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Yahoo: Bullying Victims Fight Back

Bullying Victims Fight Back With Help From Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Royalty
Wednesday, August 24, 2011 1:17 amWritten by: Steve Henson

UFC 134 in Rio de Janeiro this weekend will rightly include homage to the iconic Gracie family, creators of Brazilian jiu-jitsu nearly 100 years ago, creators of the Ultimate Fighting Championship nearly 20 years ago, creators of legendary family fighting figures and jiu-jitsu instructors that span the globe. 

But the Gracies’ most positive impact might be felt at a middle school in a Denver suburb where a seventh grader is unafraid of bullies for the first time since he can remember.

Martin Hendricks, 12, spent a week this summer at the Gracie Academy in Torrance, Calif., in an intensive program designed to make him “Bullyproof.” He learned as many jiu-jitsu self-defense techniques as a kid can absorb in five days, he memorized a blueprint for dealing with a bully fairly and squarely, and he gained self-confidence. The first week of school he put the lessons into practice.

“I’m still a little nervous but it all went well,” Hendricks said quietly in a phone call to Rener Gracie, his personal instructor at the academy. “He’ll never bother me again. Let me tell you about it.”

It’s back-to-school time all over the country. For kids that get picked on, it’s a return to a horror zone. Experts say that more than 150,000 children miss school every day because they are afraid of being bullied. More than half of all schoolchildren have witnessed a bullying incident and three of every four students say bullying is a problem at their school.

The bulk of bullying occurs from the fourth through the eighth grades, although it can continue through high school and even in the workplace. Bullying is intimidation or domination toward someone perceived as weaker, a way to establish superiority through coercion or force. The emotional scars are often worse than the physical beatings, and victims of bullying often become depressed and do poorly in school. Bullying can even lead to suicide.

Rener Gracie, 27-year-old son of UFC originator Rorion Gracie and grandson of legendary Brazilian jiu-jitsu grandmaster Helio Gracie, knows all the statistics. He recognized that the martial art perfected by three generations of his uncles and cousins is ideal for combating bullies. So he and his brother Ryron developed a program specifically for youngsters who have been the target of taunts and shoves, kicks and punches.

Jiu-jitsu is a strategic, relatively nonviolent method of self-defense. It utilizes leverage, locks and holds that can neutralize a bigger, stronger opponent when both combatants are off their feet and grappling in close quarters. Combined with a clear understanding of the appropriate rules of engagement in a school setting, knowing the basics of jiu-jitsu can give a child the necessary tools to combat a bully.

“The program is engaging, it’s fun and it will ensure that your son or daughter doesn’t have to go through life at the mercy of tormenting bullies,” Rener said.

Martin Hendricks was so timid when he arrived in Torrance last month with his mother and sister that he wouldn’t speak to anyone at the Gracie Academy. Rener knew his background from speaking to his mother: Martin had been bullied for many years by many kids and had simply taken it. ”His grades suffered and he would never stick up for himself,” said his mother, Wendy. “He’s a nice, gentle soul kind of kid and now he didn’t even want to go to school.

“Bullying is an epidemic. It’s horrible and schools sweep it under the carpet. It breaks my heart.”

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