The anxiety a child faces when entering a secondary school for the first time is well known. Books upon books have been written discussing this key moment in the lives of young people. The majority of new children are on the bottom rung of the age ladder, ignorant of the new institution's social and working structure and awed by its size in comparison to their primary school. This all makes them prime candidates for bullying. Therefore, it is small wonder that many of my new child students come to me at this stage in their lives either as a reaction to bullying they are experiencing or to pre-empt the bullying in the first place.
Much of what is written in magazines and books discusses the worries a child faces before entering secondary school for the first time is all focused on the first day. However, it is not always the first day or even the first week when the real problems crop up. When a child first goes to a new school the initial experience is rarely as bad as he might think. The first day at a new school is all about acclimatization and learning new routines. Teachers and even older children understand about the worries a new child faces and can be fairly sympathetic. It is later on that a lot of bullying tends to surface. This is because the victim has been selected and it takes a certain degree of time for this to happen. What also happens is that the victim has lowered their defences by this stage and revealed potential weaknesses.
I remember seeing children at my secondary school that seemed popular and confident for the first few weeks descend into a miserable state of being persecuted over time. One child, not the most likeable of people I have to admit, came across as a real extrovert in the first week and looked set to be the "class joker" for our year. By the end of the first week he had become the target of the jokes and a campaign of bullying seemed to go in waves against him and occurred both in his year group and in his school house. He eventually left at the end of the second form (Year 8). Another was an inoffensive little soul who not only appeared to have friends in his year, but also what appeared to be a degree of protection from the older children. His bullying was a slow gradual process that only really surfaced in the upper school once all his protection had left the school and his passivity and small stature, not to mention certain physical characteristics, became perfect areas for bully exploitation. Both these children fell into a false sense of security when teachers and parents were confident that the anxiety stage was over and the child didn't need watching over.
Of course, this is a perfectly understandable attitude to take. If a child is going to be independently minded and be allowed to grow socially he or she does not need to be constantly watched and overdoing this only contributes towards lack of confidence. However, this is also the prime time for the bully to strike and it is when a child will need to be able to prevent this from happening or to deal with it in a manner that will prevent future bullying. It is because bullying can take on this form that I understand why "quick fix" solutions were never going to work at my regular children’s classes. My training for children is as close to reality as possible and it is from this honesty that we derive a healthy mental and physical education in self-protection. A key feature of my classes is the way I develop the individual, which is unlike most martial arts classes or even self-defence courses that make people conform to a set routine.
By taking this approach I train principles, which MY students confirm through activities rather than learn by accumulating superficial techniques. This makes self-defence become part of a person's character or personality. A big area of ours is the development of attitude. It is attitude that will contribute more than anything else in the prevention of becoming a target. If, however, they do become the target of a bully it is attitude that will give them the fortitude to handle the situation in the best way possible.
In conclusion, anti-bullying is a question of character building. However, this character building is not created through gimmicky courses or quick bits of advice. Rather it is earned through a practical understanding of human behaviour both that of others and your own.