Martial arts teacher instructs kids how to handle bullying

By Lisa Burnett Published November 21, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Nick Hillemann

Harrison, 9, practices kicking a board with instructor Scott Yancey during the Bully Busters program at Premier Martial Arts in Cabot. As part of their work through the Stranger Danger initiative, instructors teach children not to give their last names, hoping it will help the youngsters learn how to react to a potential kidnapper.

Bullying is defined as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-age children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance, according to stopbullying.gov.

Though Keith Carothers of Cabot teaches martial arts, he’s teaching his students a way to keep their heads up if they are being bullied.

He’s instructing them in how to stand up against bullies without physically fighting back through his Bully Busters program at his Cabot martial arts studio, Premier Martial Arts.

“I came up with this program because I’ve seen so many teens’ and kids’ suicides from bullies at school,” he said. “I thought [my martial arts classes] would be the perfect opportunity to teach these kids about bullies.”

His classes teach fighting techniques, but through his Bully Busters program, he’s teaching kids how to tell bullies their threats don’t bother them.

“I tell them to say, ‘That doesn’t bother me,’ or ‘Do not touch me,’” Carothers said.

At the beginning of his classes with children from ages 5 to 12 on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, he gives them a crash course in how to defend themselves at school without a physical confrontation.

“[The Cabot School District] has a zero tolerance for bullying,” Carothers said.

To set the scenario in class, Carothers throws his students into a situation where a “bully” starts to tease them about something they did or are wearing.

After the child is “teased,” he or she shouts “Do not touch me,” or “That doesn’t bother me,” then goes to find a responsible adult.

He encourages his students to find an adult anytime they come into contact with a bully and let the bully know that he or she doesn’t control the way the student feels.

“You choose to feel the way you want to feel,” he told his students.

Carothers has been practicing martial arts since he was 6 years old. He also was bullied while he was in school, so he can relate to his students.

“I was the dork who got beat up every day at school,” he said.

He said his students don’t always know how to react when they come into contact with a bully, but his program shows them that telling someone about a bully is the most important thing.

“There’s a consequence for everything you do,” he said. “It’s not OK to [physically] defend yourself at school, and not only will the kids get punished at school; they’ll get punished here for fighting at school.”

Carothers and his students will focus on Bully Busters for a few more weeks, then will move on to a program called Stranger Danger, which teaches kids how to react to a potential kidnapper.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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