Bullying has always been an issue, especially for young children growing up. But it has become a larger, systemic issue since the internet’s advent because now people can engage in cyberbullying. The entire World Wide Web has become a playground for children, meaning they’re no longer safe from bullies of all ages, who pride themselves and feel empowered by picking on people.
As a result, anti-bullying programs have become more widespread to counteract the effects of bullying on children. These programs were necessary because statistics show that bullying behaviors and actions continue to grow nationwide. However, Joel Townsend, an experienced martial artist, believes that isn’t enough. Instead, he advocates for the inclusion of Jiu-Jitsu classes in such programs to help keep children safe.
A 4th-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from the Gracie Barra Team, Joel has over 25 years of combat sports experience, having participated in multiple disciplines. He has had 19 MMA fights and a kickboxing match. But, more importantly, he knows what it feels like to be bullied because he underwent the same experiences as a young child. Like many prominent martial artists, Joel Townsend was driven to pursue martial arts because it served as a vehicle to help him deal with depression and boost confidence. Other renowned martial artists like Conor McGregor and Georges St-Pierre have also reported similar experiences.
Detailing his experiences, Joel Townsend shared, “Learning martial arts was very beneficial for me because it taught me how to deal with adversarial situations. Moreover, it boosted my confidence because I knew I could deal with any threats that might come my way. As a result, I felt secure. I can honestly say that martial arts helped me get through a challenging part of my life.” Like many others before him, Townsend isn’t alone in this sentiment. Most people looking in from the outside think martial arts are extremely violent. But that’s not true. In fact, most martial arts disciplines teach humility and respect.
According to Joel Townsend, it takes years before you become a competent martial artist. “Most people don’t realize that those years of practice require you to train with others who are further ahead in their journeys than you, meaning they’ll regularly school you in the practice room. Those sessions teach you humility. Moreover, good schools will ensure that they teach you what you’re doing wrong during such sessions, helping you learn while removing your ego.” He further went on to say, “In addition, it’s well-known that most children or teenagers participating in bullying behavior like to pick on people they can intimidate. Hence, their victims are usually smaller, lighter, or less physically imposing than them.”
As someone who was bullied for a long time, he understands the lingering effects it can have on your psyche. Talking about his experience, he revealed, “My biggest achievement in life is that I’m still here. I have lost many friends and was supposed to be a statistic. I never met my father, was physically bullied daily, and battled constant depression and suicidal thoughts. A person like me was supposed to be in and out of jail and die early from substance abuse.”
Yet, against all odds, Joel Townsend managed to turn his life around by combating his demons and facing them head-on. Moreover, to help others, he has started the “Bullied 2 Bulletproof” program – an extensive workshop he organizes in community centers, urban schools, and juvenile institutions. He plans to use martial arts to help those bullied feel stronger and more confident!