Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bullying, Your Child, and The Martial Arts

Bullying is a phenomenon that is as old as sentience. It is one of those topics that is very difficult for parents to deal with, because it involves the ugly side of human nature. As a parent, you want to keep your children from the ugliness of life for as long as possible. You wish to preserve the innocence and sweetness of the child. This is an understandable goal. One that all good people share. However, by not addressing the bad, you may inadvertently destroy that very sweetness that you dearly wish to preserve.

Who am I to say such things? Am I a parent? No. I am an Uncle who only gets to see his nieces and nephews when their parents decide to post pictures on Facebook (no, you can't be my friend... unless I know you, or an existing friend vouches for you, then you can), but I am the guy you take your children to when the bullying has gotten so bad that you feel something must be done. I am not going to look at bullying from a parental point of view. That's not my job and way outside my experience. I am going to take a look at bullying from a psychological point of view and how Martial Arts can help you and your children deal with bullying.
Oh, so you have some sort of training and qualifications in Psychology? No... In college I actually lead a petition to get Psychology removed from the science buildings, because it wasn't really a science... It was more of an art. Science requires repeatable data to prove phenomena. In this way Science can describe the macro and the micro phenomena. Psychology is very good at describing human nature in the general sense, but falls rather flat when it comes to the individual. This is good for us because we will look at what Psychology says about bullying in the general sense.

So first, what is bullying? What separates it from teasing? What makes a bully do what they do?

Bullying is described by the following three criteria.
  1. Power inequality
  2. Repetition
  3. Cold, calculated intent to cause harm
These things are very important. Why? Because it is important to separate bullying from teasing. Teasing happens in life, and being able to laugh at a tease, and to return a tease is a fundamental social skill. Teasing is not done coldly. There is an emotional element. The vast majority of the time, the teaser does not mean to hurt the teasee's feelings. The times outside the vast majority the teaser is looking to pick a fight... That is another blog post, though.

So what do we have with the three criteria? Power inequality. Let's face it, the weak do not pick on the strong. Weakness can come in a number of forms: physical weakness, you are weaker or smaller than someone else; mental weakness, you are not as intelligent as someone else; weakness of the heart, you think yourself weak (lack of self esteem or self confidence). Any of these things a bully can pick up on and attack. The bully will be in the superior position, the one being bullied in the inferior.

Repetition. Once the bully finds out that their target can be bullied, they will repeat the bullying over and over. It is never a one and done situation. The bully will attempt to maintain the power inequality, and continue the bullying.

Cold, calculated intent to cause harm. The bully feels nothing for the one being bullied. They are a target. So the bully coldly goes about the business of bullying. The bully will try to inflict damage, in any way that damage can be inflicted both physical and mental.

Now that we know what bullying is, what can we do to stop it? First and foremost, the best way to stop bullying is not to be a target for the bully. That means letting your child know what bullying is and how to avoid it. It means teaching your child to stand up for themselves. Confident people are rarely bullied. Why? It is extraordinarily difficult to get the vital power inequality on a confident person. Only physical power inequality can suffice, and most confident people are willing to take a beating to prove that they will not be dominated easily. Bullies, for the most part, won't take the time to attempt to break a confident person down. There are easier targets. So what builds confidence and self esteem? Doing estimable things. Overcoming adversity. Where can you find a safe environment where a child can do estimable things and overcome adversity?? MARTIAL ARTS!!!!

In the world of Martial Arts, you must understand that, like I have said in earlier posts, martial artists have an inherent sense of insecurity, most of the time this is because most martial artists were bullied as children. They turned to martial arts to fortify and strengthen themselves so that they would never be bullied again. The rest are athletes who found a neat way to compete against others, and were never bullied, because they are confident people. Their insecurity comes from their fear of failure. Anyway, of these two groups, I want to focus first on the group that was bullied. This group can be further broken down in to those that wish to instill confidence and strength in to their students, and those that, finding themselves now in a position of power inequality, scream and yell and bully their own students to "make them strong." Stay away from the latter. They are easy to spot.
Enough about instructors. The baisic rule is the same in life as it is in finding a good instructor... Stay away from douchebags.

Moving on to arts. What to teach children to teach them to overcome adversity, build their confidence, all the while giving them skills to defeat a bully should they be attacked. In my opinion, there is only one type of art to consider. Grappling arts. Don't get me wrong. I love the striking arts, but in today's school environments, there are no tolerance policies on violence. Grappling arts teach position dominance, and it is easier to suspend a student for landing a jab-cross-hook flying knee combination than for holding another child down in side control. Grappling arts are good as well because they can be put in to practice quicker than striking arts, they can be practiced full speed with out risk of injury, and the child builds confidence and self esteem by escaping from inferior positions. Grappling arts also teach how, with the use if leverage, a smaller weaker person can defeat a bigger stronger person. Exactly the kind of thing needed for the weaker person to get the upper hand on the stronger bully.

Three main arts deal with grappling Judo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and good old fashioned western wrestling. Of those three I am partial to Judo and BJJ, with Judo being my most preferred art for children. Judo focuses on throwing the opponent to the ground and holding him there for an extended period of time. BJJ teaches submissions right away, and, in my opinion, it is best if children do not attempt to choke or break bones on the school yard. Judo gets the bully to the ground, and keeps them there until a teacher or adult can break up the scuffle. There is also nothing like not being able to escape from an inferior position to humble an opponent.
It is very important that the school that you are taking your child to teaches the morality of the use of force. It is important that you reinforce that morality in your home. The tenets will center around holding yourself, the fighter, to a higher standard of the rules. They will be about the strong protecting the weak, and only using the art to defend one's self or a weaker person from harm. Learning the arts will create that ever important power inequality and create a bully where once there was none. The school will teach that it is OK to fight in certain situations. It is important that you realize that violence must be met with violence in situations where words will not work. It is vitally important that you teach your child that it is OK to defend themselves and others against the bully.

A little bit now on what makes a bully. The bully is most likely a social outcast of their own peer group. Let's face it, would you want to hang out with someone who constantly picked on the weaker people? I wouldn't either. The bully acts on the that power inequality because it makes them feel good to dominate another person. There are many triggers that could make make the bully seek to bully, but the result is always the same. They like the feeling of domination. It is this feeling of domination that must be attacked for the bullying to stop. You can't dominate someone with indomitable spirit. It is up to you, the parent, to build that indomitable spirit. Martial Arts can help.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

State of Amateur MMA

I went to the fights last night. It was a small show here in Oklahoma. It was awful. Just terrible. This show wasn't really a meat grinder show where you have just a couple of set fights and the rest are set up that night. It was a show that had several set fights, and many of the fights were for the amateur championships. In other words, they were set fights with guys who have had more than one fight, and are supposed to be training. With this kind of notice and experience, I would expect these guys to be working hard on their game, to show some immaturity, but to look like trained fighters. They did not... For the most part they looked like two guys in a back yard trying to make it look like they train UFC. As guys train to fight professionally there are a few things that I expect them to do before getting in to the ring. They need to have these things down to have success in MMA:
  • Know how to throw the basic three punches.  Jab, cross, hook. 
  • Know how to throw a good low and middle level kick
  • Know how, and when to throw elbows in the clinch and on the ground
  • Know how, and when to throw knees in the clinch
  • Know how to do one consistent takedown.
  • Know how to do basic submissions from the major ground positions. (armbar from mount and guard, RNC from back mount, Americana from side control)
  • Know how to do a basic punch parry, and cover blocks.
  • Know how to check kicks
  • Know how to hold someone in guard, to avoid being punched
  • Know how to move to get yourself off of the cage in the clinch.
  • Know basic escapes from the major ground positions.  (Mount, side control, half guard, back mount)
These are the bare basics, however if you know these bare basics, or have some idea of them, you will have a much better chance of success over the other beginner fighters. If you step in to the cage with no real knowledge of your craft, and just expect to win by "throwing bombs," the sad news is that someone with knowledge of the above is going to hurt you badly. What is going to happen is that you are going to gas out quicker, and you will often find yourself in positions where you can not escape. Anyway, I felt quite cheated after the show, because for my $35 ticket, I really did not get to see any skill at all. I saw a couple of guys with raw talent, but no real skill. The worst part about it was, I paid money to see the show, where only four guys (two fights) actually got paid at the end of the night. $35 is an expensive ticket, and I feel that the promoter really took advantage of the spectators and the fighters. And this is the state of amateur MMA. There are no amateur rankings. There are very few advantages for fighting amateur MMA. Why do it? The state of competition in the smaller shows is such that you will be fighting about the same level of skill in the low pro ranks as you will in the amateur ranks. Why not train a little harder, with a good team, and just enter the pros? You get insurance from the commission, and you walk out of the arena with a little coin in your pocket. If the concern is about getting ring experience before risking a pro record, there are other ways to obtain experience. Make your young fighters do an amateur boxing match, or a kickboxing match. Have them do a BJJ tournament both gi and no-gi. Get them ready for the fight by drilling the components. The young guys will learn very quickly on which parts of their game they need to work. Then when they step in to the cage for the first time, they will have been in a situation where someone has been trying to punch or kick them with full force. They have been on the ground working to escape from bad positions, or have learned how to hold down an opponent who is trying to escape with their whole being. Until there is a set and fully support rule set for amateur MMA, I would suggest that fighters not participate. Prepair for your MMA career in other ways where you can protect your pro MMA record, yet get the valuable experience needed to succeed.