By Veronica Mackey
According to the California Center for Disease Control, 18.5 percent of California high school students report bullying on school property.
While educators work hard to combat the problem, author, martial arts and bullying expert James Gavsie says our schools are falling way short.
“It’s not their fault. Schools are doing some amazing things with our kids, but they are not set up, nor do they have the personnel or expertise to effectively combat bullying,” Gavsie said. “Schools typically bring in a speaker who will give a great anti-bullying presentation. But then the speaker leaves. It’s like going to the gym and working out for one day, and saying ‘Well, I’m glad that’s taken care of.’ To get results, you need to keep going.”
Gavsie is the founder of MAX Impact Martial Arts in Los Angeles and author of Renegade’s Guide to Stopping Bullies, now available on Amazon.com. He also developed a year-long, school-based mentorship program aimed at helping students avoid and overcome bullying. Business partner, California National Guard Sgt. Donald DeNoyer, has done a remarkable job, Gavsie said, giving presentations and implementing the program at schools.
Santa Maria High School has seen an 80% drop in bullying cases since the school year began last August.
People of all age groups and cultural backgrounds come to Gavsie for martial arts and self defense training, and solutions to their bullying problems, including children of celebrities. When asked what kinds of problems celebrity kids have, he said the only difference is that these clients are high profile. Other than that, the problems are the same.
In addition to working with civilians, Gavsie has trained police officers, Secret Service agents, Navy Seals, and personnel in almost every branch of the military.
“I was the gentle giant in school, a big overweight kid who didn’t like fighting. I was an easy target and soft spoken.” said Gavsie, who is 6’3” and weighs 250 lbs. While his size gets immediate respect, bullying is more about mindset, he said.
“When I moved to L.A. and started my martial arts business, parents wanted physical techniques to help their kids stand up to bullies. I explained they needed to talk their way out of this and understand what is happening with bullying. What they really needed was something that didn’t rely on physical strength.”
He added: “Bullying has more to do with criminal psychology and less to do with child psychology,” and likened school recess to what typically happens on the prison yard.
A former software developer, Gavsie has various techniques to combat cyber bullying.
For every social media platform, he says, a different type of solution to cyber bullying is required. “With a text, no one else sees it so you can block a person from your phone. But if someone photoshops a picture of you and posts it on Instagram, how many people can see that photo?”
Gavsie works with a lot of adults who’ve been bullied as kids and are afraid of confrontation. “Parents need to model behavior for their kids,” he said. “We want our kids to be good versus just nice. The difference is nice kids will allow themselves to be disrespected in order to maintain so-called friendships. They will allow people to push them around. Good kids won’t put up with that. They understand a real friend will value them.”
For more information on James Gavsie and anti-bullying, visit www.renegadesguide.com. His book, Renegade’s Guide to Stopping Bullies is available on Amazon.com.