jiu-jitsuYou don't need me to tell you about the outrageously out-of-hand bullying epidemic going on in this country right now. It seems like there's another unbelievably tragic tale in the news every other day about a teen who was bullied to death -- to death! Think about that. I mean, really think about it. At no other time during history has adolescent bullying been marked by its high fatality rate.

We teach our kids that physical violence is wrong. Schools have "zero-tolerance" policies regarding fighting of any kind. That's all well and good, but some kids listen ... and some kids don't.

That's why all kids need to know how to fight back, just in case.

Just ask Martin Hendricks, the Denver 12-year-old who was bullied for so long that his grades dropped and he hated going to school. (Experts say over 150,000 kids miss school every day because they're afraid of being bullied.)

Fed up and afraid, Martin's mother Wendy finally sent him to a summer program in Brazilian jiu-jitsu designed specifically for bullied kids at the Gracie Academy in California. Jiu-jitsu is a relatively non-violent but extremely effective form of self-defense. The focus is "eliminating fear of injury through technique and preparation," which gives kids the confidence to stand up to bullies: First verbally, and then, if that doesn't work, physically.

When Martin returned to school and the same old bully got back to his old tricks -- taunting, shoving, throwing things in the lunch room -- Martin followed the plan his instructor gave him. He tried speaking up, telling the bully to leave him alone.

When the (bigger, stronger) bully responded with a punch, Martin jumped off a bench, shoved the bully in the chest while he was still in mid-air, then pinned him on the floor with his knee and arms. Martin's tormentor was powerless at last.

Rock star!!! Can you imagine what a life-changing moment that was for Martin? He didn't even hurt the kid, just scared the hell out of him -- so much so that the bully ended up apologizing to him in front of the whole school. Which, come to think of it, means that the face-off was probably just as life-changing for the bully as it was for Martin.

I'm not advocating violence or fighting fire with fire or anything like that. BUT I do very much believe that kids need to know how to defend themselves.

Sometimes just the confidence of knowing you can defend yourself is enough to keep bullies away.

Do you think we should teach our teens how to fight back?

 

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