In my previous article I touched on the importance of having an established set of rules, a framework to teach your children how and when they can protect themselves. In this article I’ll go into a bit more detail on the rules we use.

This article and our philosophy when it comes to children’s self defence borrows heavily from the Gracie Academy and the work of Rener and Ryron Gracie so if you like what you read you should definitely check them out.

Rule One: Avoid the fight at all costs

We like to think that the real work we do is not about the physical, but more the emotional and psychological development of our students. We help them build confidence and grow. So, if our students never once use the techniques and principles they’ve been taught, is that failure?

If our students never once use the techniques and principles they’ve been taught is that failure?

Well obviously it depends on the circumstance, but, in an ideal world the work we do should build confidence, awareness and ultimately improve our student’s ability to assess a situation. Our goal is for this new found confidence to manifest itself in different ways but we hope it allows this child to ignore any ego and walk away from confrontation — to avoid the fight. If your child is aware that they are more than capable of defending themselves, they should also know they have nothing to prove.

We teach our students techniques so they never have to use them.

Rule 2: If physically attacked, defend yourself.

I know what you’re thinking, “Thats all fine, but what if they can’t avoid the fight? What if my child is attacked?”, this is where rule two comes in.

If your child is attacked they should know it’s okay to defend themselves. No child should be afraid of using what they know to keep themselves from harm. The important thing here is drawing a distinction between fighting with someone and defending yourself (see rule 4 for more on this).

Rule 3: If verbally attacked, follow the Three T-steps (talk, tell, tackle).

Verbal bullying can be just as effective as physical and it’s something that proves to be a lot more difficult to deal with for kids, parents and schools.

The three T’s are a series of steps that ensure your child tries every available alternative before confronting a bully (the last resort).

Step One

The first step is all about confidence. Your child needs to tell the bully in no uncertain terms to stop, to leave them alone. It might seem useless but it can work and it’s important to be able to demonstrate further down the line that your child attempted peaceful resolution.

Step Two

This comes in to play if after talking to the bully the abuse continues. It’s at this point that the child should tell a parent, guardian or teacher.

Step Three

Probably the most controversial, but I feel personally that it’s entirely necessary and justified. If even after getting a grown-up involved the verbal attacks continue then it’s time for the child to tackle the bully.

That raised eyebrow? You can drop it a little. I am saying tackle the bully, but not in the way you’re thinking. This is a verbal tackle in the form of a very specific question: Do you want to fight me?

The beauty of this question is in how disarming it is, it leaves little room for the bully to manoeuvre. There are essentially two outcomes here, the first is the bully realises they have bitten off more than they can chew and walk away or the second is they feel they need to attack. 9 times out of 10 they will walk away, If they do attack, see rule 2.

The beauty of this question is in how disarming it is, it leaves little room for the bully to manoeuvre.

You can rest assured that if it does come to the bully engaging with your child that they tried every form of peaceful resolution. That the school was involved and that if they’ve been training properly they will be able establish control of the situation and negotiate.

Rule 4: Never punch or kick, establish control and negotiate.

Control is the key word here, we can’t expect any child to be able to exercise control when the confrontation amounts to a flurry of fists and feet. This reduces the conflict essentially to chance and luck and it plays into the hands of bigger, stronger opponents.

At best they might scare the bully off, at worst they get seriously hurt or even worse still seriously hurt the bully and become the aggressor. The most likely scenario is somewhere in-between. We don’t want this.

The techniques we teach and the approach we’re trying to encourage here are all about taking control of the opponent, stopping their ability to attack and then negotiating with them for a peaceful resolution, simply saying “Are you going to stop? If you stop I’ll get off you” is all it takes. If they agree let them go, if they don’t keep control.

Rule 5: When applying submissions use minimal force and negotiate.

Some of our older students in the junior class are taught some basic submissions, these tend to be arm control techniques. The idea with these is that they help the student maintain control over the opponent, not as a way to hurt them.

With that in mind the rule here is to always use minimal force, just what‘s required to keep control, no more.

Make your own rules

These rules won’t be the perfect fit for everyone, you might disagree with one, two or all of them and this is fine. You don’t have to agree with these just make sure you have your own. Make sure your little one knows when and how they can defend themselves and that regardless of what happens you will always support them.