The Link Between Karate and Bullying Prevention

As a black belt in Shotokan Karate, I know that practicing martial arts can give you confidence. It feels empowering to learn how to defend yourself and know that you might be able to fend off an attack. For kids being bullied, martial arts can be a way to regain their self-confidence—which is often lost when a child is bullied. As it turns out, Karate and bullying prevention have some important links: self-defense skills may even prevent bullying in the future and can give bullies a positive outlet for their excess energy or anger.

In addition to learning martial arts, many dojos also teach discipline and respect. Laurel Barrette, Director of School Counseling Programs at K12 says that a martial art’s approach to teaching “greatly impacts how effective it will be for children”—and that more traditional styles teach principles beyond just the physical forms. For example, Shotokan Karate is seen as a way of life—not just an activity you do after school. This style is about discipline and trying to be the best you can be.

Shotokan Karate’s mantra, said at the end of class, includes the statements, “respect others” and “refrain from violent behavior.” Dojos that have this integrated mind-body approach to their training can teach children mindfulness, impulse control, the ability to calm themselves, and even empathy for others.

Some may be concerned that taking a martial art may make a child want to use their skills to be violent against others. But often dojos will teach their students that fighting is only a last resort to defend themselves. The “refrain from violent behavior” principle is a great example of this.

“Martial arts can improve children’s executive function,” explains Barrette, “which involves planning, organization, and impulsiveness.” If a child has low executive function, they often can’t see the consequences of their behavior and can become easily frustrated and upset.

Some martial arts may even incorporate meditation or a quiet moment in their class. This can also help students develop a greater mind-body connection—further teaching them to center themselves. This can be particularly effective for children prone to anxiety.

Keep in mind that martial arts may not be right for every child. It’s important that children find an activity that they’re passionate about and that makes them feel successful. But trying out different activities, such as Karate or Taekwondo, is a good way to learn what your kids are interested in and might excel at. And if you are looking for a way to prevent bullying, Karate may be the answer for your child.

This post originally appeared on ThinkTank12.


Image Credit: Quadell / CC BY 3.0

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