Tag Archives: bullying

Beating the Bullies

A picture of Tony Butcher, performing an axe kick

Tony Butcher, 4th Dan Taekwondo Instructor

By Tony Butcher (4th Dan),
Ickenham Taekwondo Club
Church Road Taekwondo Club
Denham Village Taekwondo Club
Hayes End Taekwondo Club

Following major developments in social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, communication has never been easier and British Taekwondo have been actively encouraging its members to share all successes, initiatives and ideas with each other.

With this in mind, I’d like to introduce to you, a concept which I’ve developed, which has proved to be massively successful in my clubs, both with the children and the parents. I call it “Beat The Bully” and would welcome you to try this within your clubs.

A couple of years ago, I started getting parents reporting back to me that their child had experienced a bully outside the club, but at the time, did not have the confidence to use the techniques that they’d been shown in class. What became apparent to me, was that in class, if you held a pad up and asked them to demonstrate – for example – a Turning Kick or punch, they would have no problem and more often than not, the technique would be good quality.

However, once outside the Dojang, the children were clearly unable to think for themselves, in deciding the best form of defence, or were clearly lacking confidence in using the techniques.

Based on an idea that I’d seen on a Self Defence DVD, I started by asking one of the largest children in the class to put on a Hoogoo and Head Protector. His role was to be the school bully and I then had each child up one at a time, who would be “bullied” and had to defend themselves, by thinking on their own.
After each child had finished, the whole class would discuss how they’d done and how they could have improved, so that every person could learn for their next go.

For the duration of “Beat The Bully”, close supervising is essential, as it’s very easy for things to go wrong, as (unlike sparring), there are no rules! There are several points that are key to this exercise:

  1. No student should be forced to take part. I often get beginners who are hesitant and I recommend that they watch until they are confident.
  2. The “bullied” students should always wear a head protector if there are no mats.
  3. The “bullied” students are given clear instructions that they must shout “STOP”, if they are uncomfortable or want to stop. Some get very claustrophobic if they end up on the floor and this can lead to tears. The “bully(s)” has clear instructions to stop (or jump up if on the floor), if they hear the “bullied” student say “Stop”.
  4. The “bully” must be given clear instructions that they must act as you would expect a bully to do, ie – they are not to do any Taekwondo moves, but should be pushing, shoving, grabbing and maybe pretending to punch.
  5. The “bullied” child is allowed to kick and punch to the hoogoo. I allow a light slap to the head protector, but definitely no punching.
  6. The “bully” should avoid grabbing the “bullied” child around the neck and vice versa.
  7. For the older children or the more experienced/confident, I use two bullies, as this adds to the reality and tests the students thought process and techniques.
  8. Make sure that the “bullied” students don’t become too aggressive! I’ve had some youngsters race across the hall to try a Jumping Flying Side Kick on the “Bully”! I have to remind them that the exercise is “Beat The Bully” and not “BEAT UP The Bully”!!! (This is also a good opportunity to show Taekwondo’s 4th Tenet – Self Control!) There have also been a couple of occasions where the “bullied” child has ended up chasing the “bully” around the class, which would also need to be addressed!

When we started, the reaction varied from student to student. Some did well, others simply melted and crouched in a ball and put their hands over their head! Others ignored all the Taekwondo that they’d been taught and started grabbing the “bully’s” arms! In this instance, you have to advise them that grabbing the bully would be good for Judo or JuJitsu, but not for a Taekwondo practicioner.

Most of the time, both “bully(s)” and “bullied” usually end up on the floor as most fights do, so it’s vital to remind the “bullied” that they need to avoid going to the floor whenever possible and remember the techniques that they’ve been using. The students can also see how easy it is for a kick (particularly Turning Kick), to be caught by a bully, which forces them to see some of the reality of a real life situation and to rethink about strategy.

Over a period of time, my students have now started to think for themselves, which has allowed them to grow in confidence. As a result, they absolutely love the exercise and prefer it to one of the warm down games that I use for a well behaved class. (I also get worried that too many children want to play the part of the bully!!!)

As I mentioned earlier, “Beat The Bully” does require VERY close supervision to ensure that problems and injuries are extremely rare. There have been a couple of knocks and bruises, but no more than you’d get on your average training session. Parents have also been extremely supportive of this exercise, as they can see how it challenges the children and makes them think. They appreciate what I’m trying to achieve within my clubs and to ensure that all of my students become confident Black Belts and Instructors.

I hope that if you try it, it’ll prove just as successful for you and please make sure you let me have any feedback.

Tony Butcher

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