top of page
  • Writer's pictureSpencer Bennington

Bully Proof?

Welcome back to Rhetorical Roundhouse, your home for martial arts, rhetorical arts, and, sometimes, the actual arts (I’ll paint for you one day, I promise.)

Last week I discussed finding the blessings in every day so please give that a read if you haven’t (there are sparring videos!)

This week I want to get your opinion on something I recently saw on social media. A friend of mine posted the video below of a father who took his son to a boxing gym when he found out that he was bullying other kids. The details of the situation are sparse, but it appears that the father wanted his son to spar a professional boxer to learn some kind of lesson about why physical violence is unacceptable and why he should discontinue his bullying ways.

So my question here is a sincere one that I'd love to see you all discuss in the comments section. Do you think this is an acceptable or even an appropriate way to employ martial arts as a way of discouraging bullying?

On the one hand, I've described before the positive attributes I think students develop when they are involved in combat sports, especially when in environments that reinforce their physical training with reflection, meditation, or mindfulness. I truly believe that I learned a lot through full-contact sparring in controlled environments--not least of which is that fighting is painful and probably not the best way to deal with my emotions. I learned that my violent techniques bear a real gravity and that they shouldn't be treated lightly. What's more, I didn't just learn this by being better than my opponents (I'm rarely better than my sparring partners), I learned it from getting hit--hard.

Now, on the other hand, in the past couple of weeks I've been looking really closely at some of the philosophy preserved in Tae Kwon Do manuals for my dissertation research and, just yesterday, I came across a like from Richard Chun that described the importance acknowledging and reflecting on this life-giving energy “within ourselves.” The reason he gives for focusing on our individual ability to give life or to be constructive is that it will teach students “to respect life in all forms” because it also contains that same ability--in other words, the path to empathy is to focus on our constructive nature, not to discourage our destructive tendencies by meeting them with the destructive power of others.

I bring this up because, pretty frequently these days, I see martial arts studios advertised as a way to "bully-proof your child." Frankly, this kind of marketing disconcerts me a bit because it seems to imply that by arming a child with destructive power, they will be free from potentially violent or harmful situations. Perhaps what these studios mean is that bullies will be less likely to target a child who develops the self-confidence and self-esteem connected to martial arts training--but I'm not sure.

Anyway, I'm very curious to hear what you all have to say about the video above. I'm always curious to learn more about how martial arts can make people grow into better citizens and kinder human beings, but I think there are a variety of pathways to make that happen. Unfortunately, there isn't enough quantitative data out there to support any major claims, but I do want to know about what you've seen or experienced as best practices.

Please feel free to comment below or on Facebook and let me know your thoughts!

Short one today but it's good to let you do the talking sometimes, you know?

Thanks for reading and commenting.


19 views0 comments


bottom of page