Do you have any experience of being bullied yourself? If so, what did you learn from it?
I received bullying at different times in my life, but I can’t say it was the constant obvious campaign I have seen other people endure. I have always had a passive and introverted side, which I have never been scared of showing, but some people have seen it as a weakness.
I lived on a travelling circus until the age of seven, so for about two to three years I was regularly changing schools. The first time I recalled being bullied was at my fifth school and this was just a 'new kid' type of thing. It was down to the fact that I was wearing school uniform shorts at a non-uniform school. It had never been a problem at my previous schools, but this time a gang of kids had decided to make it a target for jeers. The issue was cleared pretty quickly, but – being a kid – I decided I didn’t like the school. I cannot recall encountering any other type of bullying for a little while. At the age of seven my parents had stopped running their circus and began their work in the film industry. I then settled into my seventh and final junior school. It was a very small comprehensive school in a local village. It wasn't a bad school, on the whole, in fact it had a lot of very qualities, good teachers and I made some good friends, one at least, has remained a lifelong friend. However, as my friend once said, we were probably good mates because we were one of the few children there who weren't related! This was perhaps the first time I began to appreciate the tribal nature of our species.
I can't say there was ever a specific reason why I was bullied. Some times it was based on my circus background – even though we no longer travelled we still lived in a wagon until I was fourteen years old – but mainly it was because I was not part of the main peer group, their families or the village community. Most of the bullying, as sporadic as it was, came in the form of verbal bullying, but there was at least one occasion I recall being chased around the school by a gang of kids. I was an only child and although the circus community provided me with a huge extended family, I have always been fine with my own company and that can seem a little odd to close-knit communities. By contrast, on the circus we were our own close-knit community and just coming out of a time when anyone on the show who did not come from an established circus family or was considered to be an outside was called a 'josser'. Mind you, I have always been an individualist and a loner of sorts, so I guess I would have attracted bullying in some form whatever school I attended and this would prove true during my time at my secondary school.
At my first school I did encounter the classic after-school fight. In fact, it was an after-school fight that was postponed to a pre-school fight, so I had a whole evening to think about it. Years later I wrote the whole story up in a fictional account that became the first short story I ever sold, called 'Champions'. It was not a good piece of writing, but it exorcised a demon of sorts. Looking back, this was my first introduction to the bully’s ultimate display of dominance over a rival.
The after-school fight is a tradition that has probably been around since education institutions were invented. On the face of it the whole matter seems quite fair and straightforward. Two individuals settle their differences once and for all in a square-go contest. It is the classic embodiment of alpha male contests found throughout the mammalian kingdom. Human culture has always had its King's champion who is charged to fight any challenger. How can it be bullying? After all, the bully is defending his 'honour' and has no more advantages than you. Then why does he win so often? And why does the bully continue to bully his victim even after he has proven his physical superiority? The answer is that there is no contest. Real grudge matches or match fights are contest between two consenting people. The after-school fight is rarely attended by two consenting people. The bully, who represented the champion, turns the whole issue on its head. He turns his victim into a parody of the challenger. The victim feels he has to fight in order to stave off more bullying and in a perverse way might actually believe he is not scared of the bully. It is not fair because the bully wants to fight and the victim does not. The bully takes charge by naming the place, the time and, in some cases, even the rules. He is an experienced veteran that has done this time and again, and knows that he can count on support from his home crowd, other scared people who feel strength by being on the bully's right side and by being on this side will not be bullied themselves.
Today, when I teach self-defence to children or adults I use the after school example time and again, as it illustrates so many points about how we allow ourselves to be manipulated into violence. It is all about control. It is like when an abductor threatens their victim with violence if they do not go with them. Why should the victim suddenly trust someone who has given them every reason not to trust them. The after-school fight is just another excuse for the bully to inflict more punishment on his victim and the chances are the abuse will continue and probably escalate after he has finished his little display of dominance.
From his days working on the door, Geoff Thompson famously divided violence up into three different types of fight: three second fights, ambush fights and match fights. The match fight during his time working the doors was a very relevant method for bouncers to use. Alpha male testosterone was at all time high in the 1980s and the frustrated overcrowded masses of Coventry were used to settling things one-on-one. Bouncers learnt to use bullies tactics against them by calling them out for a 'straightner' – this was a sure fire way of taking the violence out of the club and separating the antagonist from his supporters. The civilian of today should not even contemplate 'stepping outside'. This outmoded British tradition has gone along with 'pistols at dawn'. There is no honour in any shape or form. You are likely to be hit by an ashtray on the way out or find yourself fighting off your antagonist's mates outside. We live in an era where the pride a thug might have derived from winning a fight one-on-one has been transplanted to the entertainment he will provide by video-phoning his gang of mates kicking the living the daylights out of an unsuspecting victim.
I also learnt a lot about peer pressure at both my last primary and my secondary school. This has always been a subject that has fascinated me. Pack mentality is something has to be seriously considered in the world of self-defence and anti-bullying. Humans' default behaviour is to act in a small tribe. Whenever the tribe gets big, bullying intensifies unless the group splits. I see this in my parents' zoo all the time with their primate groups. It is particularly noticeable in the lemurs. This is because they are not only some of their most prolific breeders, but because they are one of the most primitive forms of primate in the world. Therefore their behaviours are less complex and virtually textbook. As soon as the group gets too big, usually signalled by the independence of the year's youngest offspring, a male will be bullied by one male and then the entire group. They have to separate them immediately. Interestingly enough it is often quite difficult to start another group with the exiled male, as he will immediately try to challenge any other male he is put into contact with, especially other exiled males. It is a classic example of the abused becoming the abuser.
I think at times that I also bullied, well I did not consciously persecute anyone, but there was the odd occasion, especially in secondary school, that I felt the lure of the pack and for years I felt guilty of standing by while people who considered themselves to be my friends were singled out as victims by the bullies.
My secondary school was a private school. My grandfather had always felt he was wrong in allowing my father to leave his millionaire sand and gravel company in order to pursue a career in the circus, and he wanted to correct that mistake with me. With us all settled now, he agreed to pay for my private education and hoped that I would join the Clubb family business. I loved my grandfather deeply and he was a very loving person who thought the world of me, but as I entered my teens I began to see the strong dictatorial side to his personality. He did not force me to join the family business, but my sense of guilt made me feel that I owed it to him to keep my nose clean at school and not get into trouble. This combined with the shock that my school day was suddenly two hours longer than before and much further away from home, and I made up my mind that the last thing I wanted was a detention. Before my first year was out I had already had a few brushes with the prospect of staying in after school when I had stood up for myself, so I simply made the decision that I would not stick up for myself. For about four years I took any physical punishment that came my way.
So, rather than embracing the new environment I was in I did everything I could to minimize the time I spent at school. I rediscovered my circus culture by making new friends on shows where my relatives worked and I lived two different lives – one was an exciting life on the road and the other was miserable existence I called school. It was a boarding school, so day pupils were second class citizens, particularly those who did not show any effort in joining in with after school clubs or Saturday morning activities – the whole concept of 'having fun at school' seemed like an oxymoron to me. Bullying was never going to be far away.
I went to a Quaker school for some reason – no one on either side the circus or 'josser' side of my family is or has been a Quaker as far as I know. The Society of Friends is known for its pacifist values. In theory you would think a school with this ethos behind it would promote a peaceful atmosphere. Things could not have been further from the truth for me and some others. For the first three years I was at the school we had a headmaster who was overly lenient and for the remainder of my time spent there we had one who inconsistently strict.
Within my first term at the school a fifth form boy (year 11) hung himself because of the bullying he had experienced. It wasn't an especially rough school, but by the time I was reaching that year, myself, we had had more knife amnesties than the City of London. Also the school was so desperate for pupils that they were taking in anyone who could pay the fees, this included one pupil who had apparently been expelled from six previous schools. One student was given three chances before he was expelled – each chance ended in him hitting a teacher. Meanwhile I was taking my place in the pecking order. It was ironic because at home I had already got into martial arts and was doing very well at it. By the age of fifteen I had won tournaments and we were all sparring with adults, and they weren’t going that easy on us either. Yet at school the fear of getting into trouble, upsetting my grandfather and spending anymore time at the place than needed was enough to keep this side of my personality well and truly in check. Keeping my nose clean did not mean I was performing well in my school work either. In fact, I put minimum effort in, allowed myself to dream, and eventually produced pretty bad exam results.
It could have been worse. A fellow class pupil who had adopted me as his 'best friend' faced some severe abuse from almost everyone. He was small, had prominent sticking out ears and a distinctive speech impediment that led to him being given the nickname of 'Rodent' and various other derivatives from the same theme. Poor bloke, he suffered so badly that he had plastic surgery on his ears and went to speech therapy sessions. Sadly but predictably this did not change a thing and he was hounded out of the school by the time we entered the sixth form. It was not how he looked or sounded that was the issue. It was his 'victim' personality. For years he had put up with abuse from another kid who took medication to control his mood swings. This particular kid was into the post-80s Death Metal scene and when he was not scratching inverted crosses into his arm or drawing them in blood on his desk, his favourite past-time was harassing this little guy. The Death Metal fan left before the sixth form, but sadly his bullying legacy lived on and my little 'friend' finally gave up and left before entering the upper sixth.
By the time I knew I had blown it with my GCSE’s I finally made a decision to stop living my double life. My grandfather spoke to me about my exam results in very solemn tones and was clearly disappointed. He wasn't very upset with me, the results weren’t abysmal, although I think he washed his hands of me completely when I announced my ambition now was to become a 'circus knife thrower'. Nevertheless he felt that I might as well stay on for the sixth form, since I had come this far. My grandfather knew I wasn’t entering his family business and so that line of pressure was off. I decided to have one last go at formal education and this time I would do it on my terms.
Many things seemingly conspired to make my life better once I made this decision. We had a new games teacher. Because I had never been a natural at any of the traditional sports nor had much of an interest in them, our previous games teachers had taken little notice of me. He was a bit of bully himself, although he tried to hide it by coming down hard on what he saw as bullying. He had little control of his temper when things do not go his way and I recall him once shouting at entire changing room after an item of his property had gone missing, 'You are all a bunch of wimps!' The relevance of this statement still escapes me. Coordination had never been my strong point and I remember him once asking in front an entire class 'are you dyslexic?' (our school had a big dyslexic department). I replied that I wasn’t. 'Well, you should be' he jeered. I laughed at the time, but I don’t think it would make anybody’s list of motivational quotes. His last final patronising report on me read something like, 'James (at school I was always called that) will never be an outstanding sportsman, but he tries very hard'. The only thing I tried very hard at was to get out of games.
A year after he wrote that report I won my county's martial arts tournament and I kept on winning. The new games teacher noticed my running ability and entered me in the country athletics four hundred metres, he also regularly put me in cross country events and before my first year in the sixth form was out I was even allowed to teach an informal martial arts class. I left the sixth form with a complete turn around with my grades, passing nearly every subject I did with high marks and even landing a lead role in the school play. Despite always liking drama, I had stayed away from it during my pre-sixth form years for fear of having to work on after school and pure lack of confidence. Now I was one of those day pupils who thought nothing of staying overnight at the school and I even took a business studies trip to Prague.
All of this didn’t change straight away. I was already beginning to not care much about the consequences of revealing my real self at different stages during my time in the fifth form. I ended up befriending one of the toughest kids in the school who was shocked at discovering the fact that I could actually fight. This was not just derived from my martial arts skills, but also from my circus background. Once he was on side I never had to fight again. Just his word that I could handle myself and the mystique of the marital arts was enough to keep any prospective bullies at bay. To begin with I wasn’t particularly popular, but I made friends and before long I enjoyed my social life at school at a healthy level.
I have seen bullying in the circus, although I have never experienced it myself. It can be a very hard life and physically demanding life. Circus people are a culture unto themselves and sometimes they find themselves at odds with a whole host of different enemies as they travel from place to place. If one balances this with the egotism of showbusiness it is not difficult to imagine the type of friction that can occur. Just like any community, pecking orders among the men and women form, and this can cause a whole range of problems. I have seen initiation rituals go on for weeks on end for new boys in some shows. I have also heard of horrid campaigns being waged against individuals by groups within the community. Circus people can be the warmest and most wonderful people in the world, but humans are humans, and the tribal mentality affects us all. Nevertheless, this is all nothing compared to the bullying I have seen circus families endure by the media. I won’t go into this suffice to say that this type of persecution got so bad that at one stage, a friend of my family had her daughter refused admission into a school purely because of her circus background.
It may come as surprise to some that there is a lot of bullying in the martial arts community. I would say it is quite rife in some, what with their hierarchical structures and insecure instructors developing religious cult-like followings. I know of at least two high ranked black belts who fear leaving their club or even looking at another school – and they pay for the privilege of having this power. This is why I teach my students empowerment as quickly as possible. I create situations, where they discover things for themselves and I make it their responsibility to help their training partner learn. All my students are taught to think like teachers. Furthermore I make it a requirement in the later grades to actually research other martial arts of their own choosing.
A dramatic turn in martial arts for me was to understand the concept of taking control. I had done it small exercises throughout my life, but it was only through really looking into my training and doing my own research outside of martial arts that it really clicked. I was miserable because I chose to be miserable. It is a very bitter pill to swallow, but victims are not selected, they volunteer. This may seem harsh, but until a prospective victim understands this mindset the chances are they will be bullied again and again. That school bully will manifest himself in every aspect of the victim’s life. He will appear as a parent, a wife, a son, a daughter, a boss and even within the actual victim. He will be the inner voice that suppresses the victim every time the victim feels ambition.
As an instructor is it good to teach children about fear and adrenaline so they better understand confrontation?
One of the best things to teach anyone who enters an activity that deals with physical confrontation is that everyone feels fear. Children are too often brought up on the belief that courage is the absence of fear. It is not a correct definition. I do not like the concept of fearlessness. What would be brave in doing something that presented no challenge?
It is very important for children to understand that fear is not an unnatural or shameful feeling. It is a natural and useful tool if we understand how to use it. I openly discuss fear with the child students in my class virtually every lesson in some form. By having a good understand of not only what is happening within us, but also in other people, we are much better equipped in dealing with physical confrontation.
Can you give examples of the real life bullying situations that young people face?
The first type of bullying I recognise is the type that sneaks up on children without them knowing it is peer pressure. All around them they are being coaxed to conform to what everyone else feels is normal. Then they are further coaxed into doing things that they do not feel happy about. Finally they are coaxed into bullying. It is amazing to see what terrible things otherwise good-natured people will do to ensure that they are not excluded from a peer group. Our literature and art is full of examples of this behaviour from 'Lord of the Flies' to 'Casualties of War'.
Teasing can quite easily become bullying. There is nothing wrong with harmless practical jokes and I believe we all can benefit from good-natured teasing to stop ourselves from taking life too seriously– after all, wasn’t this a vital function the Fool or Court Jester, to remind a King he was only mortal. However, once it becomes continually one-sided it becomes bullying.
Verbal bullying is very complex because it deals with psychology and behaviour, which cannot be measured as clinically as the more physical sciences. We are all unique, but we do see patterns. An example of a subtle type of bullying I believe is not often recognised is the way a member of a group has their ideas completely ignored. They are not even considered or they are met with non-productive argumentative responses. Young people, because of their age, are too often not valued for their input and this can be a type of bullying. In showbusiness there is a tradition, in some circles, of 'earning your dues'. I am not entirely sure whether I am opposed to it, but from what I learnt during my short spell as a professional wrestling promoter there is a lot of what cannot be considered anything less than jealous and insecure bullying. The film Swimming Sharks has some great examples of this type of bullying in the film world. In fact, the film presents a very interesting insight into the whole nature of systemized bullying. It is definitely one of the best satirical commentaries on the world of showbusiness I have ever seen.
By definition bullying is when one person misuses some form of advantage he has over another unjustly. If we look at the rise in recreational crime over the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century, we can see that bullying is at the core of so many violent offences from 'happy slapping' to serial killing.
What are the most important concepts to teach bullied children?
First of all teach them the concept of respect. Self-respect first – are you worth protecting? This then spills over into an understanding of parameters. They learn to create their personal parameters both mentally and physically. They understand that they are important and decide whether someone can be trusted to go inside their parameter. By appealing to their sense of empathy they also understand not to breach another person’s parameters. They learn to respect others and therefore feel more secure.
Bullying, as we are told time and again, is all about insecurity. A bully is likely to be a person who feels inadequate in some way. If he is not being bullied by another individual or been bullied by another individual he is being bullied by himself. Feeling bad about himself in some way, he looks for someone else who he feels represents this fault. So, straight from the beginning we are not only teaching a person not to become a bully's victim but also not to become a bully.
The concept of what Geoff Thompson termed the “fence” comes from this parameter setting. That is all what the fence is, a parameter. It is a proactive way of controlling the gap between you and everyone else. You decide who is allowed into your personal space. This puts you in control of every situation.
I also emphasize hard physical training. Let’s face facts healthy children are naturally boisterous with each other. Brothers and sisters spar all the time, playing what is essentially a full-contact game. Sometimes they go too far and learn the limits of the game. It always amused me how children would then enter a martial arts class and either taught “touch contact” sparring or no sparring at all – yet this was the place they were supposedly learning combat. Back home they are kicking the crap out of each other, but go to a martial arts lesson learning abstract movements and, if they are lucky, play a game of tag. It just seemed silly to me, so our games are controlled, but offer plenty of resistance and plenty of scope to test out what works. How are they supposed to deal with pressure when they don’t train for it?
When bullied children attend your class, how quickly do you see a change in their attitude and what do you think brings about this change?
There is no set time limit. Every child is different and that is why we take as individualized approach as possible. If there is a child with a particular problem I will, with the parents' consent, sit down and listen. This is a key component. I listen to exactly what the problem really is and when possible I will encourage the child to go deeper into the problem. Then we will look for an active solution. Respect is our first tenet and that pretty much amounts to attitude in my book. Without the right attitude, all the techniques in the world are not going to help you. A lot of this is forged through the hard – but safe and fun – physical training. Some times, with the parents’ and the child's consent, we really put them through the mill. We make them re-live and face their fears by replicating them the best we can. We tell them that we will put them through hell, if they believe it will help. Frankyl said it best in his 'Man’s Search for meaning', that anyone will tolerate suffering if they have a strong enough meaning. I have seen a twelve year old child grapple on the floor against a fourteen year old experienced player for ten minutes straight without giving in. He spent the majority of the time trying to get free from virtually every submission position there was, never in a good position himself. Yet all the way he had words of encouragement coming from me, other students and his step-dad. After coming out of the bout he was re-energized at the thought that the bully he faced was nothing by comparison, and not long afterwards he actually defended his younger sister and cousins by standing his ground against a group bullies at a swimming bath. He didn’t have to fight, the attitude and intent was all there.
Next we teach Awareness. This does not just mean being switched on to what is going on around you, but also what is going on inside you. I know when this information is sinking in when I start getting reports back from the parents that their son or daughter has suddenly become more aware of their personal space and has become more observant. Awareness of the self, as previously mentioned, is vital; lack of understanding leads to some of the greatest misery in a child. This is especially evident when they hit their teens and they crave control. By being aware of yourself you learn a sense of independence.
After awareness we look at the Courage. Courage to me is defined by the actions we take in the face of something we fear. This is connected to the respect or attitude tenet.
Then we have discipline. Our classes are pretty informal and fun places to be. That’s because the hard work and honesty we do our best to inspire means that there is little need for strict hierarchical structures or dozens of rituals. Discipline is the strength to be able to keep order of you and to stick with the plan.
Finally we have the Open Mind tenet, which teaches adaptability and lack of prejudice. This is vital survival in a social and survival context. We put Open Mind last because the other tenets need to be in place first in order for an individual to get the best out of doing their own research.
Is violence/fighting back the right solution to bullying?
One of the most important things for me is to get the parents on side. It is so important if you are serious about teaching real self-defence to children to have a good working relationship with parents. I have always strived for this. After all, self-defence is a life skill; it’s a habit, and who better to monitor this than parents. Instructor/parent groups are being formed in clubs, but this is more to do with instructors covering their backs in line with 'Child Protection'. I believe they can be really utilized to get the maximum benefit out of the training. Sadly martial arts have become 'just another club' in the mind of many parents, chosen to give the child another activity to his weekly schedule. There is also a lot of the crèche mentality, where parents just dump their children in a class and instructors, who are trying to run a business, are too scared to tell them whether or not the class is suitable.
I have had largely good experiences with parents who take their children to my classes. Unfortunately I have had the odd bad one as well. Some think it is a magic bullet and somehow one hour a week in my class is going to give their child the discipline they don't receive at home or at school. The worst, however, are those who give their children mixed messages. On one occasion I had a situation with a mother who had told her son on no account was he allowed to fight in school, no matter what happened to him – and then she sent him to a self-defence lesson. Meanwhile I was teaching him what to do if things got physical. The result was he ignored us both. He fought when it wasn’t necessary. He was bullied at every school he went to – in the same manner at every school – and he also bullied others.
I can speak from experience that once I was no longer worried about the consequences of standing up for myself, everything changed. In fact, there was one isolated occasion, where my father told me outright to face up to one kid and – being 'old school' – punch him in the nose. It was not the blunt advice I would give a kid, but nevertheless I approached this child, who had stolen something from me quite blatantly, with every intention of getting stuck into him if he did not return my property. Before a word left my mouth he gave me the item back straight away with some feeble excuse about making a mistake. Perhaps his conscience had kicked in, but at the time I was convinced he could feel that I meant business. This is a crude and not necessarily good example, but it does demonstrate how a parent can empower a child. For that moment I was back on the circus, where I did not worry about upsetting my grandfather or the consequences of being stuck in school half an hour longer than usual.
Parents have to give their children permission to fight back – and this means against anyone. They have to be sure that they can rely on their child’s character not to pick the fight and use whatever means to prevent violence. Then they can be sure that if their child involved in a physical situation, they did it for a good reason. One parent, a good friend of mine, sent her son to a kickboxing class I was running. This was not a self-defence class, as I hadn't founded CCMA yet, but nevertheless this friend of mine wanted her son to learn something in order to fight back. She had tried the teacher route and numerous other ways, but what was happening was her son was continually getting physically abused. To this day she thanks me for the tiny amount of training her son learnt at my class, but I refuse to accept the praise. It wasn’t my classes that helped him out, it was his mother. She told her son, that she supported him all the way. She told him that he if things got physical she understood that his response was in self-defence and she would stand by him no matter what happened with the school. It took this permission and assurance from his mother that gave this child the attitude to fight back. He only had to do it once and actually beat the bully, who became his friend not long afterwards.
My assistant instructor, Richard Barnes (one of Geoff Thompson's original black belts), put the argument regarding the fears parents might have with have their children learn self-defence: 'Does a bully have more right to get physical than your child?' In essence, by telling our children, they are not allowed to fight back you are telling them they are powerless when someone attacks them.
Good books for parents to read include Gavin De Becker's Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane). De Becker is a threat management specialist in the USA and his book The Gift of Fear is read like a bible in my adult class. He believes wholeheartedly in teaching children independence as early as possible with adult support. After all, what is self-defence if it is not about independence.
What do you think are the keys to making someone’s body language more confident?
First of all, simply be confident. The way you act and move should be an outward manifestation of how you want to be. Of course, when you are feeling the full affects of adrenaline these feelings are best hidden by a few simple techniques, but in everyday life you need to feel confident by being inwardly aware of yourself. As I have taken a more and more individualized approach to self-defence I have actually taken all techniques out of my syllabus and worked using an organic process of Common sense, Principles, Strategies and Tactics. This means that I devise games and activities where children find out themselves what works. It includes loads of role-play and scenario work that deals with the pre-fight issues.
On a physical level I would say that confident body language is best displayed with a relaxed yet erect posture. The head should always be up and the strides purposeful. We teach people to always walk with a purpose.
What do you think children who bully look for in a target?
To put it simply: vulnerability. This can be displayed by an obvious lack of confidence, which often goes hand in hand with a lack of awareness. For example, both unconfident and unaware people often look down when they walk or stand in public. On a purely physical level just by being alone makes you a target. Less obvious signs of vulnerability can be an apparent show of over cockiness. Some people carry this off okay, but others attract unwanted attention. A big mistake I have witnessed in children who try to be confident is to adopt a 'bad attitude'. This just gets more negative attention and, if you are not careful, you become a bully yourself.
We do an exercise in our club where the majority of the class wander around the mats while a small minority put on big head guards and prowl around waiting to attack. The majority of the club know that those wearing the headguards will eventually attack, so they adopt different strategies to protect themselves ahead of time. Sometimes the prowling headguard group will take ages before they attack and will simply just mingle with the rest of the group or stalk the outside of the mats. There is a lot people learn from this exercise regarding who the prowlers select as their first victims and also how the other children develop their own protective strategies.
Why do you think people bully?
Insecurity without a doubt is at the core of bullying. Bullies attack people because there is something about them they either fear or something about them they find too familiar. Bully followers add support so that they are not in firing line. There is not enough actually done on the subject of bully-followers, who are just little bullies really. No one actually has power, people give it to them. The Nazis, perhaps one of modern history’s greatest examples of political bullies, did not just claim power they were allowed it and yet they were a minority. The teenage novella The Wave by Todd Strasser is a great fictional account of a true experiment that was carried out in a high school, called 'The Third Wave', which scarily proved just how easy it was for a bullying Nazi-type ideology to ensnare the minds of the young. I believe there was also a two-part TV film made about it.
However, when one person makes the choice to stand by his morals and does not agree to follow a bully it sets an example for others, and it weakens the bully’s strength. It is not easy to do, but by doing nothing be allow the bullying to continue and we allow the bully to have his own way.
If someone who’s being bullied is reading this interview now, what would you say to them?
Talk to people. The more people you discuss the matter with the less stressful it will be. Bullies rely on your silence. Remember, it is all about taking charge. They are in control so long as you are suffering. Try speaking to them privately and asking them what their problem with you is. Without an audience they become less powerful and the fact that you have taking control in setting up the meeting puts them in an uncomfortable position, you are also organizing things on your terms. When in public be quick to draw attention to your situation and, again, don’t be afraid to ask them awkward questions as well as making repetitive statements like 'stop bullying me!'
It is very easy to say and not so easy to do, but only when bullies are stood up properly do they really stop. This has happened throughout history and has been proven time and again. A good teenage novel on the subject about one boy who refused to give in to a school gang is The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. Another great book on children’s self-defence (unfortunately they are very rare) is The Safe Zone by Donna Chaiet and Francine Russell. This particularly important in teaching children about their intuition and setting boundaries.
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Self protection expert Jamie Clubb specialises in teaching realistic self defence to young people. To find out how Jamie can help you visit www.clubbchimera.com.
© Robert Higgs 2006.