Young Taijutsu students at Tristar Martial Arts in Eldersburg learn non-violent techniques for dealing with bullies.
When Rj Hild was in middle school, he was bullied. After Hild started Tristar Martial Arts Academy in Eldersburg, he said the school not only taught him self-defense but also confidence, honesty, modesty, and perseverance.
“They gave us advice and taught us to ignore the people who put us down,” said Hild, of Sykesville, now a senior at Salisbury University. “I learned to keep my head up and not make myself an easy target. I also realized that at the end of the day, I had a place to go talk about it. It definitely helped me a lot as a kid.”
According to Tristar’s shidoshi, Adam Benson, Tristar teaches confidence skills along with martial arts punching, kicking and blocking.
“I don’t think bullying can be stopped completely, but it can be dealt with,” Benson said. “I can’t stop people from being mean, but I can prepare kids so they can deal with the situation. With the support of their parents and instructors, kids have an aura of ‘don’t mess with me’ that prevents further bullying.”
Benson said all of the academy’s instruction is positive, so it builds self-esteem.
“A bully doesn’t want a challenge — they want an easy target — so we’re teaching them how not to be an easy target and always walk with awareness,” Benson said. “We’ll practice different ways to deal with a bully insulting them, how to walk away and how to ask for help.”
Benson said Tristar also teaches students how to respond if another kid is being bullied.
“We teach them how to get another kid out of the situation without having to interact with the bully,” Benson said. “We don’t want them to escalate the situation. If they can’t walk away from the bully, we’ll teach them how to take attention away from the bully in a nonconfrontational way.”
Benson said the academy also teaches students self-defense techniques that “get them out of the situation without hurting the other person.”
Misti Kelly, of Westminster, said her son attended Tristar as a teenager.
“He was being bullied pretty badly and we ended up finding Tristar when he was in sixth grade,” Kelly said. “We started to notice his confidence increase. They taught him to use his words first and do everything he could do other than fight. He knew he had some self-defense skills, and he knew if it came to that he could defend himself, but he never had to do it.”
Rick Ostopowicz, of Sykesville, has enrolled both of his sons, ages 6 and 8, at the school.
“My older son was having a terrible time in elementary school, and he was getting bullied on an almost daily basis,” Ostopowicz said. “The instructors at Tristar give him real-world scenarios and teach him how to react with both words and actions. The strategies have absolutely helped him.”