BULLYING: You Probably Have It Wrong! Part 1

Greg teaching


Bullying is the most common danger affecting children today. We know from repeated research that one in three kids are affected by bullying at any given time. Unfortunately, just about all strategies (in elementary schools, churches, and “common knowledge”) do not work because they are based on myths and misconceptions that can damage children in severe and profound ways. … I am sorry to say this applies to most of what martial arts systems teach.
How do I know? First of all, don’t feel bad – just about everybody has bullying wrong in all educational systems – at schools, universities, and… everywhere.
Second, that’s what I spent years of my life researching. This work came from both sides of my life. When I started researching the subject, I was completing my doctoral studies at Arizona State University, and, at the same time, as a Martial Arts school owner and working with the American Taekwondo Association on developing a bullying prevention curriculum for fellow martial arts instructors so this topic raised my interest because of the magnitude of the problem of bullying, and of the misconceptions of the issue.
In Part I of this article, you’ll learn what bullying is and what it isn’t (it’s not what you think), and in Part II, we’ll look at the very common and damaging myths and what you can do PLUS show you real research and data that will help you (and anyone who wants to) actually help kids!
…and, let’s face it, I am sure you want to be an expert. There are a lot of reasons to help you with outreach into schools and the community, to be able to help your students, and honestly, so you can check and see if what you’re teaching is helping or hurting.
Let’s get started!
Greg teaching
Master Training Seminat at Matt White’s school in Crabapple, GA (MTS) in January, 2020

Bullying…Why it’s not what you think

Whenever I talk about bullying to my martial arts friends, I get a reaction like, “Oh yeah, it’s great you’re doing that! It’s important! But for my kids…” and a STORY comes next…
The story is always something like… “All that’s well and good, but for my daughters, I taught them to stand up for themselves. If anybody bullied them, they’d know what to do”(meaning they’d be able to fight whoever messed with them) “and nobody bothers them.”
A well-known multi-school martial artist told me, “Oh it’s amazing you’re doing that work… I’m really interested. I had a cousin who was bullied and had developmental problems. I told him when the guys at school bothered him to knock their legs out from under them and they wouldn’t get bullied anymore! That worked!”. He was quite proud of that.
People come out of the proverbial woodwork both praising the work I do and at the same time having the underlying idea that the “real” thing to do for their kids is to tell them to “stand up for themselves”—meaning physically fight back. After all, we’re in martial arts. Often this means some form of “knocking them down once, and they won’t bother you again .”This ignores the fact that in school, your child is going to get suspended for fighting, and in an adult bullying situation, that’s called assault. These stories miss the point entirely. If those solutions worked, then it wasn’t bullying in the first place! 
I’d invite you to put yourself in a different situation.
Imagine for a second you’re the child: Kevin started bothering you just about every day at school. He’s bigger than you. He’s in 5th grade, and for some reason, he picked you out, a little 3rd grader. In fact, he’s a particularly popular 5th grader with lots of friends. He’s great at sports, and you are a normal 3rd grader… at least, that’s how it feels.
He started tripping you on the playground and calling you names. It’s not just Kevin now,but all his friends (and some of yours) laugh when it happens. Of course, it’s not enough to get the attention of the teachers because it doesn’t look like a fight, and after all, it’s not a lot. It just happens quickly, and then it’s over. There’s a lot going on, and while the teachers are watching, they can’t see everything.
It’s just about every day. Occasionally, it’s more than once a day. Kevin, and sometimes the friends, shove you out of line or when they pass you in the hall. Your own friends can’t help because they’re 3rd graders too. To add insult to injury, they laugh and think it’s funny too. After all, Kevin IS the popular kid at school.
It’s every day, every time on the playground. And even if it isn’t every day, it feels like it’s going to be. Every day going to school, you think about Kevin more than having fun at school, more than what you’re studying, more than grades…
Okay, now imagine you’re the parent or the martial arts instructor. Go ahead and tell Kevin to fight back and stand up. How’s that going to work? Yell back at the 5th grader? Suggest your child fight back physically? Is that going to work? Give them some cool martial arts moves?
The well-intentioned stories these people tell me aren’t bullying. As we will learn, they don’t understand the difference between bullying, conflict, and violence, and it’s critical for our business and as martial arts educators that we do.

Bullying vs. Conflict vs. Violence

These three types of interactions between kids (or adults) are completely different, defined differently, and need different responses – here are some details:
  • Violence: One definition (without getting into legal rules) is when you are in fear of serious injury or death. In other words, this would be a decision point where either escape, self-defense, getting help (in the child’s case, the school authorities), or police, etc. would be appropriate.


  • Conflict: This can range from verbal arguing to physical (without serious injury, as kids can do on the playground). It’s between peers, and there is no imbalance of power and often no intention to hurt the other person – simply literal conflict. I want what I want – you want what you want, so we are having an argument or push and shove about it. I wantthat toy, and you have it! Not bullying, even if one kid is bigger and they are fighting andshoving. The appropriate response to this is conflict resolution skills (not the topic for this article). The key point is it’s not bullying if there is no intention to hurt and there’s no imbalance of power.


  • Bullying: Bullying occurs when three things are true:
    • There is the intention to hurt (physically or psychologically)
    • It’s often (not always) repeated over time
    • There is an imbalance of power

These three things define bullying. We have to use a different strategy for bullying.

As you can see, if two people are in a violent situation, we can call the cops or intervene (or our student can certainly fight back. If they are in conflict, well, then they need to learn to communicate properly, or we need to help them resolve it – they can be friends later as there is lots of conflict happening all the time that’s not related at all to bullying.

Greg Moody teaching
Master Training Seminat at Matt White’s school in Crabapple, GA (MTS) in January, 2020

Bullying Definition

To help you in your school – and be more of an expert than many educators – let’s detail a bit about the definition of bullying – Intention to hurt, Repeated, Imbalance of power – so you can understand it better.


Intention To Hurt

Like violence, but unlike many forms of conflict, bullying always includes an intention to hurt. Remember, conflict can just be you and I arguing. Maybe vigorously arguing, but we just had a different opinion (think a Republican and Democrat during an election). Bullying would mean that one person had an intention to hurt the other person.

Repeated Over Time (usually)

Bullying can be a one-time event if it’s severe, but often behaviors are small, subtle things that are done every day or multiple times a day, and these can add up to severe abuse. For example, a child who is repeatedly excluded at lunchtime and forced to sit alone. Or one who hears “I’m gonna kill you” whispered to them every day before third period starts. If we don’t include this criterion of repetition in the definition, then some of these behaviors seem minor and may not get the attention they deserve. In these repeated cases, the adults supervising them may not recognize the bullying right away, and in truth, it genuinely may not be severe enough to merit immediate action. On the other hand, if a child is struck or pushed, action needs to be taken right away.

Imbalance Of Power

For us as martial arts school owners, this is probably the most important key to distinguishing between bullying and conflict. With conflict, two people are arguing, fighting, or wanting the same things. For example, Johnny and Billy are in a fight. Billy wins. They both get punitive action from the school, and that pretty much ends the issue. Now imagine the case where Johnny and Billy got in that fight, but Johnny has no friends, and Billy is the most popular kid in school. After they get back to school, what’s going to happen to Johnny?

The Good News… A Preview

We’ll go over a lot more in Part II, including more myths that you’re likely to be surprised about, the exact data (so you can do outreach with schools), and what you can be doing with your students. What our research found with Arizona State University across 17 states was that the best thing a parent can do for their kid is for their kid to become a Black Belt. It’s better than any school-based bullying prevention program.

About Greg Moody:

Dr. Greg Moody, Chief Master Instructor and 8th Degree Black Belt is an expert at a wide range of martial arts business, marketing, and sales in and out of the martial arts industry. He started as an aerospace engineer (he’s literally a rocket scientist) with NASA to, founding multiple small to large businesses, and now has worked with hundreds of various businesses to get them way past where they ever imagined they could.

He has a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Arizona State University, a Master’s degree in Psychology, and a Ph.D.. He’s written multiple books, including “The Life Skills of Leaders,” “Stories of the Black Belts,” “The Business of Becoming an Author,” among others and the upcoming “Bullying: Truths, Myths and What to Do!” – the definitive guide to bullying prevention.

He has helped businesses all over the world. Many schools have doubled their business success due to training with Dr. Moody. This is not just due to business advice but because of the complete attention to all aspects of running a school that he offers. He feels everything done in a school must be with extreme client service and a benefit to the students first. All of the other parts of the business will come out of this.

His schools have been nationally recognized as the “Best in the Nation” eight years in a row. He’s been featured on local TV and newspapers in Phoenix, Arizona, national magazines (Parade Magazine, Yahoo Parenting, and more), and you can see him at his regular podcast

Written by : Dr. Greg Moody