Rule 1: Avoid the fight at all costs.
The city of Flint is the reported # 1 most violent city in the U.S. With homicide rates steadily increasing since the 1990s, it is difficult to see how the powers that be have stepped in to the ring to end the bout. With injuries due to violence costing the state more than $250,000,000 in 2010 alone, it more so appears that they have chosen to avoid the issue, at all imminent costs.
Question is—where to start?
A survey reported that nearly ½ of all students (children) in Flint revealed that they have been in a physical fight or altercation and ¼ of Flint middle school students felt the need to carry a weapon to defend themselves according to a 2007 survey.
Alas, it appears that this issue may not start with the youth, though, it may need to end with them.
Rule 2: If physically attacked, defend yourself.
Each year Genesee Health System (GHS) sponsors the “Gracie Bullyproof Program” to come and put on their 5-day program for Flint youth (ages 8-14). What is the Gracie Bullyproof Program? Brought to you by the renowned Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy based in California, the Bullyproof camp led by Rener Gracie and team of Jiu-Jitsu trainers travels across the country to provide a FREE week long summer camp to provide young people with verbal and physical non-violent techniques to deter and defend against bullies!
Rule 3: If verbally attacked, follow the Three-T-steps (talk, tell, tackle)
CNN, ABC, NBC and even Oprah (yes, Oprah!) have all celebrated the Gracie Bullyproof camp as an innovative and effective program to reduce violence, prevent bullying and empower the youth. The program teaches the students how to avoid conflict but assert themselves if threatened by a school yard punk or rabble-rouser who crosses their boundaries.
Rule 4: Never punch or kick the bully, establish the control and negotiate.
The morning session that I attended on June 19th was a sight to see. Nearly 100 kids in attendance, ten trainers, and one Rener Gracie. The session was a mixture of listening, learning and doing. With the crowd of students patiently, but anxiously, sitting cross-legged on a wrestling mat surrounding the trainers— the trainers would demonstrate a scenario in which a bully may approach and threaten them. During each simulation, the trainer would ask the youth “What can we do in this situation”, and after a series of hand raises and answers ranging from …
Robert’s response “you can grab his legs, and pin him and, and yell at him, and hit him and…”,
Toya’s response “you can bite him”,
or Alex’s response “you can tickle him!”,
–the trainer demonstrates the accompanying first verbal, then physical restraint move.
After 3 hours of this listening, learning and doing (with a game of dodge ball thrown in), the students thank the instructors, and leave for the day. A little sweaty, a little tired, a little stronger, but much more confident.
Rule 5: When applying submissions use minimal force and negotiate.
The rates of violence and homicide in Flint are not solely associated with the increase in bullying that has been seen throughout the country over the course of the last few decades. However, as public health practitioners and researchers, we know where it can start. We know that a learned behavior executed later in life can be prevented early. We know that just as negative experiences can lead to negative actions; positive experiences can preclude such from occurring. Further, as succeeding generations continue to be exposed to or experience ultra-violence in their community; it takes intentional foresight and investment from community agencies, like GHS, to implement programs and projects to address these issues. The Gracie Bullyproof academy has created The 5 Rules of Engagement: Rule 1) Avoid violence at all costs Rule 2) If physically attacked, defend yourself, Rule 3) If verbally attacked, follow the Three-T-steps (talk, tell, tackle) Rule 4) Never punch or kick the bully, establish the control and negotiate and, Rule 5) When applying submissions use minimal force and negotiate—to teach their students to address their issues. It appears that GHS and like-minded community campaigns like “Lifelines”, have adopted the same guidelines. Perhaps we should consider these principles in addressing the ills of the community. A Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy approach may be an interesting theoretical model to consider and add to the tool-box.
We are talking about public health—we are talking about the health of the public.