About Me

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I'm a Sociology Professor at the University of Toronto. I write about gun violence, health disparities, and Hip Hop culture. When I'm not doing research, I like pop-locking, swimming, and learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This is my first blog. I hope you like it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Lessons from The Karate Kid on Bullying

Like many of you, I was a child of the 1980s.  I grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons and Bruce Lee movies like Enter the Dragon.  My favorite movie from that era, however, was The Karate Kid.  Most of you have probably seen the Karate Kid multiple times over, but here's a quick recap and explanation for why I'm using it as my lead-in for this blog: 

Wax on, Wax off!
A kid, Daniel LaRusso, and his mom move from the east coast into a Southern Californian suburb.  He arrives in sunny Southern CA and is immediately a fish- out-of-water.  He develops a crush on a girl at school (played by Elizabeth Shue), but is picked on by mean bullies who are part of the Cobra Kai dojo, an aggressive 'no mercy' brand of karate.  Daniel strikes up an unlikely friendship/mentorship with Mr. Miyagi (an old and reclusive Japanese immigrant) who teaches his valuable life lessons and karate using unconventional methods (like having him buff and wax his cars).  Daniel eventually becomes a karate badass and confronts his bullies, earning their respect.  The end.

Anyways, even though the Karate Kid is a pretty cheesy movie, it has a bunch of relevance for current discussions around bullying.  In recent years, bullying has garnered popular attention, both in the US and in Canada.  Scientists have linked bullying to a whole gamut of negative mental health consequences.  It has been implicated in everything from relatively acute forms of depression and negative body image, to suicide amongst children and teenagers.  

While karate is still a popular mainstay in American society (and offers children a martial arts background that can pay dividends over the life course), Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has quickly become another popular form of self-defense for children.  Both of the BJJ schools in which I have trained currently offer children's BJJ classes that are marketed as a means for "bully self defense."  Check out Balance Studios in Philadelphia.  They currently have a program that is designed to "Bully Proof" children.   My current BJJ school, Toronto BJJ, also has a children's class where they teach kids the fundamentals of BJJ.  These classes are fun, engaging, and will teach your kids techniques and life lessons that will help them manage bullying, if they ever have to confront it. 

Don't be fooled by their smiles, these kids can wreck shop!

And as BJJ continues to grow in popularity--thanks in large part to the explosion of the UFC and other MMA organizations--public schools are beginning to adopt BJJ as part of their physical education.  Check out this article on BJJ becoming part of Brazilian elementary school education.  

One thing that I love about the martial arts is that they are not only a series of physical techniques and moves that one can deploy in self-defense scenarios.  The martial arts also teach you to be a more calm, gracious, and confident person.  The lessons learned on the mats often extend far beyond the dojo or gym.  This, after all, is communicated in one of the best scenes from The Karate Kid.  At one point, Daniel LaRusso asks Mr. Miyagi, "What kind of belt do you have?"  Mr Miyagi, wryly responds, "Canvas.  JC Penney, $3.98.  You like?"  Daniel replies, "No, I meant..." Mr. Miyagi then says, "In Okinawa, belt mean no need rope to hold up pants."  Mr. Miyagi then taps his head and says, "Karate here."  He then taps his heart and says, "Karate here."  Mr. Miyagi then points to his belt, "Karate never here. Understand?"

1 comment:

  1. Folks, here is a really interesting link to an article written by Meghan Welker, "How to Protect Kids from Bullying without Turning Them into a Bully." Check out her blog!