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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thoughts on Bullying Victim Fighting Back Viral YouTube Sensation

Recently our Twitter and Facebook feeds were inundated with re-tweets and shares of this video of a bullying victim fighting back at his Australian school:


(You can skip the next 2 paragraphs if you've already seen it.)

In the video, which has since gone viral and become a YouTube sensation, a bully (the smaller kid) approaches his victim (the larger kid) and says something demeaning/threatening. The victim (since identified as Casey Heynes, a longtime bullying victim) just stands there as his bully grabs his collar and punches him in the face. As one kid with a camera phone and two bystanders watch, the bully grabs him and punches him again, but this time is blocked.

The victim's back is literally against the wall, but even having been punched twice, he does nothing to defend himself. The bully invades his victim's personal space again and attempts not one, not two, but FIVE punches to his victim's stomach. At the fifth punch, the victim snaps. He grabs the bully. The bully tries to get away, but the victim lifts him and body slams him to the ground. (The bully is apparently fine and did not sustain any serious injuries, thankfully.) Both of the boys were later suspended.


There are many different opinions about this controversial situation. As promised here are some thoughts on the situation:


1) Casey has apparently been a victim of bullies all his school life. Why hasn't someone enrolled this child in martial arts? In a qualified martial arts program Casey would have learned never to allow bullies to intimidate him or lay their hands on him. 18 seconds elapsed between the bully grabbing Casey and Casey fighting back. That's 17 seconds too many. Casey should have pushed the bully's hands off of him the second the bully grabbed him. If he had done that accompanied by a confident "Leave me alone or I will defend myself and you might get hurt" (or something of that nature, of course, that's a mouthful for most kids in high-pressure situations) the bully probably would have moved on to an easier target.


2) This video dispels the myth that martial arts is mainly for short and medium-statured kids. (We actually recently had a mother tell us her teenage son, who was only about 5'10, was too tall to participate in our class. Nevermind that our adult/teen students range in height from 4'11 to 6'9, right? It's such a silly myth but it refuses to die.) Kids of all shapes and sizes get bullied. Bullies pick their targets based on emotional weaknesses such as low self-esteem, not based on who looks physically easy to pick on. 


3) In our program we teach our children what level of force is appropriate in different situations. For example, if I show them a self-defense technique, I will say, "Is this for use against a kidnapper or a playground bully?" Again, if Casey had been enrolled in martial arts, he hopefully would have learned safer anti-bullying techniques than a potentially paralyzing body-slam. Without this knowledge, he was forced to react the only way he knew how, and that's no one's fault but that of the adults who failed to equip him with better tools. 


4) The kids who watched and laughed as the smaller kid struck his victim should be punished for not finding a teacher to defuse the situation. The "cameraman" should also be punished. These kids' lack of empathy and morality is disgusting.


I assume that Casey is not enrolled in martial arts (or at least not a qualified program) so I do not fault him for what he did. He reacted as any child would react after years of bullying and humiliation. I am however very grateful that this situation ended with relatively little harm done other than a skinned knee. 


And, of course, I hope the bully learned his lesson, too.


-Sifu Nancy of Kung Fu Los Angeles staff