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Innovative Martial Arts
15-1599 Dugald Rd
Winnipeg, MB

Tag, Dodgeball and other school yard games

On the drive home today it was mentioned on the radio that there is a push to ban certain school years games like tag and dodgeball. The idea is that these games can often turn into bullying or picking on the slower or less athletic kids.

To a certain extent that is true. With the wrong group of kids and the wrong group mentality this can definitely happen and result in some bullying behaviour.

However, the same could be said for pretty much any competitive activity. At what point do we stop removing games, or should we even try to remove them at all?

I teach kids martial arts… now there is a opening for bad behaviour. We teach kids to physically control each other, to squash them, immobilize them and put them in very unpleasant situations. (And obviously to get out of those positions as well)

It would be very easy for an experienced kid to make life miserable for a smaller, newer student… But, it generally doesn’t happen. Why is that?

At our camps, events and even in class as the occasional warm up we use games like tag and dodgeball… but this doesn’t happen. Why is that?

I don’t think the problem is with the games. The games themselves are fine, the problem is a lack of sportsmanship, and a lack of teaching kids to be leaders and take care of each other.

In fact I think the best way to create leaders and teach sportsmanship is in games where there is the potential for things to go the other way. We can’t teach a kid to make a good decision in a game unless they have the opportunity to make either a good one or a bad one.

We also need to teach them the difference between a game and a competition. Games might be competitive, but they also need to remain fun, and in the end the outcome isn’t really the most important thing.

Removing games like tag and dodgeball is not something I think will solve the problem, the problem is the mindset of the kids involved. Sometimes I think adults try too hard to shelter kids from adversity, when instead we should be teaching them to embrace it and support others.

In a healthy group of kids with a good mindset when the slower kid gets tagged someone will allow themselves to be tagged and go after someone else, it’s a game, and everyone has fun. They self balance their skill levels to some degree. In an unhealthy group it becomes a game of tease the slowest and keep them “it”.

In the martial arts we would never put up with a kid that acted in that manner with training partners. In fact the problem would be far more pronounced. But part of what makes them confident leaders as they progress is that they have that ability, and choose to help each other rather then hurt each other.

So I’d vote to keep the games, but change the mindset. Bring the ideas of sportsmanship and leadership into the games and classrooms, otherwise it’s just a band aid solution.

Our Philosophy

Jiu-Jitsu Goes Mainstream

Over the past few years something interesting has happened... Jiu-Jitsu has expanded greatly.

Not too long ago Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was primarliy a martial art practiced by adults. Adults where drawn to it for it's practicallity and function. Unlike many classical martial arts that failed to deliver on the promise of self-defence, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu proved itself. Practitioners cared more about function and usefulness then following tradition. There was no memorizing patterns and punching air in lines well counting in a different language.

Jiu-Jitsu did for adult martial arts what the karate kid movie had done for the kids market 30 years ago.

It was fun, it was functional, it was safe, and it got people in amazing shape. It also had a depth of knowledge far greater then most other "martial arts". You could not get a black belt in 3-5 years... this was something that took a decade or more for most people.

As the art grew the kids followed the adults. Kids where drawn to it because it's fun. Kids are natural grapplers, wrestling and grappling is something they do. Parents where drawn to it as well, for the practicallity and the safe nature of it. We all want our kids to be safe, and to be able to defend themselves if they ever need to as well as have the confidence to stand up for themselves to bullies. Jiu-Jitsu teaches a self-defence that is ideal for kids because it is about control, not inflicting damage.

In a traditional striking based art practioners are taught to hit back, harder, and to more vital spots. In the end both people are getting hit, and probably hurt, but to hurt the other person more and faster. In Jiu-Jitsu the response to someone trying to hit you is not to hit them back harder, but to take control of them and put yourself in a better position where they can't hit you and you can force them to give up.

So now Jiu-Jitsu is probably one of the few arts that is truly for all ages. Boxing and Kickboxing have some kids, but it's full contact blows limits it for kids who should not be taking shots. Classical styles like karate and Tae Kwon Do have a few adults, but most schools are primarily kid based. Wrestling and Judo tend to taper off for older adults as they can be quite rough on the body with all the throws. But Jiu-Jitsu can be trained safely and effectively regardless of whether you are 3 or 63. SOme practioners have even continued way past that age.


Bullying pt 6 - The 4 Types of Bullying

Bullying can largely be divided into 4 types of bullying, each working in a different way but in a very similar way.

Physical - This is probably the most obvious form of bullying, and the one that is most likely to get dealt with by the authority figures. This includes hitting, kicking, tripping, throwing things, stealing or destroying a persons possessions, etc.

Physical bullying is the most obvious and the one a lot of people will take the most serious.

Verbal - This is another form of bullying which can be just as damaging to a person emotionally. This includes things like name calling, insults, taunting, homophobic and racist comments, etc.

Verbal bullying is sometimes met with a “Sticks and stones…” sort of thinking, which at times may deter the behaviour, but verbal bullying can definitely cause serious damage to a persons mental and emotional well-being.

Social - Social bullying tends to effect older kids and adults more. This includes things such as gossiping, spreading rumors, leaving people out of group things intentionally and visibly, and otherwise attempting to hurt a persons social reputation and relationships.

Social bullying affects middle schools, high schools and work places. Social bullying can be very hard to deal with at times, and in some cases attempting to disprove or suppress things can lead to the opposite effect.

Because it attempts to draw from a herd mentality it can be very hard to deal with at times.

Cyber bullying - This is very closely related to social bullying, and could even be considered a extension of it. However the internet has allowed for anonymity, permanence and at a potential scale that doesn't occur in “real world” interactions. Posts online can spread and follow a person anywhere and practically indefinitely.


Bullying pt 5 - An Under-Reported Problem

Bullying is something that happens in schools far more then it is reported.

The thing to remember is bullying is a "power" behaviour. It is the bully making the victim feel powerless in order to raise themselves up.

As such victims often don't like talking about it, they may feel ashamed or embarrassed. Bullies often target things perceived as flaws in the victim, and talking about it would be talking about their own perceived flaws and weaknesses.

They may also be concerned that talking about it will make it worse, that they will be then bullied for being a tattle-tale or a snitch. That they will be perceived as being weak for seeking out help.

They may also fear losing privileges if they do report it. For example that telling adults about online bullying may cause them to lose access to online activities.

The important thing is to keep in mind that bullying might happen and go completely unreported. Bullying is a problem, but it is not one that can't be dealt with, however kids often need help in doing so and it is up to the adults to watch for signs and keep open and non-judgemental lines of communication.

And remember, bullying is a power and control behaviour. Solving it involves giving power back to the kid, or rather reminding them that they still have it and helping them use it. The best solutions are when they have options and make the decisions on their own. This doesn't mean don't help, but it does mean that they should be involved in the solution and not have more power and control taken from them in an attempt to solve it.


Bullying pt 4 - The "CALM" Rule

How a child deals with bully like behaviour will help effect how much bullying they are likely to be a target of.  Responding to bully like behaviour in a "CALM" way can help shut down bullying early and prevent them from becoming a target.

CALM in this case stands for "be Calm, be Assertive, Look them in the eyes and Mean it" and can provide a basis for teaching children how to interact with a bully.

Be Calm - Bullies feed off reactions.  If they are able to get you worked up or get a reaction out of you they are successful.  Picking on someone that doesn't get a reaction is noun to them and they are more likely to move on.  When you get nervous you tend to talk faster, so practice speaking slow and be mindful of how you talk.

Be Assertive - Bullying is a power game, it's an attempt to knock someone else down in order to feel in control and powerful.  Being assertive shows them that you are still in control.

Look them in the eye - similar to being assertive, bullying is about balance of power.  Looking someone in the eye is one of our primal power plays.  Practice looking someone in eyes, staring contests are a common children game, but they also teach how to appear confident.

Mean it - Don't say things you don't mean, and mean what you say.  If you say "back off or I will do X", it needs to be something that you can follow through on.  If it isn't, and they call you on it you lose credibility.