From The Corner (On Bullying)

A bully is a person who pushes another person into a corner against their will, and then keeps pushing, and pushing, and pushing.

We often think about bullying as a physical altercation wherein a bigger, stronger, or more powerful person is abusive of a smaller, weaker, or less powerful person. Physical abuse, however, is just one way that bullying manifests. Most of the time, bullying is more subtle and more psychological or emotional than it is physical.

Simply put, bullying is the act of forcing another person into a state of fight or flight against their will. Bullying is any forceful imposition of will against another person wherein that person is put into a position from which they feel the need to defend themselves. This does not mean they have the ability or desire to defend themselves, but that they are forcefully placed into a position from which they feel the need to do so.

As we see more and more these days, bullying does not even have to take place in person in order to have severe, negative emotional and psychological effects on the bullied. Bullying can be as subtle as a forced argument or debate on social media, in an email chain, on text messages, over the phone, or face to face, or it can be as blatant as a person in a position of greater power physically abusing, assaulting, or even killing a person in a position of lesser power.

While most outcry and outrage for the victims of bullying only comes out when tragedy strikes, we should be forever mindful of the fact that bullying usually starts small. It starts with a word, a posture, or a tone of aggression intended to back another person into the corner, into a place where they either fight back, freeze, or run. Sadly, many people never make it out of that corner.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

All photos by Robert Van Valkenburgh unless otherwise noted.

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