I am by no means a self-proclaimed self defense expert (although I’ve learnt a thing or two as a doorman, barman, BJJ and Krav Maga practitioner) but I’d like to offer my two cents on keeping your child safe in this big bad world. Living in expat places like Bahrain and Hong Kong, you realize how very lucky we are to live in relatively crime-free and safe environments. The problem with living in Disney Land is that it can turn you into Mickey Mouse. The absence of street smarts, a physical culture and some internal mongrel means many of our children are failing when they leave the expat nest and enter the ‘real deal’. Here is my advice on how you can prepare your child beyond the world of just academia. Let discuss bullying and real-world life/death situations.
While I lived in Bahrain, I was approached by countless parents who claimed their child was being bullied at expat schools. While sympathetic to these parents, I couldn’t help but think, ‘crikey, if your child is being bullied at that flash school, I’d hate to think what would happen in a public school back home. I’m aware that bullying occurs in all schools and it doesn’t matter how ‘posh’ or ‘un-posh’ it is. I think we need to differentiate between bullying and school-yard banter. The bottom line is that we are preparing our kids for the real world we live in today and we must not bubble wrap them too much. Sensitive folk would disagree with me but I believe some acute form of bullying is actually a good thing as long as the child has the support to overcome the adversity. Of course there is no room for serious or chronic bullying. So how do we prepare our children to meet the school bully?
Firstly, I believe we should regularly expose our kids to some ‘different situations’ outside their day-to-day norm. Experiencing new environments with a range of different socio-economic, cultures, races, religions is vital to promote situational awareness. Examples in Bahrain could include taking your child to a new area and letting them walk 20 meters in front of you. What did they see and hear? Did they identify any potential dangers? Bullying can occur for several reasons but commonly it is because the child fails to be aware of their environment. Example: The kid who identifies and understands the bully, acknowledges him by looking him in the eyes, smiles and says ‘hello [insert name]. They send a signal, ‘I don’t give a shit who you are. I’m confident and I’ll stand my ground’. The kid who drops his head and shies away is unfortunately a prime target. Regardless of the situation, be it the school-yard, internet or the journey home, a high level of situational awareness minimizes the chances of bullying in the first place. This only comes with safe and progressive exposure to the world we live in.
Outside the experiences that may prevent a child getting into danger, I also believe we should arm our children with the tools to defend themselves in a life/death situation. Your kid goes to their first university house party. There’s alcohol, new people and a strange location. These red lights are missed by the kids who have not been trained to identify them. Telling the child not to go to the party will not work. They are technically an adult and should be empowered to make the smart decisions alone. Let’s imagine your child does go to the house party and someone attacks them or a fight breaks out. Would they know what to do? Do they instinctually know the steps to get to safety? Sometimes fight-flight responses cause the situation to become much worse. Years of martial arts classes like BJJ, Muay Thai, Judo or Krav can be very useful in a time of intense danger. Warning: Sales Time! I’ve spent the last few months developing our junior combative program. This will come into full effect in the New Year, but our new combative programming will include ‘Anti-Bullying’ (prevention, takedowns, defense, group attacks, technology) ‘Self-Defense’ (grab, choke, knife/weapon, ground) and ‘RIng’ (pummeling, ground, boxing/striking, kicks/knees).
Prevention is always better than cure. The majority of tools to stay safe are between the ears, not in the muscles. Progressive exposure to the world is the initial priority. Once this has been developed, it’s time to arm the child up so they can respond to a bad situation and get to safety.
Stay safe Tribe!