Tuesday, April 13, 2010

When the Target Becomes the Bully

When I first moved to California in 1990 I continued the study of Aikido that I had started in Arizona. I followed my sensei for almost ten years. One of the phrases that he was fond of using was, “You don’t want to become your attacker.”

I was quite a bit older when I realized what that meant. If, when you are attacked, you respond in a manner so "over the top" you end up doing more damage to your attacker than they had intended to do to you, then you become no better than they are. There is a fine line between defending yourself and beating the snot out of somebody because they had the temerity to threaten you.

I have been watching the posts about Phoebe Prince and a great many of them think that what was needed was to give the bullies a good whipping. If that is done then the bullies will leave you alone. Here is an example of the kind of rhetoric that is so often easily spuged out on a web page;

“The best way to stop a bully is catch that person alone and beat that person till they almost dead then let the bully know any thing else happen to the person that they are working on, the next time you catch him alone it will worst. A bully is usually a coward unless they have a group with them. Now the next thing you need to do is find out where the teacher live and visit their home late at night with a few rock thur the window with note asking them move. You really dont need this type of teacher for your school.”

Great advice, the bully goes to the hospital and the target goes to jail for assault and terrorizing the teacher. No one wins. Three lives are ruined or at least in tatters. A sort of tensioned peace will fall on those in the area but no one ever feels really good after something like this.

In Skidmore, Missouri the townsfolk had enough of the bullying of Ken McElroy. He had been charged with serious crimes over 22 times and had never been convicted. He raped, stole and assaulted with impunity. Finally on July 10, 1981 the town had enough. They surrounded McElroy’s car and two shots rang out from two different weapons. The bully was dead. No one could ever get the townspeople to tell who the murderers were. The town was now free of their bully, but according to several books written about the situation the town was never the same again and it hadn’t changed for the better.

Sometimes the target is just not capable of defending himself or simply does not want to hurt another human being. In the first case, the target will receive a stronger beating than if they had done nothing. In the second, the target now finds that she will have a very hard time living with herself.

I have studied martial arts for over twenty years now and I have seen some people that can take care of themselves very handily. I have also seen people, some of them ranking black belts that would be lost if they were confronted with a real situation.

Confronting the bully sounds good on paper, but the reality is that it is risky at best and could be devastating to all parties at its worst. If the bully resorts to violence then the target should do whatever is necessary to neutralize the attack and then get out of the area. No more, no less. But, the best situation is to not fight at all.

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