Karate Expert Gives Hardy MS Students Peaceful Skills for Dealing with Conflict
Feburary 2, 2011 - Bothered by a bully? Just shout ‘stop!’
From age 4 through his teens, John Mirrione had his share of fights with bullies on the streets of Coney Island, NY.
He thought using his fists to stand up to bullies would lift him out of the cycle of violence. But one fight always led to another. After more than a dozen bloody brawls, Mirrione, 46, learned a peaceful technique that he shares with youngsters struggling to cope with their own conflicts.
“The victim should stand up and say something simple like, ‘Stop!’” said Mirrione last week during an assembly with students at Hardy Middle School in Georgetown. “When you use your hands [to settle a conflict], that’s failed communication.”
Barefoot and donning a traditional white karate gi with black belt, Mirrione told Hardy students that bullies are victims, too, and fighting is their way of expressing pain. Bullying, he added, is a means of controlling another person. Shouting, “Stop!” or another command empowers the victim and draws attention to the situation so that others can intervene, he said.
While receptive to the message, some Hardy students questioned the effectiveness of the technique, noting that some situations may require a more aggressive posture or a turn-and-run approach.
Rena Johnson, assistant principal at Hardy, acknowledged that a “fight or flight” decision can be tricky, but urged students to consider a more peaceful approach. Fighting, she reiterated, is not effect. And, as she pointed out, fighting can get you in trouble at school and lead to other fights.
“It’s not a black or white world. There’s a lot of gray,” Johnson said. “You know how to tell them how you feel. So stand up as much as you can, but talk to parents or teachers. … Once you fight, you’ve really failed.”
Mirrione, who runs the Harmony by Karate dojo in Manhattan and tours the country to give students skills in dealing with bullies, told students to consider their friends in the anti-bullying campaign.
He asked students if their friends are supportive; if they would they help steer students away from or toward trouble. He also encouraged students to be trustworthy friends and lead others away from confrontations with bullies and toward peaceful resolutions.
“You either lead a troubled life or change the world,” Mirrione said. “When you help someone … that changes your life.”
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