Column: Defend yourself against bullies

Erik Berkley

War epitomizes bullying behavior in the fabric of human history. Nazis in Europe slaughtered millions of Jews in concentration camps during World War II. They used intimidation, threats of violence and eventually killed people in catastrophic proportions.

School cafeterias are havens for it too. Bullies trip, instigate, confront, and even attack susceptible students who come in their way.

The work place is no different. Workers try to get recognized by manipulating colleagues, spreading gossip and simply making fun of co-workers.

We can talk about the problem until our faces turn red. However, attempting to stop the behavior may only perpetuate it.

You hear of teenagers committing suicide almost daily in the news. Tormented to the point that they didn’t want to live another day.

There are a lot of people out there who say you shouldn’t fight back; you shouldn’t stoop to their level.

But how about the long term affects if you don’t stop it? Or the repercussions they will have on you as an adult?

The time spent trying to repress it internally, thinking it will go away, won’t solve it. I know because I was a victim.

I remember a kid in my junior high school whose mission was to intimidate and threaten me with violence.

I was kicked, punched, and shoved during recess. I never reported his bullying behavior. I didn’t want it to get worse, so one day I retaliated. This time when he tried to back me up in a corner, I pushed back. He was surprised. I wasn’t going to take it this time. I saw a kick coming to my head. I instinctively blocked it and threw him to the ground. To my shock, he ran away.

I really believe self-defense saved me that day.

I agree that martial arts, boxing, and being physically active can build self-esteem and confidence. They are prime components in defending yourself from bullies.

Robert L. Jones, a Martial Arts teacher from the state of Washington, says bullies thrive on attacking kids who they see as weak.

“Kids who are bullied often have (generally as a result of the bullying) low confidence levels,” said Jones, a 20-year self-defense teacher. “Lack of focus and high stress levels making them appear even weaker.”

Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi and high school student Phoebe Prince both committed suicide. I wonder what would have happened they’d had training in self-defense.

Clementi jumped off a New Jersey bridge after several students mocked him over an alleged sexual encounter with an adult male.

Prince died earlier in the year after supposedly being called an “Irish slut.” The 15-year-old freshman moved from Ireland to a small town in Massachusetts a year earlier.

Tyler Long, 17, took his life on October 17, 2009 after alleged bullying from classmates at a Georgia high school. Tyler had Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism that made him unpopular with his classmates.

“They took his pride from him,” David Long said in a 20/20 interview about his son Tyler. “He was a hollow person.”

So, what would you do if you were bullied? Walk away? Stay quiet? Take the physical and emotional abuse?

For all of you out there feeling helpless and scared, think about how empowering defending yourself can be.

So what if you get some bumps and bruises along the way. I would rather take my chances defending myself any way I can, and you should too.