Bullying is a real problem for many people. We tend to think that it affects children alone but sadly, it affects a wide spectrum of people including grown men and women. I’ve been dealing with bullies as an instructor for decades and my passion to stop bullying stems from my own experiences as a victim of it. As a kid in Leeds, I managed to avoid my bully for weeks at a time, but eventually he would appear, blocking my escape. Why he targeted me I’ll never know and even though I studied the martial arts and was a useful boxer, I didn’t have the confidence to match my skills against his size and aggression.

You have to take a stand and say ‘Enough!’

But one summers day in Leeds he bullied me for the last time. I faced and fought my bully. I have to be honest, though, I didn’t win, not really, but I caused him enough pain that he never came back for more. I used strategies that I learned from my teachers and I faced him on my own terms, including, using part of a spade handle to even the odds, as well as recruiting my older brother and his friend to stop the fight if things got too bad for me. When the fight ended, I was on the ground, on my back and with him sitting on my chest in the middle of the street on the council estate I lived on in Leeds. He was winning, but I was desperate, and I managed to hold onto the piece of wood I had used to balance the odds. I hit him with it even from my downed position and he couldn’t stop me when suddenly I heard some magic words – ‘ok, you win!’

Set a new standard of what you will accept

It was a turning point for me. This horrible, leery, aggressive, big, nasty bully was beaten by a kid two years younger and at least a foot shorter. Word got out about it, just as the summer ended and I started at secondary school and… yes, it was the same school as he went to. Thankfully, I had nothing to fear. He never tried again, though the size of the spade handle I hit him with grew and turned into an iron bar through his telling. And got smaller and lighter in mine, he left me alone. My ‘rep’ was secure and though I was never considered as a tough guy, I had demonstrated enough attitude to ensure that my high school days became some of the best days of my life. Bully free.

The biggest thing I did that day was to decide that I’d had enough and that I would face him on my terms.

Today, bullying is no less a problem and for many they, (the bullies) make lives miserable. Why? Because they can and for many men, women and children, who are bullies, because they don’t even realize that they are. How can you not know that you’re a bully? Because in their mind they are not bullying you, they are defending themselves against you. At some level you being you is hurting them, offending them or defying them. In their mind they have a right to despise and bully you. Obviously, they are wrong and it’s my goal and that of my team of instructors to put an end to it.

Can the martial arts stop bullying?
It can but often it’s not the martial arts skill that stops the bully, it’s the confidence that martial arts training brings. A good martial arts instructor will, through gradually increasing challenges, teach you how to deal with stressful situations. The first stress could be stepping into a dojo full of black belts and seemingly tough people, but that stress is in your control and comes from your level of determination to stop this bullying in its tracks. After that a good instructor will focus on giving you a set of ever-increasing challenges, which, as you face and achieve them, your core confidence begins to grow. Your self-belief grows alongside your level of skill and you begin to realize that you have the power to take control of the situation.

Do you have to fight back to beat your bully?

As surprising as it might seem, the answer to that question is no. Not always. Often the change in your confidence, including how you carry yourself and how you make eye contact or speak, carry through so much that the bully sees you grow and themselves shrink a little. Sometimes, the fact that you turn around and with anger in your eyes and tell the bully to ‘back off!’ shows them you mean business. And, sometimes we hear the stories of a student who fights back, and just as I did, not necessarily win, but set a standard of trouble that makes pursuing you, no longer an option for their bully.

Fight back against bullying

So, if you are a victim of bullying, man, woman or child, there is a cure, but that cure starts with you. You make the decision that it must stop. Next, recruit others to help. Trusted friends, colleagues or martial arts instructor. After that, make a plan so that you can deal with the bully on your own terms. Terms that give you a plan B, if things go wrong.

Obviously, if you’re not in Leeds, Bradford or Halifax and not near one of my martial arts academies, you should look for a reputable dojo, tell them your issue and see if they can help. Of course, I’m always available by email to give advice, so if you are a victim of bullying just drop me a line. Thanks for reading.

Tony Higo January 2019.

Tony Higo is an 8th degree black belt master of the martial arts and founder of the AEGIS system. He has written several books on the martial arts and works with many of the top martial artists and instructors in the UK. For more details on the AEGIS system go to www.aegismartialarts.co.uk. He can be contacted at tonyhigo@aegismartialarts.co.uk