Just about every Martial Arts school advertises Anti-Bullying. It's usually one of their headlines on their brochures and ads because they all know it's a great way to draw in new students. These schools are counting on the fact that schools are full of parents looking for quick answers to a tough problem, so they advertise martial arts as the solution. Unfortunately it's self deception at best, and outright fraud at worst.
If you ask these schools, they will tell you that their program offers confidence to your child to stand up to their bully, and if needed to fight back. Parents take this course as their last hope because they have run out of options. We all know telling your child to just walk away or tell a teacher is at best ineffective and often makes the problem worse, so the parents are hoping that martial arts will give them the skills that they themselves don't know how to provide.
Here's the problem. It doesn't work. Let's start with the simple stuff. Fighting back is probably not going to work. For starters, most of these martial arts schools are family style programs and actually aren't very good at self defense. Even if they are, learning to overcome disadvantages in size or numbers takes a long time and hard training. Added to this is the problem that when they do fight back, they are likely to be expelled due to schools no tolerance policy. Worst of all, this doesn't actually solve the real issue that is causing your child to be bullied.
While martial arts can help with confidence, it is often overshadowed by the constant barrage by their peers ridicule. So why do these programs advertise bully prevention? Money. Most of these programs are dependent on large kids programs, and scared parents are a great way to fill classes. So they offer to teach your kid to stand up to bullies as a means to do this. They even use this as an excuse to weasel into your kid's school where they can solicit their program. Worse yet, most of these teachers have been reinforced so long about its effectiveness that they believe it themselves.
I've been doing martial arts for 30 years, and I love it and can speak toward the many benefits of it, but honestly, anti bullying isn't solved by martial arts. So if it's not solved in a martial arts school, what should you do?
The first is often hard but necessary. You have to look at your child and see if they are lacking in some skills. Often bullying is due to some form of non conformity or a problem with the bully themselves, but in some cases, it could be due to things like hygiene or social skills. This is something that you can address on your end and honestly, if this is the cause, it's fairly simple to address at home or with the help of a good skills based therapist.
From there, you can be pretty sure that the issue is not on your end. Sometimes, kids are bullied because of things like ethnicity or religion, and sometimes for interests or the way they dress. If that's the case, it's pretty safe to say the issue is with your kid's bully(ies). The bully is often a kid in distress or one who doesn't know how to handle social issues themselves. If this is the case, you can learn some redirection techniques. It's easier when you know the issue is with them, because you can teach your child to not take it personal, because your child will learn the bully is the one who is flawed, not them. Ultimately, the issue of bullying is about developing social skills that many adults have not learned so they are more likely to have real gains through therapy than in a martial arts program.
If you are going to put your kids in martial arts, that's awesome. I think martial arts is the best thing for children and adults alike and I genuinely believe in the benefits of a life practicing martial arts. But don't do it for the anti-bullying lie, because when your child will ultimately fail using this strategy.