I was able to "bullyproof" Mathew quickly and effectively by teaching him a few simple self-defense techniques. After just five lessons, he had so much confidence in the techniques and his reflexes that he no longer feared getting hurt by the bully. Now that he was fearless, he could walk strong. When he returned to school, the bully must have sensed Mathew's newfound confidence because the harassment came to a screeching halt.

Martial artists will tell you that the best-prepared students also tend to be the least likely to find themselves in a fight. Predators look for signs of weakness when selecting victims. People who have the confidence to deal with physical aggression not only possess technical skills for neutralizing an attack, but also exude confidence in their bearing and mannerisms. These people are both less likely to be attacked and, interestingly, are less prone to initiate a fight because they have nothing to prove. This especially applies to children during their vulnerable formative years. For these reasons, millions of parents enroll their children in martial arts programs.

Most martial arts programs discourage fighting among students. A student who initiates a fight—not to mention bullying—can be expelled from the training. Some self-defense systems rely on striking the attacker with punches, kicks, knees and elbows; however, this method provides no way to control the level of violence: "You punch me, and I'll punch you harder. You push me, and I'll kick you in the head." While a strike may have its place in a life-threatening street fight, it has no place on the playground and will always do more harm than good. Essentially, you're fighting fire with fire. It's unnecessarily violent and rightfully unacceptable to school authorities. It can even turn victims into bullies.

Sooner or later, most children will be the target of some form of harassment—verbal, physical or psychological. You can't control how other people treat your child, but you can control how your child responds.

As a parent, you have an important decision to make: Will you need to react to the bullying after the fact, or will you start "bullyproofing" your child today?

It's all about self-confidence. As you would not expect your child to stand up on a surfboard without first learning how to swim, you cannot expect your child to stand up to bullies without first learning self-defense. To give your children self-confidence, rooted in the knowledge that no children can harm or intimidate them, is a priceless gift with the potential to shape their entire lives.

Rener Gracie is a third-generation master of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and the co-creator of Gracie Bullyproof, a multimedia confidence and character development program that is taught in hundreds of self-defense academies worldwide as well as select public schools. To learn more about how you can "bullyproof" your child from home, please visit

More on bullying
How to deal with kids who bully other kids
Remembering Phoebe Prince and the high cost of bullying
The truth about school bullying
The tragedy of bullying


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