Saturday, February 2, 2013

Standing Up to a Bully - an Avoidance Strategy

In Nature, a predator will select the easiest target available. It might be the youngest or the oldest... the smallest or the sickest... but it will always be the easiest.

This is a simple survival strategy, because catching an easy target conserves energy, and involves less risk. And that's why predators aren't keen to lock horns with a hard target. If they get injured in the hunt, they might die. 

Well a human predator is no different... and a bully is simply a predator who uses threats and intimidation to frighten their victim into submission. And like any predator, they prefer easy targets.

What I'll explain now is a primal strategy for dealing with a bully in the lead-up to a physical assault. It's not a self-defence strategy... it's an avoidance strategy... an attempt to prevent the situation from escalating into physical violence. The goal is simply to look and sound like a hard target

If you're teaching a young child, then I recommend that you do it in the form of a game... and repeat it as often as you can until they're confident. Confidence is the key to them applying it effectively.... and having permission from you to stand up for themselves! 

You can start by teaching them to :
  1. step back away with either foot to create a narrow side-on position
  2. extend their lead hand forward as a stop sign, and in a firm voice say "No! Stay back!"
If you eventually want or need to take things to the next level, you can teach them to :
  1. place both hands on the bully's upper chest
  2. step forward to use their leg muscles to push the bully away (a strong push not a strike)
  3. and again say "No! Stay back!"

For tweens (aged 10 to 12) and teens (13 and up), the confrontation becomes more involved.... and the potential for life-long emotional scarring increases significantly. So it's important that they understand the tactics that a bully/predator will use, and why.

Firstly, it's important to remember that a bully wants to frighten their victim into submission... and to do that they will move in close and use threats and intimidation. So as best you can, you need to come across as looking and sounding like a hard target.

Note : Using the 'Stop' hand gesture is not going to be effective for a tween or a teen, simply because a seasoned bully is going to see that gesture as a sign of weakness.

So with that in mind, the following sequence would be the kind of scenario that a tween or a teen needs to practice :
  1. firstly, when the bully approaches you, immediately open the distance to 4-6 feet
  2. stand side-on and extend your hands forward as a natural defensive-barrier
  3. look them in the eyes, and in a firm voice say something like "What do you want?"
  4. they will try to close the distance again, and when they do, firmly push them back away
  5. then adopt a primal threat indicator (serious intent, chin down, point with one finger)... and in an aggressive tone of voice tell them to "Stay back!" or "Back off!"

Whatever words your child feels comfortable saying, they should practice them so that they come out automatically and confidently.  Practice in front of a mirror if possible... and keep in mind that the goal is to look and sound like a hard target.  That might take a bit of practice! 

Now let's review the 5 simple de-escalation tactics I listed above : 
  1. open the distance
  2. create a defensive barrier
  3. engage them verbally
  4. push them back away with both hands if you have to
  5. and adopt a primal threat indicator to show them that you're a hard target.
It's important to understand that it's only at this point that self-defence techniques come into play.  Up to now it's all been about applying de-escalation tactics in the hope of avoiding a physical confrontation.  And hopefully your child has made the bully think twice about attacking them.

If your child already knows some martial arts techniques, it's vital that their practice sessions include a reality-based scenario like the one above.  Over my thirty years of studying and teaching martial arts I've known many 'traditionalists' who were set-up and knocked down, simply because they didn't understand a predator's intention and tactics.

Below is a link to a post that was specifically written for parents and teenagers... so they could appreciate the realities of a violent confrontation. Whether you're a mum or a dad, please find the time to read it... because the bullies of today become the street predators of tomorrow!

 It's Primal Protection.

Click on this post link below for more insight to help teenage children :
"But mum, dad - that won't happen to me!"

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