Sunday, February 16
Karate kid a victim no more
Fourth-grader gets free karate lessons,
as martial artists cater to bullied school kids
By JODI LEE REIFER*
In Tiger Shulmann's Karate studio, Jordan Torres shuffles around the floor, swiftly kicking and punching a red foam cushion just like every other kid.
The fourth-grader, who recently protested outside PS 22 with his mother over beatings at the hands of school-bus punks, is no anomaly, warn Staten Island karate practitioners. In response, martial arts schools here have increasingly tailored their classes to kids who have been repeatedly picked on by bullies.
"Self-defense is generally a last resort. We teach them a style of karate to empower them with a level of self-confidence," said Ralph Taliento III, an instructor at Tiger Shulmann's in New Dorp.
While mental health professionals acknowledge karate often raises children's confidence, they also say martial arts is far from a panacea. First, victims need to know how to speak up for themselves, say experts. They warn that in some cases, martial arts may compound difficulties if the child learning self-defense uses it unnecessarily.
"The solutions are more complex than taking a karate class or walking away," said Lindy P. Crescitelli, a conflict resolution teacher. "When you're a young person and you don't know the way to talk it out, feeling confident physically isn't going to solve that."
STANDING UP FOR LONERS
He and fellow teacher George Anthony run a conflict resolution program, training students every year to acknowledge and stick up for loners.
"If kids are taught to stand up for those who stand alone, that gives them a sense of ownership. What schools really need to do is provide a forum," said Anthony.
Dr. Israel (Izzy) Kalman reported that even children who excel in karate classes may freeze in real-life situations. Most martial arts instructors teach kids to control their anger, which has nothing to do with strength and fighting ability, noted Kalman. "So should you take up martial arts? Certainly," wrote Kalman. "But do it as a physical fitness activity, not as a solution to daily teasing and bullying."
*(re-edited slightly for space & context/link to full article at bottom of post below:)