Muay Thai Bully Busters

I’ve started teaching my Children’s Muay Thai Kickboxing classes.  I have to admit that I did not develop an outline for what I wanted to tackle in the 10-week course.  I have some general ideas about the basic things I want to teach, but since I’ve never taught children before, I want to stay kind of fluid with the goals pertaining to techniques. 

The thing I have been focused on though, is that I want these kids leaving each class with at least a little more confidence in themselves then they arrived with. I’m resolved that every child absolutely has to taste success in each class, so they have something positive to walk away with.  The other thing I want to sear into their minds is the idea that there is no room for bullies or bullying in their world.


To that end, I’ve designated the last 5 minutes of each class to role-playing.  I say something a little cuckoo to each kid, with the idea that they figure out language to get me to stop.  For instance, I’ll say, “Hey Roan, I hear that your dad eats pancakes with broccoli!”  And he’ll address me by name with the response, “Jodi, I don’t like how that sounds.”  Then he walks away.  This went over well in the first class, with even some of the shy girls being able to speak up.  I know this is so intimidating for some of them – to have to speak up.  But I’m convinced that if they get this one-two combination of success in physical challenges combined with learning language and faith in their own ability to speak up, I will have an entire classroom of very confident students. 


And I am asking you for your ideas.  When thinking about kids who get bullied, and kids who do the bullying, what approaches seem effective?  What have you used that worked, and what have you tried that didn’t work so well?  Bring it in the comments!


14 responses to “Muay Thai Bully Busters

  1. My kids are still young so I havn’t personally encountered the bullying stuff but I wanted to write to say what you are doing is so great. I think building that confidence and sense of self is ridiculously important and not always given a lot of time or attention. So good for you for trying to connect and help.-Karen

  2. I am a high school English teacher, and I deal with teens whose confidence was lost long, long ago, and in some cases this was due to bullying when the kid did try to speak up for himself in the past, or when they achieved something but were made fun of for it. It is so heartbreaking to see the end results of this when they get to my class. I try to do tiny confidence-building activities on a regular basis. Journaling is wonderful. If you can find your voice inside, then put it on paper, it is easier to find it when you want to say it on the outside. You could encourage the kids to keep a journal on their on time, or even buy small, inexpensive notebooks and pencils for them. Also, at the beginning of each year, I have the students submit three random words or topics. I place these in a jar and every other day, for the final five minutes, a student has to draw a word from the jar and talk about it for two whole minutes. I don’t care what they say, but they have to be CONFIDENT in what they are saying. They have to say it like they mean it, with intensity. They have to show passion. Even the most timid kid ends up having fun with this! I don’t know if you can use either of these ideas in your class.

  3. I think that the combination you are putting together is magical. Giving children confidence through success seems like a sound theory. The only add I would suggest is peer support. Have them practice helping each other out of situations as well.Well done!

  4. I love the idea of really helping to build self-confidence in these little ones. Like Jessica, I am a high school English teacher, and some of the kids I encounter struggle daily with the fear that they’ll be called on in class and ‘look like an idiot’ because they don’t know what to say. Once I figure out those kids who are intimidated to speak out, I try to give them a heads up the day before–“Hey. Tomorrow I’m going to be leading a discussion on (fill in the blank). I’d like you to be thinking about what you might like to say about this, because I’d like to hear your opinion.” That way, they get a chance to process and formulate their ideas, instead of worrying about being put on the spot. I don’t do this for all of my kids, though–just the ones I think are reluctant to participate due to shyness or self-esteem issues. When they aren’t put on the spot and feel good about what they contribute to the discussion, they feel some success and inclusion in the group. For those really shy introverted kids, that might be a good way to ease them into the speaking out role-playing in your classes.

  5. Doing this kind of role playing is priceless. Giving kids a chance to try on different words and tones of voice to see what works for them is so important. And seeing that they CAN speak up gets into their muscles and they remember when they’re faced with a situation again how they did it. I wonder too if you could include the rest of the class, the “bystanders” in the role play, to speak up, since so much of bullying is also silencing the audience. They can do simple distracting things like call over the kid being bullied, change the subject, interrupt, etc. I’m a social worker and try to combat this kind of thing daily. It’s so hard since some of it’s sort of developmental, but kids also need to learn way early on that it’s OK to create a boundary with someone and to learn what it feels like inside when they want to or need to create a boundary. Sorry to take up so much space, I just could go on and on about this. It sounds like you’re doing such awesome work. Thanks for sharing your journey with us!

  6. Thanks Karen – I have to say that the times I’ve heard of Roan being bullied, even in small ways, have been the most heart breaking for me. As a parent, you really want to fix it for them, but it’s become clear that he’s the one who has to learn to be assertive enough to find his voice and use it.

  7. What cool ideas. Seriously I love the idea of speaking about random things for 2 minutes. It must be so interesting to teach High School. Kids that age seem so vulnerable to me – I’m happy to hear you’re out there helping them. Thank you!

  8. Great add Emily. I’ll work that in for sure. Thanks!

  9. Oh man I had no idea I had so many teachers reading. I’m going to have to brush up on grammar…There are a few kids in my class so far that seem to want to disappear when their turn comes to speak or to do a combination in front of the other students. I think that’s a helpful idea to give them a little warning – maybe even in choosing them last in the order of things. Very helpful.

  10. Janah – You can take up all the space you want! Your take on this is really helpful – I’ve been trying to think of ways to get that across – helping each other. I’ve been stressing that we are a team, hoping that this will build a feeling of camaraderie that carries over into school (most of the kids attend the same school). Thanks for the input – sounds like you’ve had some experience here. Feel free to give me more ideas – I really feel it’s beneficial for me to get this feedback.

  11. I LOVE this! My son has always struggled with self confidence and in turn was a bully at home. One of the things that helped in both cases is when he was in High School he had a teacher that had all classes repeat after him daily in class a quoted statement that I don’t know word for word but it basically said they were each important people and their lives are meaningful.

  12. I wish I could take your class! I used to teach martial arts and loved my kids classes. One of the first things they learned was to get in a ready stance. One that would allow them to defend themselves, if necessary, but also to communicate confidence. I think the kids also felt more comfortable knowing that they should do something with their bodies and keep their heads up, actually making them feel more in control. The stance – just a step of a foot backwards with open palms facing out – is actually a fighting stance, but is not threatening and provides good footing for walking/running away, which is what they would practice as well. This sort of thing was used for stranger and bully defense, which included escaping grabs and running. These defense scenarios were practiced separately than regular kicks and punches and I think it helped the kids realize that they shouldn’t be beating up on others.

  13. My son, now 15 has had his share of being bullied. I’ve taught him that the best defense is no defense- the bully wants a reaction, but when it isn’t forthcoming, the taunts tend to stop. While this doesn’t stop it from being hurtful, it at least keeps it from getting worse. Bullies are often perceived as being the strong ones, but usually the opposite it true, and the bullying is a way for them to feel more powerful.Keep up the good works.

  14. Hi Jodi! Where are you teaching the kiddies? I think Lila would love to do it too…..thx! wjcohen @ Best,Warren

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