I get very worried looking at a lot of social media posts by martial art instructors who have never undergone the holistic training of traditional martial arts and are still stuck in the neanderthal, excitable and violent mindset that the only way to deal with bullying is to become like the bully and hit them. I grew up in that mindset on a South London Council Estate and would probably in prison for violence now if it hadn’t been for traditional martial arts. For the past 45 years I have taught extensively in the education system, to police and security operatives of all kinds, in the UK and internationally and many social groups, from that broad base of experience I have drawn a few simple rules to start with. Let me explain…..
Fear is contagious and violence begets violence. In traditional martial arts we start with the person and work outwards. Our first 3 commands are ‘stand tall, breathe deep and focus the mind’ – body language, calmness and a focused mind are the essential places to start. We call this neigong – ‘inner work’.
Child or adult, the first lessons are how not to be a victim, drawing yourself up to your full height, looking everyone in the eye and using an authoritative voice, moving with confidence and not looking hunched, vague or dithery means that you are unlikely to picked on in the first place.
In our Zan Zuang ‘standing post’ practice we work on getting a connected strength and also the yin and yang aspects of emotional intelligence training the emotions to be patient, kind, tolerant and compassionate alongside resolve, determination and courage. This teaches students courtesy, good manners and how to be helpful and function well with others but if pushed will not be afraid to stand their ground and deal with aggression and negativity without becoming aggressive and negative themselves. The last thing you want is a child or adult who becomes a bully to deal with a bully.
We teach that your body belongs to you and no-one child or adult has the right to touch you without your permission. Your ‘reach out and touch space’ is your personal space and inside that is the ‘red’ zone where you will be actively defending yourself, the perimeter is the amber ‘highly aware’ zone where you are ready to act and further away is the ‘yellow’ zone where you are aware and watching mindfully – we are never in the lazy or distracted ‘white’ zone.
Traditional martial artists are ‘peacekeepers’, the law says that anyone is allowed to use ‘reasonable’ force to defend themselves and this requires all the skills listed above. First we teach how to not get bullied, body language, emotional intelligence and social graces are essential, then how not to get hit or held, use of distance, angle and principles like the ‘wedge’ and ‘spiral’ are essential to make it work. We teach strategy for all occasions in school and personal life so everyone has a toolbox of ‘street savvy’ appropriate to their age and environment. Finally we teach the ‘last resort’ techniques of punching, kicking locking, throwing and restraint to be used with the trained resolve, determination and courage rather than negativity and aggression.
Traditional martial arts is a lifetime study and contains all the depth and knowledge to keep you studying over the years, no ‘quick fix’ but a bank of life skills built over the days, months and years of study put together by people that learned in the same way.
Being a ‘peacekeeper’ gives you a life of health, happiness and social skills, far better than immersing yourself into a world of negativity and violence.