Bullies Beware of Karate Kids

One local sensei is promoting karate to combat bullies, but is that wise?

It’s a classIc scene.

Dead-meat Daniel LaRusso runs frantically through a hazy field, a fence standing between safety and skeleton and Spandex-clad bullies.

Enter Mr. Miyagi.

With masterful martial arts moves, he takes down the quintet in an effortless defense of Danielsan.

But in life outside of The Karate Kid, small stuntmen are hardly hanging around, waiting to help. That’s why one Charlotte sensei is teaching kids karate to help fend off bullies. “Kids will only defend themselves verbally if they have the confidence to back it up physically,” says Charlotte martial arts instructor Scott Shields.

In the 2009-2010 school year, Charlotte-Mecklenburg recorded 795 incidents of bullying. That’s nearly five instances per school day. “I’d say eight out of ten students who come in the door now are because of bullying,” says Shields. “It never used to be like this. It’s unbelievable.”

But not everyone encourages sand-the-floor skills. “Even though there are cases where parental advice is to fight back,” says UNC Charlotte counseling professor Ed Wierzalis, “it often intensifies the situation and brings both bully and victim into school disciplinary action.”

Shields says martial arts fosters respect for self, others, and property. “It’s a skill that no one can take from you,” he says.

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