a child eating a school dinner

workshop – preparing for bullies – part 1

I AM KEEN to develop workshops for my students.   whilst I can attempt to pass on my own received knowledge, I can’t really teach stuff that I don’t know, however, I can facilitate learning, both for me and the students.   how do I define a workshop? its a training session where I know roughly what I want to achieve, but I want the instructor and the student to discover the path for themselves, by playing with what does and doesn’t work, and examining why.

it occurred to me that as taekwondin, we primarily train at arms length, or at legs length. such distance may be fine for sparring, and indeed, being out of reach of arms or legs is good for not being hit, and thus one could consider it appropriate self defense.  similarly, when we learn hosinsul, or one step sparring, we start from an ideal position for our art.  if we are lucky students, our teachers tell us to avoid the blow and step in to finish the conflict, but the fact remains that we still start from an idealised position.  the problem is…


since I have at least one student that is a repeated victim of bullying, I thought it would be useful for my students to realise the flaws in our training by changing the kind of aggressive stances from which we start.  using two rows of roughly the same height, one row are the aggressors or bullies, the other row are the victims.  the aggressor stands close enough to invade the victim’s personal space.  both aggressor and victim are face on, arms at their sides.  as victim, demonstrating this starting position, its clear that I can neither kick nor punch my aggressor, effectively.   for sure, I could try some other technique, but that’s not the point of this lesson.   my bully shouts at me, and uses threatening words and language – “come on then, I’m dissing your mum!” – I step back, my bully follows, invading my space again.   I step back again, and this time I make a point of finding a correct distance for striking.   I don’t specify which strikes, as part of the learning is to play, and find out for yourself.   for this workshop, the bully’s role is simply to invade space and threaten.   we swap roles, repeat, then swap partners.   age and size are irrelevant, the more variety, the better the learning, indeed, a size difference is more realistic.

learning points

  • personal space – finding where yours and others starts and ends
  • getting use to personal space being invaded, keeping your cool.  part of the confidence that sparring practice gives, hidden, is the fact that if you square up to someone two or three times a week, it is far less terrifying when a stranger does it
  • stepping back – casually, follow stepping or jirugi chunbi
  • stepping back – this may avoid conflict, the bully may think twice about following – why?
  • stepping back – finding range, using the time to pick a target, drawing the aggressor in
  • stance transition
  • choosing appropriate techniques for the distance / range
  • having a moment to think about appropriateness of technique, from a violence level perspective
  • having a moment to think about appropriateness of technique for the surroundings
  • underling the principles of hosinsul – distance, target, technique

where next?

  • bully wears body armour, thus allowing victim to actually land solid blows
  • bully is more aggressive, featuring shoves and grabs
  • more than one bully
  • victim has prop, like mobile phone
  • organise environments – simulated classroom, corridor, up against wall, other confined spaces


firstly, I wish i had made more of this lesson the first time around.  i did state that a workshop is for the instructor to learn, and sure enough, I have, so I am pleased with my outcome, let alone the students’.   writing up this lesson, I can see where I missed learning points, so I will apply them the next time I use this routine.   I didn’t make enough of the footwork / step back, and I should have set the students expectations about demonstrating their findings to the rest of the team.  the students had great fun, and were threatened by a lot of different ages and body sizes.   repeated application of this lesson should allow students to be more in control of their flight or fight response when threatened, as the situation will be more familiar to them, and they will have programmed a response to such threats.

as usual, many thanks to my instructors and students, and also Jitsu Jamie, for a variant of this lesson at summer camp 2011

2 thoughts on “workshop – preparing for bullies – part 1

  1. Julian Dicker

    All the points are great to great to give confidence, as I believe confidence is key so that you can stand up for yourself and hopefully that’s enough to deter them…. as we’ve discussed before. What we’ve not discussed is
    – Why do people bully? Because they’re bullied at home, for attention, because they have power over someone smaller or can upset you (don’t show your feelings then, or for no reason?
    – Other techniques to avoid confrontation, because the last thing you want is to be drawn into a fight the bully wanted. Avoid them, take a different route. Say no,and walk away. Ignore them. Tell an adult or police.
    It may not be martial arts, but these are all things worth discussing in a bully workshop.

    1. Jase Post author

      Hello Jules, thanks for reading and commenting. Whilst my ideas were more about applying our learning / addressing the missing pieces in our training, I think you pose some excellent questions as to the reasons for bullying, and in a fuller, more holistic workshop I would expect some good discussion and learning. As an aside, I am a great believer in avoiding conflict, and I practice what you preach there about teaching people to walk away whenever possible, as do the people who teach me.

      You have inspired me to add an additional discussion step the next time I use the lesson that has developed from this workshop, thanks!


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