According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 28 percent of American school students in grades 6-12 have, at some time, experienced bullying. The figure is 20 percent for youngsters in grades 9-12.
At the same time, more than 70 percent of students have seen others being bullied in schools.
Too many people, especially youngsters, today are feeling the effects of others trying to impose their will on them.
It is not just childhood bullying, however. It can be things such as road rage incidents on the highway or strange men improperly approaching women in a parking lot or on the street, actions that wrongly put fear and possible physical harm into the life of a victim.
Garry Welch, founder and master instructor of Kingdom Krav Maga, located at 6341 Highway 51 North in Horn Lake, believes the self-defense art, founded in Israel and taught at his location, can help thwart those bullies and bring a level of confidence and courage back to those who otherwise may feel afraid and victimized.
“Our program centers around anti-bullying, predator defense and abduction awareness,” Welch said. “We talk about bullies and how to deal with bullies but we also encourage the children that they need to know that their parents or their best friends should know about any problems that they’re having. The confidence that I’ve seen, especially in females, is incredible. Bullies are not going to deal with someone with confidence. They can see and sense confidence and that’s with any predator.”
Welch points out that Krav Maga is a form of self-defense and not to be confused with the martial arts, such as judo or karate, although it does have variations that may make it seem similar to the martial arts.
Krav Maga started in Israel in 1948, the same year the Mideast country became a nation. It gained popularity in the United States in the mid 1980s.
“They picked and chose what was the most simplistic, most practical way to defend yourself and developed a system,” Welch said. “In Israel, once you turn age 18, every female does two years in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) and every male does three years. Basically, everybody in Israel that’s done time in the military has taken Krav Maga.”
Welch uses the word “lifestyle” in describing the Krav Maga program, saying those who learn it should consider it as learning a sensitivity to surroundings and how to respond to possible threats.
“We teach it as a lifestyle and a mentality being aware, no matter what situation you are in,” Welch said. “It teaches a mindset and a mentality of not being a victim. It’s also a lifestyle of fitness. We have people who come and some lose seven pounds to upwards of 45 pounds after starting to take Krav Maga.”
When approached by bullies, Welch teaches first how to verbally deal with the threat before having to use their physical skills.
“If it ever comes to that, they are able to defend themselves and take care of themselves,” Welch said. “We also teach them the pre-incident indicators and the signals of people trying to lure you to a certain place. Youngsters get courage, confidence, balance, coordination, physical fitness.”
Welch’s location has programs for all ages but the kids’ Krav Maga program for those as young as age seven is one of the very few located in the Southeast region, he said, adding there are consequences if a student decides to use the skills as a weapon to bully someone, instead of self-defense.
“If it gets back to us that a kid is being aggressive at school, they’re spoken to once, spoken to after a second time and the third time will be dismissed from our program,” Welch said. “We are not creating aggressiveness in the children, we’re creating a defense.”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.