From ATA World Voluem 20, Number 1 - Spring 2013
By Olivia Herstein | Photos by David Montlick, Jay Martin, and Sara Press
ATA Defenders are carrying torches to light the dark hallways of
schools and neighborhood corners across the nation. They light the way with
bullying education, prevention, and a good old-fashioned viral video to break
the cycle of bullying throughout our K-12 schools and any place in our
communities where children should thrive.
Here are just a few of the powerful defenders within ATA who, like ATA’s own “top defender” Agent G, have used their own lights to change the lives of others for the better.
Jolie Montlick was just 10 when she asked her dad to produce a song and music video for her. A major production and community effort, the video was posted to YouTube in fall 2012 – and quickly logged more than 1.7 million views in more than 130 countries.
A 2nd Degree Black Belt, two-time North Carolina state champ, and aspiring singer-songwriter, Jolie found inspiration in superstar Taylor Swift, especially after hearing her talk about her childhood.
“She talked about how she had been bullied,” says Montlick, now 11 and a volunteer instructor at Confidence Martial Arts in Wilmington, N.C. “I wanted to write a song for her, about how she overcame bullying and achieved her dreams. My dad thought we should make a video – I was really excited!”
Her dad, David Montlick, an attorney and experienced producer of public-service announcement videos, sent his youngest daughter’s song to some parents. “The parents’ response was amazing,” says Montlick, himself a 2nd Degree Black Belt and two-time state champion. “They called and said, ‘My child heard it and said, I’m not going to be a victim anymore.’”
The Montlicks (including big sister Nikki, a 14-year-old Black Belt and two-time state champion) filmed for 20 hours with a professional crew, three cameras, and an all-volunteer cast of more than 150 for “My Song for Taylor Swift.” After it went viral, the Gwinnett Gladiators hockey team premiered the video to a crowd of 10,000 people at their season-opening weekend.
Jolie is donating all net proceeds from her song to help stop bullying. The song is available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon.
Has the real Taylor Swift called to “sit with” defender Jolie Montlick? Not yet. Stay tuned.
In 2008, Taekwon Lee, ATA’s director of media and communications, was traveling the U.S. teaching Sgt. Safety seminars, ATA’s child abduction prevention program, with Senior Master Rick Abair. Several Masters and instructors approached Lee with requests for a bullying prevention curriculum. “Senior Master Patti Barnum taught a follow-up seminar on bullying prevention,” Lee says. She mentioned how the Chicago area was particularly affected by bullying, and many of her students were witnessing extreme cases that had turned violent and criminal.
Barnum, a 7th Degree Black Belt who runs Success Now Martial Arts in the Chicago suburbs of Homewood and Darien, Ill., thought an anti-bullying curriculum was a perfect opportunity for ATA as a martial arts organization. “As a Taekwondo instructor, my job is to teach children how to stay safe,” she says. “However, I became extremely concerned about the topic of bullying when a parent brought their son into my academy because he had been brutally assaulted in his junior high school bathroom by three older boys.” The boy was psychologically affected. He feared going back to school.
“His story was a turning point,” Barnum says. “I realized there are many kids out there who had similar experiences and needed help. They needed a program that taught them to be proactive and reactive to bullying situations.”
It is that narrative of finding personal power, even after being bullied, that is one of the most powerful lessons of the resulting “Agent G” curriculum, says Lee. At the end of the instruction video, the character reveals his own storyline: “Agent G himself was bullied as a child,” Lee says. “But through his training, he gained the confidence to stick up for himself and for others. He became a defender.”
It’s not always that easy for kids, a fact that Barnum, who provided leadership on the task force that developed Agent G, is quick to note. “Bullying takes on many forms, and fighting back is not always the best answer,” says Barnum, a former schoolteacher. “Good kids fear getting in trouble from teachers if they fight back when being attacked. Children must learn a variety of actions and solutions.” Exactly what Barnum is working for.
No matter where they are in the world, these two ATA instructors are serving as Defenders of children – by teaching children how to be defenders themselves.
Adam O’Connor has taught the Agent G program at his ATA Martial Arts schools in Bentonville and Fayetteville, Ark., plus nearly 20 elementary, middle, and junior high schools since June 2012.
“I asked an [ATA] parent to bring the DVD to her school principal, and the principal responded very positively,” says O’Connor, a 5th Degree Black Belt and parent. “She passed it on to the school superintendent. Within a couple of weeks, I had two schools on the calendar [for Agent G sessions]. From there, it grew exponentially.”
Exponentially is right: O’Connor has reached nearly 10,000 kids in Northwest Arkansas with ATA’s anti-bullying curriculum and message. He uses the Agent G DVD, has children interact with questions, performs practice drills, uses the physical aspects of Taekwondo to demonstrate confidence, and distributes Agent G dog tags and arm bands.
“I tell teachers, counselors, and principals, ‘If you give me 45 minutes to an hour, I’ll change your school,’” O’Connor says. “Some kids immediately become Agent G Defenders at their schools, walking around the playground at recess making sure no one is being bullied.”
Aristede Dukes believes in vacationing with a mission. A 5th Degree Black Belt, a physical therapist and ATA instructor at ATA Taekwondo USA in Darien, Ill., he has spent his most recent vacations visiting nearly 800 children in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. His goal: end bullying worldwide by instilling in children confidence, tolerance, and empathy (lessons also learned in ATA Taekwondo).
He uses the ATA bullying prevention program to help these underserved children in underdeveloped countries project confidence, control their breathing, and respond calmly to adversity. But he doesn’t just tell them what to do. “I show them what confidence looks like when you stand and speak strongly. Then I ask, ‘Who thinks they can stand strong?’” Then they proudly and eagerly show him.
This interactivity really sticks. Take Dukes’ last trip to the Cayman Islands. “A girl who had attended my training two years before scolded me for not teaching a few of the techniques that I had last time.”
Dukes hopes that if the kids he works with on missions take only one thing away, it is a sense of empathy and a desire to befriend others, something he wants for ATA students. “Kids are kids,” he says. “Kids there have the same problems kids here have.” – Kevin Mahoney ATA
Nearly 20 years ago, Master Greg Moody left a successful career in engineering because he wanted to spend his time developing the potential in people, not technology.
He has never looked back: The Senior Master Nominee has since gone on to own eight schools in Arizona and California, been an ATA Instructor of the Year, and a leader in both curriculum instruction and business practices for the ATA. Currently he owns ATA Black Belt Academy and Karate for Kids in Cave Creek, Ariz.
“I have been working with kids on their specific issues and problems for 20 years,” says Moody.
He’s also attained high degrees of formal education devoted to kids and families during that time. In addition to his 7th Degree Black Belt, he earned a master’s degree in counseling. And last year, he attained his doctorate in curriculum and instruction. His chosen research focus was bullying and martial arts.
The results, summarized on page 39, astound.
“When ATA asked me to be part of the bullying prevention team, I was thrilled to be involved in a more in-depth way,” says Moody. “This inspired me to do my Ph.D. research.” His academic approach to the problem of bullying has produced thrilling results for all martial artists – and for all families – everywhere.
…to the memory of George “Buddy” Peterson of Taylorsville, Utah, the 13-year-old son of Bud and Karen Peterson and brother of Tori Peterson.
Buddy became a target of bullying behavior, and, in January, 2013, took his own life.
Buddy earned his 2nd Degree Black Belt and State Champion titles in 2008 and 2009. (His sister, Tori, is also an ATA 4th Degree Black Belt and Certified Instructor.) Buddy lived his life as his mother and father taught him – treating others the way that he would like to be treated. He simply wanted to fit in and be a friend to everyone.
The Peterson family wants kids to know that you do have somewhere to go. Speak to your parents about your troubles. Tell your teachers. Share it with your friends. Do not keep it bottled up inside.
One of Buddy’s friends created a bracelet which says “Be a Buddy, not a Bully.” It’s a beautiful saying to remember a wonderful young man.
ATA extends heartfelt condolences to the Peterson family, along with a promise to continue efforts to rid our communities of bullying behavior.
To make real change, ATA, in partnership with Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, spent the past year sharing the interactive video and curriculum, “Agent G.”
“[In 2008], we quickly learned that the subject of bullying is not a simple problem with a simple solution like the subject of child safety,” says Lucas Taekwon Lee, the 6th Degree Black Belt and Master Nominee who, along with a team of masters and instructors, launched Agent G. “We sought out the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program to learn more about their research and studies. We spent three years in research and development ourselves.”
The resulting Agent G project takes many of the basic principles taught in ATA martial arts such as confidence, self-control, and leadership skills, and presents them in child-friendly scenarios. Through lifelike re-enactments and scenarios filmed at an elementary school (with real ATA students as actors, including Agent G himself), the video and curriculum show children how to act and react to the dangers of bullying.
More than 400 instructors have been trained in the Agent G program. To become a certified bullying prevention specialist, talk to your ATA instructor. To have one come to your school or community organization, visit ataonline.com/bullying.