NEWPORT NEWS — Three years ago, Nick White, owner of Modern American Mixed Martial Arts, started an after-school program to help kids build confidence and not view themselves as victims of bullying.
“If you don’t look like you are afraid, nobody’s going to mess with you,” White said.
The “Bully Proof” program is for children ages 5 to 12 and runs during the school year.
Before starting the program, students are asked three questions:
- How many of you have been bullied?
- How many of you have seen bullying?
- How many of you have seen bullying and intervened?
About 90 percent of the kids raised their hands for the first two questions and generally none answered the last one, White said.
The Bully Proof program focuses on submission grappling, a technique similar to Jiu-Jitsu, dexterity and overall fitness.
“What we do basically, we started out in the first week with baseline measurements,” he said.
Each student’s progress is tracked every month such as how many push-ups they can do, the number of sit-ups, burpees and other skills.
“Each month we redo those numbers and what that does is slowly starts to build a confidence.”
The Bully Proof program uses team-based drills such as splitting into smaller groups.
“That really changes the view of how the bully looks,” he said. “You’re also as strong as the weakest man on your team.”
Last year, he had a bully and a bullied kid in the program and after it was over, they became best friends, White said.
“Unfortunately, we hear stories all the time of a man abusing his wife, his girlfriend whoever –– nobody did anything,” White said. “When you have confidence in yourself, when you know yourself, when you have confidence and [say] ‘hey I can defend myself’ and ‘hey I’m a good person’, that changes things dramatically.”
The Anti-Bullying After School Program costs $75 per week and students who participate in the program can be pick-upped and dropped off at several elementary schools including Sanford, Denbigh Early Childhood, R.O. Nelson, Kiln Creek, Richneck, Dutrow, Jenkins and B.C. Charles.