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Teaching Self-Defense to Middle School Students in Physical Education

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Abstract and Figures

The widespread epidemic of bullying seen in schools today is a serious cause for concern. It has been reported that 1 in every 10 middleschool-age students in the United States is being bullied weekly (S. Brown, Birch, & Kancherla, 2005). Schools have taken steps to raise awareness about bullying by implementing programs that include character-building concepts to aid in minimizing school violence (Gibone & Manson, 2010). But what can educators do to teach tolerance among students while at the same time help limit physical violence? Since bullying can lead to physical confrontations, it is important for students to know that they can defend themselves when they are confronted with harmful situations without having to fight. Self-defense is to be used only when an individual feels that there is direct harm to their physical well-being or life. Many times students at the middle-school level do not know how to deescalate a confrontational situation and may act out by using a physical response to resolve the conflict (S. Brown et al., 2005). However, students need to realize that there are other ways to protect themselves without striking another individual, and that if physical contact is needed, it is to be used only as a last resort. There are many benefits to teaching self-defense in school curriculums, such as protecting students, establishing awareness, developing strong selfdiscipline, developing physical skills and hands-on experience, improving the ability to fight back, developing selfconfidence, improving communication skills, improving fitness, and developing mental strategies (Chen, 2011). In addition, Banks (2010) stated that the integration of a self-defense unit in secondary physical education programs is becoming more common in 21st-century curricula because the threats of crime to oneself, one’s belongings, or the home are becoming more prevalent. Still, not many physical education programs teach self-defense as a unit within their curriculum because there are teachers and administrators who fear that doing so will promote violence in schools. Self-defense content can be very informative to middle-school students and can provide them with proper instruction as to how to protect themselves (D. Brown & Johnson, 2000). Thus, teaching students the proper way of using self-defense techniques should actually help to limit the amount of violence in schools (Banks, 2010). Teachers, administrators, and students can all benefit from the skills that are taught in a self-defense unit. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to give teachers tips that will help them to be more effective in teaching self-defense to middle-school students in physical education and to better establish a productive learning environment for this important lifelong skill.
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Publisher: Routledge
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Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance
Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:
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Teaching Self-Defense to Middle School Students in Physical
Education
Gina M. Potenza a , Ferman Konukman b , Jong-Hoon Yu c & Hayrettin Gümüşdağ d
a Victor Central School District , Victor , NY
b Department of Kinesiology, Sport Studies & Physical Education , The College at Brockport, State
University of New York , Brockport , NY
c Department of Education , Glenville State College , Glenville , WV
d School of Physical Education and Sports at Hitit University , Çorum , Turkey
Published online: 26 Dec 2013.
To cite this article: Gina M. Potenza , Ferman Konukman , Jong-Hoon Yu & Hayrettin Gümüşdağ (2014) Teaching Self-
Defense to Middle School Students in Physical Education, Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 85:1, 47-50, DOI:
10.1080/07303084.2014.855581
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07303084.2014.855581
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JOPERD 47
Teaching Tips
Editor: Ferman Konukman
The widespread epidemic of bul-
lying seen in schools today is a
serious cause for concern. It has
been reported that 1 in every 10 middle-
school-age students in the United States
is being bullied weekly (S. Brown, Birch,
& Kancherla, 2005). Schools have taken
steps to raise awareness about bullying
by implementing programs that include
character-building concepts to aid in
minimizing school violence (Gibone &
Manson, 2010). But what can educators
do to teach tolerance among students
while at the same time help limit physi-
cal violence?
Since bullying can lead to physi-
cal confrontations, it is important for
students to know that they can defend
themselves when they are confronted
with harmful situations without having
to ght. Self-defense is to be used only
when an individual feels that there is
direct harm to their physical well-being
or life. Many times students at the
middle-school level do not know how
to deescalate a confrontational situa-
tion and may act out by using a physical
response to resolve the conict (S.
Brown et al., 2005). However, students
need to realize that there are other ways
to protect themselves without striking
another individual, and that if physical
contact is needed, it is to be used only as
a last resort.
ere are many benets to teach-
ing self-defense in school curriculums,
such as protecting students, establishing
awareness, developing strong self-
discipline, developing physical skills
and hands-on experience, improving
the ability to ght back, developing self-
condence, improving communication
skills, improving tness, and develop-
ing mental strategies (Chen, 2011). In
addition, Banks (2010) stated that the
integration of a self-defense unit in sec-
ondary physical education programs is
becoming more common in 21st-century
curricula because the threats of crime to
oneself, one’s belongings, or the home
are becoming more prevalent. Still, not
many physical education programs teach
self-defense as a unit within their cur-
riculum because there are teachers and
administrators who fear that doing so
will promote violence in schools.
Self-defense content can be very in-
formative to middle-school students and
can provide them with proper instruc-
tion as to how to protect themselves (D.
Brown & Johnson, 2000). us, teaching
students the proper way of using self-de-
fense techniques should actually help to
limit the amount of violence in schools
(Banks, 2010). Teachers, administrators,
and students can all benet from the
skills that are taught in a self-defense
unit. erefore, the purpose of this ar-
ticle is to give teachers tips that will help
them to be more eective in teaching
self-defense to middle-school students in
physical education and to better establish
a productive learning environment for
this important lifelong skill.
The Learning Environment
One of the most essential things to
remember when teaching self-defense
is to rst create a proper learning
environment that is appropriate for
middle-school students. It can be very
easy to lose control of a class when
teaching this type of information due to
the range of maturity among students
in this age group. Some middle-school
students may act as though they already
know what to do in any given situation,
while others may shy away to avoid any
kind of confrontation whether it is a real
conict or just a scenario. Making sure
that the students feel safe is critical.
Students need to understand that the
misuse of the skills taught in class can be
harmful to others and will not be toler-
ated. Each class varies and has its own
unique characteristics and chemistry.
erefore, creating a safe and comfort-
able environment presents dierent chal-
lenges for each group of students.
Lesson Presentation
Students at this age level may surprise
the teacher with the amount of informa-
tion they may or may not already know
about the topic of self-defense. Students
come from dierent backgrounds where
they may have experienced some form
of negative conict, so it is important to
be sensitive and realistic about how to
approach topics on physical or men-
tal abuse. In order to create a safe and
comfortable environment, the teacher
should immediately set the tone for this
discussion. ese topics are not easy for
some individuals to talk about, but they
do need to be addressed.
One way to begin is to let the students
guide the discussion. e teacher can ask
students what they already know about
the subject: what is self-defense, when is
Teaching Self-Defense to Middle School
Students in Physical Education
Gina M. Potenza
Ferman Konukman
Jong-Hoon Yu
Hayrettin Gümüșdaǧ
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it appropriate to use it, and why do we
use it when necessary. e lesson presen-
tation will allow the teacher to stress the
importance of defending oneself when
someone is inicting harm and help
the students understand the dierences
between a verbal and physical confronta-
tion. ere should be an open discussion
about tolerance and how it relates to
bullying. e teacher should be sure that
students have a clear understanding of
these topics before self-defense tech-
niques are introduced. Students should
always know that they must do their best
to prevent a confrontational situation
verbally, before it turns physical.
A Good Teaching
Progression
Teaching the lessons in the right progres-
sion is important when teaching self-
defense to middle-school students. e
rst lesson should really focus on what
self-defense is and why it is important,
and it should make students aware of
how imperative it is to not misuse the
skills taught. In addition, the students
should be informed of the many dangers
they may encounter. One of the key
things to discuss on the rst day of the
unit is the importance of awareness and
knowing ones surroundings. e teacher
could ask students’ questions like “Who
do you see around you?,” “Are you alone
or with a group?,” or “If the environment
you’re in is making you uncomfortable,
what should you do?”
Today technology is prevalent among
youth. Students are almost always wear-
ing their iPod or looking down as they
walk while texting on their cell phone.
Students need to be aware that when
they disconnect from their environment
so they cannot hear or see what is going
on around them, they can be an easy
target for whoever may be looking to
cause them harm. By understanding how
to interact with their surroundings they
may be able to remove themselves from a
threatening situation.
At this age level students are also
starting to experience parties, drugs,
alcohol, and many other aspects that in-
volve social interactions with their peers.
It is important to make sure they are
aware of the potential dangers that are
associated with these types of environ-
ments. ese topics are oen discussed
in the students’ health classes and may
need to be only briey addressed. Col-
laborating with health teachers in the
school building may prove helpful in
determining whether or not this is an
area that needs to be addressed further.
Aer informing the class about
potentially dangerous settings and
social interactions, activities can be
introduced that teach the students
dierent skills associated with self-
defense. At this age level the skills
taught should not be associated with
defending against a weapon, but rather
focus on how to defend oneself against
an attacker without a weapon. is will
build a foundation of basic self-defense
techniques, and students can progress
to more advanced skills, such as defend-
ing against a weapon, as they advance in
grade level.
Below are three examples of situ-
ations students may encounter on a
school campus and the skills needed for
self-defense. e teacher can stress the
importance of balance, not panicking,
the element of surprise, and how this
awareness can aid during the execution
of the self-defense skills being used. An
attacker generally chooses victims who
they feel are at a disadvantage compared
to themselves (D. Brown & Johnson,
2000). at is why it is important for
students to understand that the element
of surprise can be very helpful to them.
Students should also understand that
when these skills are used in a real-life
scenario they should immediately seek
out a responsible adult who can help
them with their bullying situation. (e
teacher should make sure to stress the
signicance of not misusing the skills
learned so no one is harmed during
practice.)
Activities
ese activities teach self-defense skills
that will help students to get out of
confrontations without having to strike
the attacker. Table 1 shows self-defense
teaching cues for the three activities
described below.
Pinned Against a Wall. e following
activities will address how to get out of a
situation while being pinned up against
a wall or locker. Students will work in
pairs, with someone they are comfort-
able with, to practice the skill. In all
scenarios one partner will be the victim
and one will be the attacker. e victim
will have his or her back against the wall
while the attacker grabs the shoulders,
applying pressure so the victim cannot
move. To get out of this hold, the victim
quickly drop straight down to his or her
knees and rolls underneath the attackers
arms, either to the right or le, to move
away from the situation.
When the victim drops, the attacker
will lose balance and fall into the wall, at
which time the victim makes their rst
move. e downward directional change
creates a split second of confusion for the
attacker and allows the victim the oppor-
tunity to quickly get away. Many times
when the students act out this drill they
may nd that the attacker is still holding
on to their clothing or shoulders. If this
is the case the teacher can introduce an
addition: aer the victim drops, he or she
strikes the groin or solar plexus located
at the center of the abdomen where the
rib cage meets in order to be released.
Being Pushed. is next example
describes what to do when the victim
is repetitively being pushed. Again the
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JOPERD 49
Teaching Tips
teacher can stress that balance and the
element of surprise are advantages.
When asked “What is happening when
someone is pushing you?” students
should respond that the attacker is mov-
ing forward while the victim is being
pushed backward. For this skill, when
the victim is being pushed they are go-
ing to step either to the right or the le,
grab the arms of the attacker and pull
them toward the ground as they step
aside. e victim’s foot should remain
between the attacker’s legs so that they
trip as they are going by. For this skill
timing is very important. Due to the fact
that the attacker is aggressively moving
forward, the quick directional change
by the victim toward the attacker causes
the attacker to lose balance and fall to
the ground. In this skill the balance and
momentum of the attacker are used to
the victim’s advantage.
Being Pulled. is example will focus
on what to do when being pulled by an
attacker. For this skill, the attacker is go-
ing to grab one of the victims wrists and
start pulling in toward them. Naturally
Table 1.
Self-Defense Teaching Cues
Skill Verbal Cues Visual Cues
Being Pinned Victim:
Stay calm
Use your balance and their balance
Feet shoulder-width apart
Drop down fast
Roll out to the right or left
Run away
Attacker:
Press partner’s shoulders against the wall
at a moderate pressure
Note: Balance and the element of surprise
are important
Victim:
Pressed against the wall
Drops to knees
In a bent position, rolls out to the right or left
Stands up and runs away from attacker
Attacker:
Hands are on partner’s shoulders
Loses balance
May fall forward toward the wall or follow
partner in a downward direction
Being Pushed Victim:
Timing is important
Step to the left or right
When you step your foot should be be-
tween your partner’s legs
Push arms out of the way and grab the
top of the arms
As you step past, pull the attacker behind
you and step through
Attacker:
Push just below the shoulder
Push two or three times for timing
Push at a moderate rate for realistic
results
Note: Balance and the element of surprise
are important
Victim:
Steps to the right or left
Foot between legs
Grabs and pulls behind
Steps through
Attacker:
Steps forward, pushes on the shoulders
Body is leaning forward
Feet are staggered shoulder-width apart or
more
Repeats as needed
Being Pulled Victim:
Resist the pull by leaning back
Keep moving your feet
When you are ready, run forward toward
your partner
As you run at them push them at the
same time
Your hand will be on their shoulder when
you push
Attacker:
With both hands grab one of your part-
ner’s wrists
Pull them toward you as hard as you can
Note: Balance and the element of surprise
is important
Victim:
Resists
Runs toward partner
Pushes
Runs by
Attacker:
Pulls partner from the wrists
Leans backward
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the victim is going to try to resist the
attacker and pull away from them. e
“victim” is instructed to continue to
pull and resist, but when ready, he or
she quickly changes direction and runs
toward the attacker. As the victim moves
toward the attacker he or she pushes on
the attacker’s shoulder
to continue to cause
a loss of balance. e
quick directional
change by the victim
toward the attacker
causes the attacker to
lose their balance and
fall to the ground. For
this skill to work the
victim has to resist
as much as they can
so that the attacker is
pulling them and starts
to lean back. Once the
victim sees the attacker
pulling as much as they
can and see the change
in body position, the
victim should make
their move.
Conclusion
Self-defense is a skill
that — if used correctly
— can allow individuals
to have the knowledge needed to defend
themselves during a harmful situation
and to feel a sense of empowerment. It has
been suggested that regular participation
in self-defense and martial arts classes can
develop a greater sense of self-control, self-
esteem, and self-actualization in students
(D. Brown & Johnson, 2000). By teaching
this material in a physical education setting
teachers can properly inform students and
provide them with the knowledge base to
successfully use and understand the art
of self-defense while participating in a
safe environment.
It is also important for physical
education teachers to research the art of
self-defense. ey could bring in guest
speakers or demonstrators from local
martial arts facilities in the area to help
aid in the teaching of skills and ensure
student safety. e teacher needs to feel
comfortable and competent teaching
this information to students. It can be
risky to present this information in
physical education, but this is a lifelong
skill that can help to raise awareness
about bullying and help to prevent a
threatening situation from escalating
into something more.
References
Banks, A. L. (2010). Self-defense education: Five
steps for developing awareness and prevention
tactics. Journal of Physical Education, Recre-
ation & Dance, 81(6), 13–20, 25.
Brown, S., Birch, D., & Kancherla, V. (2005).
Bullying perspectives: Experiences, attitudes,
and recommendations of 9- to 13-year-olds at-
tending health education centers in the United
States. Journal of School Health, 75, 384–392.
Brown, D., & Johnson, A. (2000). e social prac-
tice of self-defense martial arts: Applications
for physical education. Quest, 52, 246–259.
Chen, G. (2011). Rationale of self-defense
education in American schools. Sport Science
Review, 20(1–2), 65–76.
Gibone, A., & Manson, M. (2010). Bullying:
Proactive physical educator’s contribution to
school-wide prevention. Journal of Physical
Education, Recreation & Dance, 81(7), 20–24.
Gina M. Potenza is a physical education
teacher in the Victor Central School Dis-
trict in Victor, NY. Ferman Konukman
(onukma@brockport.edu) is a professor
in the Department of Kinesiology, Sport
Studies & Physical Education at e Col-
lege at Brockport, State University of New
York in Brockport, NY. Jong-Hoon Yu is an
assistant professor of physical education in
the Department of Education at Glenville
State College in Glenville, WV. Hayrettin
Gümüşdağ is an assistant professor in the
School of Physical Education and Sports at
Hitit University in Çorum, Turkey.
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... Children's self-defence is widely discussed concern [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9] as children are by nature more vulnerable than adult people [10]. According to the legislation of European Union and Czech Republic, children are considered particularly vulnerable victims [11,12] and in case of victimization they should be provided with specialist support and legal protection (e.g. ...
... Parents are primarily responsible for their children but they cannot accompany them all day. Thus children must be responsible for their well-being and in case of risk situation use their own resources to defend themselves [2,5]. There is much jeopardy in the environment nowadays and it is naturally not possible that one person cope with that all at the same time. ...
... Learning by doing principle is an optimal approach for children's self-defence classes allowing them to develop their innate capabilities for self-reliance and an appropriate response in dangerous situations [1]. Children can benefit from self-defence teaching by establishing awareness, increasing self-confidence and self-discipline, developing mental strategies, improving communication skills, physical skills, fitness and the ability to fight back if necessary [5]. ...
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Background & Study Aim The paper is based on the presumption that the probability of successful defence of a child against an adult attacker is influenced by diversity of variables with different predictive values. The aim of the study is to find the best predictors and determine their impact on children’s chance to defend themselves. Material & Methods The research sample consisted of n=48 students (n=40 female, n=8 male) from three secondary schools. The average age was 16.6 years. Six self-defence experts performed ex-post evaluation of each video recorded scenario. Spearman's rank correlation coefficient, Classification trees C&RT and Logistic regression were used for analysis. Results Correlation between increasing personal score obtained by evaluation of selected criteria and the probability of a successful defence was confirmed by the high correlation rs=0.735 significance level of p < 0,050. Active defence, Escape and Technical means respectively, were found the best predictors out of the total number of six evaluation criteria. Communication and Safe distance keeping varied in the fifth position depending on the selected statistical method. Guard position was found the weakest predictor. Conclusions There are 13.88 times higher odds of successful defence when children are dealing with an adult attacker actively. The activity should be aimed at looking for an escape route as there are 7.69 times higher odds of successful defence when the child is trying to escape. Finally, there are 3.75 times higher odds of successful defence when the child uses appropriate technical means to distract attacker’s attention.
... Make the best use of the people in the arrangement. Only scientific and reasonable curriculum arrangement can enable students to learn what they are interested in the school physical education teaching and truly achieve what they have learned [26]. ...
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Our country has a large land area, and the development of physical education is not balanced. In daily teaching activities, teachers and students use computers and networks to teach, which generates massive amounts of data. Schools are limited by funds and cannot meet the growing demand for storage of teaching resources. It is also unable to realize the sharing of teaching resources. In order to solve the problems existing in the existing education and teaching platform of the school, especially in the teaching reform, to meet the requirements of all parties facing physical education, the concept of cloud computing was proposed, and the services and methods provided by the cloud computing-based teaching resource platform were discussed. Through the questionnaire survey method of college students and teachers, statistical methods and logical analysis methods were used to analyze the data collected in the questionnaire. Summary and analysis are as follows. The survey results show that more than 50% of the people are dissatisfied with the current physical education and believe that it has not played its due role, and more than 70% of the people agree with the reform of physical education. The experimental results also show that interesting and diverse physical education courses can attract students to participate and increase their interest. From the overall survey results, the problem of college physical education courses is more serious, and it is urgent to optimize teaching from the cloud computing level. On the one hand, it is necessary to improve the relevant cloud computing and other technical platform facilities; on the other hand, it is necessary to improve the teaching level of teachers and change the current educational concept to make it livelier and more interesting.
... Aux États-Unis, l'autodéfense est utilisée en éducation physique pour contrer des problèmes d'intimidation (Potenza, Konukman, Yu et Gümüşdağ, 2013). Dans cette perspective d'utilisation scolaire de l'autodéfense, ces auteurs proposent de se concentrer sur le cadre moral et légal de l'autodéfense, sur l'analyse de l'environnement et, enfin, sur trois situations d'opposition (être acculé contre un mur, pousser, tirer) Potenza et coll., 2013). ...
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Bullying: Proactive physical educator's contribution to school-wide prevention
  • A Gibone
  • M Manson
Gibone, A., & Manson, M. (2010). Bullying: Proactive physical educator's contribution to school-wide prevention. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 81(7), 20-24.