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Can karate classes combat bullying?

By | Let's Get Real, Straightlaced

I’m Sukh, an intern for GroundSpark and a student of public health interested in the issue of school bullying as a public health concern and novel ways of preventing it.

Two weeks ago on KGO News Radio, I heard David Lazarus discussing the topic of bullying with listeners. Some questions that came up include, what makes bullies bullies? What makes victims victims? How can victims defend themselves? Many listeners pointed to self-defense classes as a way not only to build self-esteem, but as a technique for protection in case a bullying incident arose.

Bob Gordon, a member of my cohort in the San Francisco State University MPH program, emailed in and suggested that listeners watch a copy of Let’s Get Real and David Lazarus shared this advice with listeners…Thanks Bob!

So, can karate classes combat bullying? In the field of public health, there is a lot of emphasis on PRIMARY PREVENTION, which is targeting the entire population to prevent a negative outcome (i.e. bullying). While self-defense has its benefits and can be helpful in many ways, I don’t think these classes are the way to prevent bullying. Rather I feel that self-defense is a method of treatment—after the roles of bully and victim have been identified and the relationship between victim and bully has been established.


Methods such as those of GroundSpark’s are ones that are really effective in identifying the root of the problem. GroundSpark films Let’s Get Real and Straightlaced touch on the issue of bias, which takes form in racism, classism, sexism, and various other isms. Creating awareness of diversity and highlighting the need for respect can create an atmosphere of inclusiveness and acceptance. As a result, children can develop healthy relationships with each other that don’t involve bullying in the first place and karate can be valued as an extracurricular activity rather than a necessity.

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  • Truly, Karate can be the most wonderful sport of yesteryears.. & your child can have a feeling of healthy atmosphere, getting friendly with fellow persons !!..

    Comment by Caroline — April 12, 2010 @ 2:40 am

  • I believe the best approach is to attempt to weed out the kind of weed seeds of hatred that germinate into bullying and violent behavior later. I have developed a unique program called “Weed Out Hate; Sow the Seeds of Peace” that utilizes existing school gardening plots. Kids relate symbolic weeding with the desire to root out one’s inner bullying instincts..This way, the lesson gets re-enforced with every gardening excise. The kids are then rewarded with packets of sunflower seeds to be planted in the spring.

    Comment by Marc Daniels — October 1, 2012 @ 5:13 am

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