What is bullying?
It is a form of intimidation. A bully intimidates a weaker person using words or physical abuse to get him or her to do something.
Many people think bullying is just a problem that goes on at school. This, unfortunately, is not true. It goes on in schools, neighbourhoods and in workplaces. It comes in several forms: physical, verbal, emotional intimidation, racism, sexual and cyberbullying.
A bully can be a child, an aggressive juvenile, an intimidating boss or co-worker, a romantic partner, an unruly neighbour, a family member or even a high-pressuring sales representative.
How should you deal with a bully?
I hear many people telling children and teenagers to “Just ignore the bully and he or she will go away”. I believe that is the wrong advice. Never ignore the bully. I have seen on many occasions a person tried to ignore a bully and this only invited the bully to become physical.
What does he or she want? The bully wants attention and if you ignore him or her that will probably escalate the problem. Instead of just teaching how to punch, kick and do techniques to hurt others, Aikido teaches students how to think and approach life in a calm, controlled and peaceful manner.
I tell my students if someone calls you names, they should follow a three-step process:
- Tell the bully to stop it, that you do not like it.
- Ask why he or she is calling you that?
- Let the bully know if he or she continues you will report it to the teacher, the principal or the bully’s parents and he or she will have to deal with the consequences.
If it continues then report it. The person you are explaining it to has a responsibility to help. If that person does not do anything then report it to another person in a higher position. Eventually, you will find the right person to help.
At a deeper level, bullies have exceptionally low self-esteem. This correlates with fear of new and unfamiliar things. They become over rebellious, aggressive, and over-controlling.
What is cyberbullying?
Here the bully uses digital devices to harass or embarrass a victim by sharing his or her information or photos with the intent to harm or damage the victim’s reputation. Photos can be doctored to make the person look awkward, weird, or unattractive etc. This form of bullying can be done by social media, emails, text messages and even gaming platforms.
Many adults do not have a clue about how bullying has gotten worse over the years. Especially cyberbullying is very destructive to a victim’s mental health and wellbeing. It has long term consequences because when something is put up on the internet it is there permanently it does not just go away. It can spread very quickly and may even go global.
Many children spend hours on Instagram, Snapchat and other platforms talking to their friends. The longer they are online, the more they share, the higher risk they have of upsetting someone and becoming a victim. This can result in the child or teenager being isolated, mocked and attacked on and offline. The victim may start to self-hate and self-harm, in the worse cases even to commit suicide.
There needs to be more education both at home and in schools to teach children how to use technology in a positive, empowering, and constructive manner. Parents need to know how dangerous it is to leave a young child unsupervised to watch cartoons on YouTube because there are horrible commercials and bad influences that suddenly appear and they can be dangerous resulting in the child hurting him or herself or worse. This is a growing epidemic that is affecting every country in the world.
We need to teach children how to use the power at their fingertips positively to uplift and to encourage people. To lead and dominate with love and positive reinforcement. We need to teach children to respect themselves and others. To understand that words are powerful, they can destroy lives or bring out the absolute best in people.
Aikido as a pragmatic approach to the resolution of problems
Aikido has the philosophy and the ways to accomplish these things in practical, applicable, and enjoyable ways.
For example, P.J. came to me. He was an 11-year old student, and he was being bullied by girls in his class. They tormented him every day physically, pulling his hair, insulting him verbally, and writing nasty things online about him. He tried to stand up to them. He confronted them and asked them why they were doing this to him. As a reaction, the girls got angry and several of them attacked him at once. He was beaten very badly. One of the teachers saw him fighting with the girls and because he was a boy, who “was not supposed to hit girls” the teacher was angry with P.J. and brought him to the principle. The principal listened to the situation and the parents were called. The boy was suspended from school for a week, and the girls were let off. So, P.J. came to me and asked me what he should do. I had a meeting with the parents and P.J. and made together with a clear record of the days, times and dates he was attacked by these girls. This report was then delivered to the principal and he was informed that these girls were targeting him for months and that the measures the school had taken were both discriminatory and unfair. P.J. was terribly upset, and he had a lot of hate towards these people, so we had to help him deal with different emotions, including the shame in not having been able to deal with them by himself. PJ participated in guided meditation sessions and this helped him release some of the emotions.
Guided meditation sessions are obviously not a “quick fix” or instant-gratification solution. It is a “work in progress”; Aikido provides the tools, but it is up to the individual to use them and keep practising. With time, the solution always comes.
After the principal received the report and had a further conversation with his parents, he decided to have a talk with the girls themselves. It turned out one of the girls “had a crush” on PJ and wanted his attention. P.J. did not understand this, and she felt rejected and became aggressive. The principal decided that the girl needed counselling and she was moved to a different class. P.J. eventually spoke to the girl and she was invited for dinner at P.J.’s parents’ house. She apologized to them all and they became friends, and the matter was resolved. The results of this would have been different if P.J. had not been helped to deal with the situation in the “Aikido way”.
After he studied with the Top Masters, Martin Acton Shihan run two Dojos in Japan where he lived for over 20 years, before moving back to the United Kingdom where he founded the “Martin Acton’s Aikido Institute” based in Dromore, which is now the only full time Aikido Dojo in Northern Ireland.
The School was established in 2011 with the purpose to bring what he learnt “back home” and share it with as many western people as possible. At Martin Acton’s Aikido Institute, we teach traditional Aikido better adapted to face the challenges of modern society. We do care particularly about bullying and domestic violence; we offer courses of self-defence and anger management programmes.
Recently we have signed a collaboration agreement with Athena Mental Health, Wellbeing & Training Limited, a company founded by Bio-psychoanalysis Pioneer Prof. Dr. Melania Duca, senior psychotherapist, to promote Aikido even further as a special tool to achieve recovery from trauma and psychological abuse, overcome confidence issues and help socialising.