deserves and expects to be treated with equality and respect. Aggressive behavior, taunting and teasing, and lashing out in anger are not only not tolerated, they are counter-productive. A cool appraisal of one's surroundings and a disciplined assessment of risks and opportunities are far more likely to be successful in sparring or practicing drills than allowing emotions to run wild.

    Karate students absorb these lessons as part of their daily training, but SKKAA schools have specially developed curricula for young students to help reinforce these crucial life lessons. It may be true that "everything you really need to know, you learned in kindergarten." But just in case your youngster missed that lesson, he or she can re-learn it-for life-in the dojo.

The preceding article is from the SKKAA publication Little Dragons and Tigers: A Handbook for Youth Students, Their Instructors, and Parents, click on the link to read more and order this book.

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