Karate kids; building self-esteem through martial arts

WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Kids at the Assembly of Martial Arts Academy are learning how to build self-confidence and stand up to a bully at school.

“Teaching kids martial arts at a young age can reduce bullying,” said owner and instructor at the Assembly of Martial Arts Academy, Adam Rylski.

During class, the children can be heard shouting, “Don’t ever put your hands on me ever again.” Kids are learning how to stand up to bullies without using violence.

“It’s not about just physically being able to protect yourself. It is about mentally being able to protect yourself. If we start at 3,4,5,6,7 years old when they are confronted they will know what to do. They will feel confident about themselves. They will feel like they can stand up for themselves because they have the tools to do it,” said Rylski.

Kids are learning how to get out of a bullying situation.

Melanie Jimenez has been taking classes for a few years. She says she’s come out of her shell.

“I have more confidence in myself. I feel like I know how to defend myself If I’m ever in a problem like myself,” Jimenez said.

“First we learn to try to talk our way out of it. We say don’t touch me, never do that again,” said Joe Settanni.

Kevin McCormick explained why he enrolled his son in martial arts, “We don’t want to teach our kids to fight. We want to teach our kids to talk and use their words to stop things like that.”

Mimma Schlauder’s son is five. He’s been picked on for his weight and speech impediment.

“I did put him in this class because I wanted him to learn confidence in himself and self respect for other people,” said Schlauder. “I’m trying to get him to believe in himself and let him know it’s okay.”

Joe Settanni is an 8th grader. He has been taking martial arts since he was three.

“It’s a really nice way going to karate to learn to deal with things not using your first or physical things, always try to talk things out,” said Settanni.

“When someone approaches them and says something to them that’s hurtful they have to turn around and say don’t talk to me like that, that’s not right that’s wrong,” Rylski added.

“He is showing us how to be respectful and how to defend ourselves,” added Jimenez.

Rylski tells the kids, “The bully that bullied you on Wednesday, if you play your cards right, they may be your friend on Friday.”

“It’s all about giving kids the confidence to speak out when they know something’s wrong. When someone attacks you try to attack them back with kindness and niceness and maybe that person will realize what they are doing is wrong,” said Rylski.

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