Middle schoolers pay attention when Seaside Jiu Jitsu Academy instructor Anthony Alexander asks a question at Warrenton Grade School. He is leading a Bully Proofing workshop for The Way to Wellville’s Mind Up program, which is an extension of Clatsop Kids Go.
Clatsop Kids Go, for third- through fifth-graders was developed in 2016 by The Way to Wellville to create a culture of positive attitudes, knowledge and behavior around nutrition, physical activity and emotional well-being.
Mind Up is designed for middle schoolers and shifts from fun and games, and focuses more on goal setting, confidence and mindfulness, says instructor Sarah Brown. It incorporates more yoga and the jiu jitsu workshop. The pilot program at Warrenton is funded by a Community Wellness Investment Fund grant from the Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization.
“There is no striking in jiu jitsu,” Alexander says. “We don’t seek to hurt anybody, but we want to protect ourselves.”
Alexander lays the ground rules for standing up against bullying:
• Talk — Learn how to talk to your bully or others. Examples:
• “I have nothing to prove, so there is no point in continuing this argument.”
• “You’re right,” and start walking away.
• “I understand, but I am not interested in fighting.”
• Tell — Inform a teacher, parent or someone in authority about the issue you are having. Go to someone you trust and who you know will listen.
• Tackle — Only use this as a last resort for your defense. If you cannot find a way to physically escape or talk your bully down, it is important to know how to safely defuse the situation without hurting anyone.
The first session covers “Courage,” and teaches the fundamentals of the ready position, with weight equal on both feet, step back with one foot and keep the elbows to the side and hands open and up. The kids pose in the ready position.
Teaming up with partners, the kids practiced escaping from a wrist hold by turning their hand inward until the bully’s grip released. They also learned a technique for escaping a two-hand grip.
The second session is “Initiative,” followed by “Positive Thinking” and “Determination.”
Brown says learning about bullying and gaining self-confidence are keys to transitioning to high school, especially in Warrenton where the kids have been in the same school since kindergarten through eighth grade.
Leadership class members from Warrenton High School mentor students in the Mind Up program. The middle schoolers meet with sophomores and juniors who they will recognize when they enter high school, easing the transition.
“Everything is focused on mindfulness,” says Brown. “We want kids to be comfortable about who they are and where they are. It’s all about building confidence.”