Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bullying: A personal perspective

This series of posts explores the roots and provides recommended responses to childhood bullying. Here’s the introduction to the series:

 Dealing with Bullies and Bullying: Introduction

Bullying: A personal perspective

Note: Master Eric Johnson is a 7th Level Black Belt in Tien Tae Jitsu martial arts—an eclectic, self-defense-based and family-oriented martial art that blends elements of karate, kung fu, jujitsu, hapkido and kickboxing.

I was bullied

I have the unique—well, maybe not so unique, but unfortunate—experience of having been severely bullied in Junior High School. I was extremely small for my age and I grew up in a logging and lumber town. Needless to say, some of the kids I went to school with were rough and rowdy.  It was pretty common to have parents take the position of “Let the kids work it out” or “What’s wrong, your kid doesn’t know how to fight?” I had the opportunity to take Karate and Judo lessons when I was in the Cub Scouts, but didn’t take it all that seriously when I was in elementary school.

Moving to a new town

My problems began when I moved to a new town and started Junior High in the same year. It was mostly pushing, shoving, teasing, and name calling (being the youngest of 6 kids, I was pretty used to all of that). The one time I was confronted by a violent bully gave me the opportunity to try out my new running shoes. They performed admirably! Later that same year, I began training in Kenpo karate. The instructor did an excellent job of conveying a message of peace through self confidence. We learned to fight while hoping and praying that we would never have to.

Putting martial arts to work

Through my time in Junior and Senior High School I had cause to use my self-defense skills on multiple occasions. I attended Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon. As you may or may not recall, this was the site of Oregon’s deadliest school shooting to date. On May 21, 1988 a student named Kip Kinkel opened fire in the school, injuring 24 students and killing 2. That morning, Kip had killed both his parents in their home. I knew Kip Kinkel as a child and knew his father as a teacher at Thurston High. Kip was a pretty average kid. He enjoyed riding his big wheel in the driveway. He liked ice cream and he had a great personality. He was a good kid who went down a very dark path.

A history of violence at Thurston High School

Thurston had a history of violence long before that fateful day when Kip went on a shooting rampage. There were fights all the time. Cliques of jocks, preps, stoners and loners exhibited gang-like behavior. I was personally sucker punched, tackled and faced multiple attackers on various occasions. I had a knife pulled on me twice and received a stab wound on my right arm on one occasion. I was shot at for standing next to my best friend who was dating the ex-girlfriend of a jealous psycho.

Learning about human nature and psychology

As I continued my education in martial arts over the next several decades, I learned as much as I could about human nature and psychology. It occurred to me that the best methods of self defense did not lay within some ancient fighting style, but in education and the compassion of our own hearts and souls. In time, I myself became a parent and did my best to instill positive virtues in my daughter. She’s since graduated from High School, has a good job, and is out on her own. Sometimes that’s the best we can hope for.

No comments:

Post a Comment