Bullying casts an inescapable shadow that looms over individuals from diverse backgrounds in every setting, leaving no corner untouched. Because bullying tends to be addressed more often in the younger generation, finding tangible ways to counteract its detrimental effects in adults has truly become an urgent endeavor.
For those who have experienced the relentless torment of being bullied, the scars often run deep.
The relentless taunts, potential physical aggression, and social isolation can leave dramatic mental and emotional effects, eroding self-esteem and confidence to devastating levels. Victims, regardless of age, often find themselves trapped in a cycle of fear and anxiety, their sense of self-worth destroyed, and their hope for a better tomorrow non-existent.
The effects of being bullied vary so intensely that it can be difficult to pinpoint how to mitigate the damage. However, we do know with a degree of certainty that one of the most effective ways to elevate a bullying victim is through confidence building, like what we find through the study of martial arts.
Check out our other blogs about how martial arts help build confidence in children and teens!
While learning self-defense techniques can provide a security blanket of physical protection, it’s important to stress that there is a deeper and more transformative aspect of martial arts that goes far beyond the physical realm.
We know that self-defense can prove to be an invaluable skill, but perhaps more importantly, martial arts supplements a journey in empowering the mind.
Unlike any other form of self-improvement, martial arts offers a comprehensive approach that instills not only a physical prowess but also a mental and emotional fortitude. It can become a sanctuary for those who have endured the interminable darkness of bullying, guiding them toward a path of self-discovery and growth.
Let’s discuss the profound ways in which martial arts shapes the minds of bullying victims, elevating them above their past adversities, giving them a future filled with hope and success. Martial arts can become a shield against the suffocating shadows of bullying and intimidation, allowing victims the opportunity to finally break free from the tenebrous clutches that have held them hostage for so long.
Bullying and intimidation, the insidious force that has no limitations, inflicts deep wounds on its victims’ mental and emotional well-being – sometimes so severely, that recovery seems insurmountable.
From workplaces to home and even within the digital realm, bullying continues to manifest in various forms, preying on the vulnerable and inflicting a bitter reality that can seem inescapable for many. Individuals who endure this trauma may suffer in silence, fearing the stigma associated with being a victim, further exacerbating their emotional turmoil.
The toll that bullying takes on mental health is extreme, leading to symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and in the worst circumstances, even suicidal thoughts. It disrupts a person’s sense of identity and hinders their ability to form and maintain meaningful connections with others.
According to “Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine” (2023), a survey of 2,000 adults report that 31% have been regularly bullied, and 43% feel it’s “accepted”. As a result of this bullying/intimidation:
- 71% suffer from stress
- 70% experience anxiety/depression
- 55% report a loss of confidence
- 39% suffer from sleep loss, 26% have headaches and 22% experience muscle tension or pain
- 19% reported a mental breakdown
- 17% noted an inability to function day-to-day, i.e. calling in sick frequently
In addition, about a quarter of these adults surveyed reported that they have received the “silent treatment” from a coworker or friend for reasons unknown while 1 in 5 have been the victim of lies spread that go unrefuted/unresolved.
“Bullying is a coping strategy used to assert control when faced with personal limitations, whether intellectual, physical or otherwise,” said Charles Sophy, DO, a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist and medical director for the County of Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services. “A bully gains power in a relationship by reducing another’s and shows little regard for the consequences to a victim’s health or well-being.” (Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, 2023).
Perhaps the most disturbing fact is that the adults surveyed in this report state that this behavior is viewed as “acceptable”. This type of manipulation is far more sophisticated than behavior that a child might employ if they attempted to bully another child. It’s also important to note that psychological tactics are more advanced and used more often by adults – let’s use gaslighting as an example.
Gaslighting is a common tactic where a person makes a victim question their own reality. This behavior is done slowly over time through small, manipulative words or actions which causes the victim to question their abilities. The victim begins to doubt their memory or judgment, ultimately limiting their ability to confidently perform tasks in the workplace or in their personal life. This manipulation is a common psychological tactic used to abuse and intimidate another person against their will, and often results in a swift loss of self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth.
Through these psychological manipulations, adults can bully and intimidate someone into a gully of darkness so deep that the victim may feel completely helpless. Martial arts training offers a glimmer of hope in this bleak landscape, not merely as a means of physical defense but as a transformative journey that empowers the mind.
The Tools to Break Free
By focusing on mental strength and resilience, martial arts provide the tools necessary to break free from the shackles of bullying’s emotional grip and pave the way for healing and growth.
Through disciplined practice and focus, martial arts foster a positive mindset and a host of other benefits which are instrumental in countering the damaging effects of bullying:
- Increased Self-Confidence: Martial arts training often emphasizes personal growth and self-improvement. As adults learn and master new techniques, their self-confidence naturally grows. Feeling more confident can help adult victims of bullying assert themselves and stand up to their bullies or avoid becoming targets altogether.
- Improved Self-Defense Skills: Learning practical self-defense techniques can empower adults and make them feel more secure in their ability to protect themselves if confronted by a bully. This increased sense of security can reduce anxiety and fear related to bullying scenarios and can also give them the courage to de-escalate elevated situations knowing they can handle them if they become dangerous.
- Better Physical Fitness and Health: Regular practice of martial arts can lead to improved physical fitness, strength, flexibility, and overall health. This can help adult victims of bullying feel more capable and less vulnerable as well as more confident in themselves.
- Stress Relief and Mental Well-Being: Martial arts training can be a great outlet for releasing stress and pent-up emotions. It provides a positive, safe, and structured environment for adults to focus their energy and emotions, which can contribute to improved mental well-being and resilience.
- Greater Awareness and Avoidance Strategies: Many martial arts systems emphasize situational awareness and teach strategies to avoid dangerous or aggressive situations whenever possible. Adult victims of bullying can benefit from learning how to recognize potential threats and avoid confrontations before they escalate.
- Learning Discipline and Control: Martial arts training instills discipline and self-control. Through practice and guidance from instructors, adults can develop the ability to respond to bullying situations with more measured and appropriate reactions, rather than being overwhelmed by emotions.
- Mental Resilience and Perseverance: Martial arts training can be challenging, requiring dedication and perseverance to progress. By facing and overcoming these challenges, adult victims of bullying can develop mental resilience and a “never give up” attitude that can be applied to other aspects of life.
It’s also important to note that while martial arts are a valuable tool to combat the negative implications that bullying and intimidation has upon individuals of all ages, it is simply that – a tool.
Sometimes, it is necessary to couple that tool with counseling and therapy to complete the recovery process. While we may want to believe that the journey of self-discovery in martial arts is enough, it may not be. Suffering under the boot of bullying and intimidation can be more damaging than we know, and the recovery process is lengthy. Be sure to give yourself the time you need to recover fully and thoroughly and seek additional resources if necessary.
Bullying and intimidation can have severe and lasting effects on adults, leading to diminished self-esteem, increased anxiety, and a sense of powerlessness just to name a few. However, martial arts offers a transformative path for adult victims, equipping them with the tools needed to break free from the shackles of intimidation and fear.
Through martial arts, adults cultivate self-confidence, learn practical self-defense skills, and improve their physical fitness and mental well-being. The discipline and resilience found within martial arts training empowers victims to confront bullies assertively, diffuse potentially harmful situations, and build the inner strength to rise above the torment.
Ultimately, martial arts serve as a potent catalyst for adult victims of bullying and intimidation to reclaim their lives and emerge as stronger individuals capable of facing life’s challenges with newfound courage and grace.
As we explore the role of martial arts in empowering bullying victims, let us illuminate how this ancient art becomes a beacon of light in the darkest of times, guiding individuals towards a path of self-discovery, growth, and eventual triumph over adversity.
Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine. (2023). Adult Bullying: Survey Finds 31% of Americans Have Been Bullied as an Adult. Retrieved from https://findado.osteopathic.org/adult-bullying-survey-finds-31-americans-bullied-adult