October 24, 2011


Youngsters learn to push back against bullies

SchoolsDave Blatchley/contributing photographer
Kiera Charles, right, breaks three boards with a kick. The 12-year-old learned self-defense Saturday along with about 20 other children at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex during a class designed to teach children about dealing with bullying.

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — About 20 children stood in two lines Saturday at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex, shouting “sir” to their instructor, mixed martial arts coach Erik Charles.
The class was designed to teach children how to avoid being the target of a bully.
By teaching self-confidence and self-control, Charles said children learn how to handle confrontational situations and either avert an incident or stop one from escalating.
Charles said everyone will experience bullying in some form throughout their lives because it is so prevalent. It is essential, therefore, to know how to handle it.
He taught the children confidence by having them break a board in half by kicking it. Several young faces lit up in disbelief when Charles said that by the end of the class all his students would have accomplished that goal.
All of them broke the board, even the youngest, smallest girl wearing a pink sweatshirt and daintily kicking at the board placed before her.
“Goals, when they are set and accomplished, it changes their posture, their tone and how they represent themselves,” Charles said, adding the class builds the confidence children need to protect themselves.
Charles owns CNY MMA, based at the J.M. McDonald Sports Center, which teaches adults and children mixed martial arts.
Pairing his students up, Charles gave them basic instructions on how to first protect themselves by trying to avoid conflict.
Children were taught to notify adults of a bully’s behavior and keep their personal space from others.
The next level of defense is to verbally warn someone not to touch and finally by slapping an attacker’s hands away. Children also learned how to block an attack coming at their head and how to most efficiently and powerfully kick an object.
Brendan Curtis, an eighth-grader at McGraw Central High School, said the class was different from anything he had ever experienced. He particularly enjoyed kicking the board.
“I get to break something and I don’t get in trouble for it,” Curtis said.
He added that the class taught him how to respond to a bully’s advances.
“If someone tries to mess with me, I know how to properly take care of it instead of screaming something incredibly violent,” Curtis said.
Marathon sixth-grader Jesse Walley said he thought the class was “pretty cool.”
“I learned how to do a stomp kick,” Walley said proudly, describing the move used to kick the board in half.
Cortland resident Kim Smith said she took her 8-year-old son Logan to the lesson because it teaches children “things they need to know at this age.”
Freeville resident Kathy Carstens said her son Adam, at 7 years old, is experiencing bullying so she thought the lesson would be useful.
“It gives him more of an idea of when to protect himself and how to protect himself,” Carstens said.
Before the lesson began, Charles emphasized the importance of respect, saying he would not teach someone martial arts who did not show proper respect to his instructor or others.
Self control was key, with children taught to block out distractions and focus on the task at hand.


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