Body language: combatting bullying without throwing a punch

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) - An early-evening session at Traditional ATA Martial Arts begins with a lesson on bullying.

Almost every kid at the class will tell you they've been bullied at school.

"These kids are like, you're so dorky because you have the weirdest teeth in the class and it just doesn't feel good and it makes me feel like I'm not a person who is supposed to be in this world," said Taylon Hayes, a sixth grader who's also a brown belt.

When tempers flare, the students will tell you they've seen others duke it out, whether it's in the hallways or on the playground.

"You kinda just want to get right into the middle and just like, kinda like take on the other guy," said Dyllan Blimka, a sixth grader who's a second-degree black belt. "You feel so bad for the other person."

But not at Traditional ATA Martial Arts.

Before the first ugly words or first flying fists, certified instructor Roy Ivey said kids are taught to breathe.

The students are taught that long before bulling gets to the physical stage, they need to learn about controlling their emotions, and therefore, their bodies.

"A lot of it is just being able to stay calm and be able to think," said certified instructor Andrew Rady. "You don't want your emotions to be able to take over, and that's when a lot of situations elevate."

Studies show one out of 10 children nationwide will drop out of high school this year because they are being bullied at school.

Physical bullying increases in elementary school and peaks in middle school.

But the verbal bullying continues all the way through high school.

No matter the method, Rebecca Tiedge, a Boise State professor, says bullies like to invade their victim's space.

"It's the idea that I'm going to control you by taking control of what you have surrounding you and what's your comfort zone," she said.

That's why staying away from bullies can be as easy as changing your body language.

For example, avoid standing with your shoulders slumped, and looking down while carrying your backpack can have a huge impact on how bullies perceive you.

"Have a purpose," Tiedge said. "Go from Point A to Point B. Don't be looking around. Have an intent with the way that you carry yourself, your stride length, all of those kinds of things, because in that approach, you're going to look more assertive with your body language."

At Traditional ATA Martial Arts, therein lies the lesson of fighting back, without throwing a punch.

"And so, unlike the one who is walking down the hallway with their nose down and looking at their shoelaces, they're looking up, and that immediately is not the person that the bully wants," Ivey said. "The bully wants the one that he can Lord it over."

And his students will tell you... mind over matter does work.

"That's where the self control and respect comes in," Blimka said. "You respect them, hopefully they'll respect you back."

If you'd like to learn more about bullying laws around the United States, including Idaho:

If you'd like to see what the experts say about more anti-bullying body language:

Instructors with Traditional ATA Martial Arts are hosting a series of free workshops at 2 pm and 3 pm on both Saturday, November 16th and Saturday, November 23rd.

If you'd like to enroll your child, give the school a call at 376-1718.

Their website is: