KINGMAN – In the auditorium at Lee Williams High School, mixed martial artist Brian Skinner laid out the gritty details of his life story to Eugene Kramer’s students. With an even, confident voice, Skinner speaks about his time in the foster care system, his early problems with drug addiction, his anger, his serial expulsions from school – and his eventual path to freedom through martial arts.
Skinner is a professional MMA fighter and the founder of Riot MMA, a local martial arts academy. There, Skinner teaches Muay Thai kickboxing, Mixed Martial Arts, boxing, grappling, and other martial-arts oriented fitness classes. He will teach anyone – adults, teenagers, and children.
A priority at Riot MMA is teaching students how to deal with bullying. The topic of bullying has taken on increased significance in American public discourse, and not only in the context of education. Through “idea creep,” one now commonly hears discussions about bullying in the workplace and, of course, on social media as “cyber bullying.”
Skinner’s emphasis on bullying came out Thursday in his talk at Lee Williams. After communicating his own story of hardship and liberation, Skinner offered his young audience five steps for how to deal with bullying.
1) Use your words. He urges students to draw attention to the situation. Have the courage to speak up when someone else is under the thumb of a bully.
2) Be ready to protect yourself. According to Skinner, this does not mean that one needs to be aggressive or provocative. One simply needs to be prepared in case a bully decides to act aggressively. De-escalation is the goal.
3) Let the closest adult know.
4) Never look away when being bullied.
5) Communicate with your parents daily. In most cases, parents are a kid’s greatest allies, and Skinner admonished the students to be open and honest with their parents, especially if they are being bullied.
It is important to note that these principles are not only addressed to one being bullied.
They are also for those who witness the act of bullying.
Witnesses to bullying are neither powerless nor ethically off-the-hook.
In fact, he argues, they are responsible to help interrupt acts of bullying.