Philadelphia councilman offers ‘anti-bullying’ self-defense class

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) –Philadelphia City Councilman David Oh launched a martial arts self-defense class for kids this week. He touts it as an anti-bullying tool, but it’s a far different approach than city and school district officials endorse.

Oh offered the free lessons to the Brazilian community after seeing a viral video of an assault on a Brazilian child at Farrell Elementary School in Rhawnhurst. He said he didn’t expect to turn the students into martial arts fighters, but he hopes they will learn how to defend themselves.

“Showing kids that people care about them,” he said. “They are the victims, and rather than all the attention being focused on the bullies who harass and torture them, they also get the attention.”

It’s no surprise that Oh advocates martial arts for kids. He is a well-known enthusiast and is a member of the Philadelphia Historic Martial Arts Society Hall of Fame.

What raised a few eyebrows is how he offers it as a strategy to fight bullying.

“How to defend, how to dodge, how to avoid, what they can do if needed to neutralize the attack,” Oh said.

A spokesperson for the Office of Children and Families of Philadelphia said the city believes children should be taught how to resolve conflict without violence. The Philadelphia School District said it offers a variety of evidence-based anti-bullying approaches.

Oh said there was room for his approach as well.

“What you may be talking about is trying to avoid getting beaten up and bullied by someone, and a group of people who are intent on beating you up and bullying you, so it doesn’t doesn’t work too well,” Oh explained.

“If someone comes towards you, you can kick. You can knock.

About 30 students ages 5 to 16 attended the first class at a Tacony charter school that donated space. Classes last ten days.

Kristen T. Prall