When I was in 5th grade, I was bullied. It got pretty bad. Sometimes I would get off my school bus early and walk through backyards and woods to get home because my bullies were waiting for me at my normal stop. Rather than be a victim, I decided to take charge.
I enrolled at a local martial arts school.
Thankfully, I had a great sensei who taught me not only how to defend myself, but how to never need to. Yes, I learned how to fight… but more importantly I learned how not to fight – how to outsmart aggression and how to turn my enemies into allies.
When I was in 8th grade my school had a talent show. At this point only my close friends knew I was a martial artist, and I persuaded some of them to do a choreographed fight scene with me in the show. We trained for weeks and when the day came, we performed a ridiculously cool battle between me and 5 ninja assassins. At the end, standing over the defeated ninjas, with the entire audience erupting in cheers, I did something I hadn’t planned to do. I took the microphone from the MC and addressed the student audience. I challenged them to look beyond fighting as option for settling issues, to reach out to people they didn’t know or understand, to become the generation that ends wars and manufactures peace.
Was it naively grand? Sure. Did it make a difference? Absolutely.
For starters, I was never bullied again. Ever. I also became someone other students would talk to if they were having problems and need help or encouragement. I learned a lot about my peers and the struggles they faced… some far bigger than mine ever were.
I grew up, perused acting, started a business, traveled the world, started a family, became a volunteer, taught classes – I’ve done a lot since those days of dogging bullies. Through all of it I’ve maintained a simple ideal that has made it all worthwhile; we’re in this together.