WESTERVILLE, Ohio –
Who can forget Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita in The Karate Kid?
The movie centered on a teenager in a new neighborhood who was harassed and beaten by classmates, but learned the art of discipline, self confidence and martial arts to stand up to the bullies.
A local martial arts program in Westerville is doing something similar for middle school students who are looking for confidence to stand in the Battle Against Bullying.
“They key is to stand up and say no. That presence of confidence keeps it from happening to you because you are not the weakest person in the room,” said Dave Perdue, owner of Perdue Taekwando in Westerville.
Perdue has been teaching martial arts for 20 years, and helps all ages and levels at his studio. But perhaps his largest class is a group of middle school students, many who have been attending class for several years.
Perdue said the students come to get in shape physically and find encouragement emotionally.
“I’m bullied for being a geek and liking Comicon,” said Andrew, a participant.
“First rule, keep your head up. You should be proud of yourself,” Perdue said. “Sometimes they don’t fit, but doing push-ups and sit-ups, being more physically fit gives them confidence.”
Part of the training involves teaching students how to repel a bully who attempts to intimidate someone. Students are taught to use upraised arms and open hands, so it’s obvious who the aggressor is.
In the majority of cases, Perdue said, that action will stop the advance from a bully. But if it doesn’t, he said, it’s all about defense and space.
“Quit hit, create safe separations and then run for help,” Perdue said.
Perdue said the intent is for a defense to reduce the chance of physical harm in the rare cases, but the real goal is to build friendships, and respect for authority and themselves.
Westerville North Social Studies teacher Damon Mollenkopf has helped as a volunteer assistant, and said he’s seen the changes in students who commit to the program.
“I’ve actually had teachers tell me how they have become more assertive and advocate for themselves more,” Mollenkopf said.
“Before, when a bully was nearby, I would be scared, but now I don’t have to be scared anymore,” said Chris, a student.