Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bully Prevention & Self Defense Secrets - a Martial Arts Philosophical Perspective

by John Nottingham, EPS, PI, 6th Dan
The Arizona Bullying Prevention Project

When I first started martial arts in my youth I learned a secret to self defense and bullying prevention that has served me well throughout life. I'd like to share that secret with you in this brief blog article.

First you have to understand my teachers background. He was a ROK Marine, a Korean immigrant living in the Midwest teaching a hybrid martial art system. Not only did we get a dose of traditional Korean and Chinese Martial Arts philosophy, his lessons included some simple common sense wisdom he learned from his unique life experience. He grew up in the mean streets of a rapidly changing Korea, an ancient culture rapidly changing into the new world. Times were tough and you had to learn to stand up for yourself. Crime, rioting and street violence were frequent so his martial arts skills had to work if he wanted to be able to defend himself.

His techniques could not simply be theoretical or a hobby limited to personal development and fitness. He had to know what worked on the street, under pressure and often against multiple attackers. When a thug is in your face, this is not the time to hope your martial arts techniques work. He had to rely on them to save his bacon.
He later would serve in the military as a Marine during the VietNam conflict. ROK Marines were known for their ferocity, bravery and intense loyalty. So his experience was as a street fighter, martial artist (Chinese Temple Kung Fu and Korean MooDukKwan TangSooDo - later referred to as TaeKwonDo.) and as a combat soldier.

I was a young wide eyed kid wanting to learn the mysterious martial arts secrets from the orient. My imagination fired by James Bond doing Jujutsu, Bruce Lee doing Jeet Kune Do and Chuck Norris doing Tang Soo Do (Korean Martial Arts) I wanted this mysterious power of martial arts and self defense. After begging Mom for Martial Arts lessons, researching the phone book (this was before Google lol), and asking friends, I found two schools in town. The one with the tough reputation ended up being my choice. Over the years I've been blessed to follow my dream and study numerous systems.

Like so many others, I began my martial arts journey and discovered that it was much harder and different than what I had expected. This was particularly true for an insecure kid with asthma, allergies and issues of low self esteem and insecurity. Martial Arts helped me change all that. What I learned was that the battle we fight is first within ourselves. Once we begin to learn that, only then can we learn to deal kindly, politely and compassionately with others.
My first teacher taught me many lessons about work ethic, discipline, a strong mental "I CAN" attitude. Along with that, he taught each of his students this simple but profound truth about self defense. It equally fits how to deal with bullying and how to handle a bully problem. He said, "The best self defense is to have no enemies." Later, Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee would teach me that the most powerful person is one who can make friends and the best self defense technique in the world is the ability to turn a friend into an enemy.

Last week I reflected on these fond memories and martial arts lessons I've used over the years as I taught our USA Martial Arts students our lesson of the week. This particular phrase and lesson comes from my mentor Shihan Dave Kovar. "Who is mighty? One with control over their emotions and can make friends from enemies."

Although it seems simple, these lessons are powerful and profound in their use. It is for this and other reasons I feel so strongly that martial arts is so important for today's youth. It has the time-tested wisdom they need to be healthy, confident and strong individuals. It instills virtues that serve you throughout your life. It contributes toward a better community through building better citizens with a mindset of compassion, friendship and peace. It also helps keep America strong by preparing today's youth for tomorrows challenges. It all starts with the courage to face the fears and limitations within ourselves.

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