In the eyes of a child, a bully can mean a multitude of things.
In Bobby Garcia’s class, the martial arts instructor said students either don’t know what a bully is, have someone specific in mind, or simply think it’s a mean-looking person.
Garcia is an instructor in the Armor Bullying and Predator Prevention class at Pro Martial Arts in Lakewood. The owner of the martial arts studio is Drew McWay, a Park Cities resident and alumnus of Highland Park High School.
He considers himself a businessman and wanted to start something that would positively impact children and their parents.
Thus the Lakewood campus of Pro Martial Arts was born, offering basic karate programs for ages 3 and older.
Along with karate, the studio also offers the Armor program free to any member. That class teaches children about bullying — physical, verbal, social, and cyber — as well as predators.
“You can’t help but turn on the news and see some news story on some national scale and they’re talking about bullying and the impact it has on these kids,” McWay said. “And there’s in-person bullying; there’s cyber-bullying; there’s all these different facets and we’re really beginning to understand what a big deal it is for kids.
“We’ve got to learn how to deal with those sort of situations, and I think the earlier we can train our children, the better. And I think that a martial arts platform or curriculum is perfect for kind of delivering that message. We’re all about keeping our kids safe in our community and part of that is how to deal with bullies.”
But the studio doesn’t just want to teach its students how to deal with bullies and predators; it also aims to teach lessons of character. While in the studio, anytime a student is spoken to, a “yes ma’am” or “yes sir” immediately follows.
Kirstin Van Zee teaches some classes and said there’s more to martial arts than just the physical aspect.
“It’s not really about the kicking or punching,” she said. “We’re trying to instill focus and self-discipline and all these things, and it’s going to help them at school [to] get better grades. It’s going to help them at home because they’re going to be giving mom the ‘yes ma’ams’ and ‘no ma’ams’ that they should.”
This story appears in the July issue of Park Cities People, on stands now.