Bully-proofing kids through martial arts
Children pick up self-defence skills at workshop
If caught in a choke-hold, nine-year-old Matthew Lim is confident he will be able to free himself from his attacker.
But the Primary 3 pupil knows that the more important thing for him to do is to escape the danger and tell an adult.
He and seven other children learnt this, as well as basic Muay Thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu techniques, during Camp Bully-Proof at the Neue Fit studio in Kallang Wave Mall.
The two-day workshop held two weeks ago aimed to teach children aged four to 11 ways to tackle physical bullying through self-defence. Neue Fit plans to hold another session during the March school holidays next year.
"I like the different moves, but I know I can use them only when I'm in trouble," said Matthew, who donned an Iron Man costume for the second day of the class.
He has been bullied before in school, but now feels "stronger" and knows he should not be scared of bullies.
His mother, Mrs Valerie Lim, 45, a freelance editor, said the bullying incidents prompted her to sign him up for Muay Thai classes about two months ago at Neue Fit.
In October, she came across an old advertisement on the studio's Facebook page for Camp Bully-Proof and felt it would be a useful workshop for all her three children.
Mrs Lim said she has seen Matthew grow more self-assured after learning Muay Thai.
She believes that the camp will give him more courage to stand up for himself.
Matthew's twin sister Claire and older sister Megan, 11, also attended the camp.
They learnt skills to block or counter an attack and techniques to fall safely, if shoved, to minimise the risk of hurting themselves.
Like superheroes who have to conceal their powers, the children learnt that the martial arts skills should be used only when the need arises, said Neue Fit co-founder Grace Huang, 35, who led the camp.
"We don't want them to show off or use it to attack others. The intention is for them to control the situation and defend themselves," she said.
An Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development survey in 2015 said that about one in five 15-year-old students here had experienced verbal bullying, while one in 10 had encountered social bullying.
Physical bullying was less prevalent at about 5 per cent, but overall, Singapore had the third highest rate of bullying globally, said the study.
Ms Huang said a common concern parents had was if their own children would become the bullies once they were exposed to martial arts.
"We are very strict in telling pupils it is about minimising harm to themselves and not to inflict damage," she said.
The session two weeks ago was the fourth edition of Camp Bully-Proof, but it was the first time it was open to children with special needs.