Mark Taylor, left, demonstrates a wrist escape from 14-year-old Raymari Depeza’s grip, spreading his fingers and pulling his thumb toward his nose, while counsellor Lovina Henry and judo instructor Mark Hooper observe (Photo: RUSHTON SKINNER).

On Oct. 26, a group of children gathered around instructors Mark Hooper and Mark Taylor at the Tortola Judo Club for an anti-bullying self-defence class.

“Things like cyberbullying, emotional abuse: That’s what the school counsellors are for,” Mr. Taylor told them. “This class will be the physical side of bullying: how to escape grabs and pulls; how to fall safely, keep your balance if someone’s trying to trip you up.”

Mr. Taylor, though, was quick to add that he has never been in a fight off the mat despite having plenty of opportunities. “I’ve had people threaten me; I’ve had people throw furniture at me, drinks,” Mr. Taylor said. “I’ve had people try to be in a fight with me, but it takes two to fight. If you can escape, just leave.”

The best way to win a fight, Mr. Taylor said, is to never be in one in the first place.

The class was one of several activities held around the territory last month as part of the territory’s observance of Anti-Bullying Week.

From Oct. 15-20, public schools showed solidarity by hosting events including an odd-socks day and pep rallies under the theme “Make a Noise,” and the judo club followed up last week.


Take the fall

During the session last Thursday, judo student Josiah Morris told attendees that knowing how to break a fall can prove useful, especially when acting as the dojo’s fighting “prop” for some of the instructors’ examples.

“I can fall well enough that it doesn’t hurt, especially because it’s a springwood floor,” the 15-year-old said. “If somebody pushes you and you fall over, it’s better to know at least a little bit on how to fall, because if you go down and try and land on your wrist or something and you break your wrist. Then that’s weeks [of recovery].”

Mr. Morris, who has been training in judo for eight years, echoed his teachers’ advice about avoiding fights however possible.

“I think that in general the kind of people that I interact with are the kind of people that wouldn’t go around beating others up,” Mr. Morris said. “I think it’s more the company that I keep than my reputation.”


Some conflicts, however, are unavoidable, public school counsellors Liana Taylor and Lovina Henry said during the session.

“People will be walking between the desks, and someone will just stick out a foot and it’ll come out of nowhere,” Ms. Taylor said, drawing agreement from Ms. Henry. “That’s happened a lot I’ve seen.”

In such incidents, judo training can be translated into everyday life, according to Mr. Taylor.

“When you walk, slide your feet on the floor,” he advised the students. “If you don’t lift your feet, when someone goes to trip you up, your foot will just touch it and you’ll stop, but you won’t fall.”

Aria and Gianna Herbert practise breakfalls with counsellor Liana Taylor, right, at the Tortola Judo Club’s dojo in Pasea as part of the anti-bullying self-defence session held last week (Photo: RUSHTON SKINNER).
Week of events

Earlier in the month, students and other residents were asked to wear odd socks to start a conversation on the effects of bullying.

Then throughout the week of Oct. 15-20, various events were hosted at schools across the territory. Others — including a pep rally scheduled at Elmore Stoutt High School on Oct. 20 — were postponed due to inclement weather.

“Anti-Bullying Week is more than just a series of events,” Education, Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Sharie de Castro said in a Facebook video message Oct. 17.

“It is a collective statement about commitment to creating a safer, kinder and more inclusive society.

It is a week dedicated to raising awareness about the pervasive issue of bullying and its devastating consequences on individuals and communities.”

Getting involved

For more information regarding school counselling, go to the Facebook page of the government’s New Horizons Guidance and Counselling Unit. To attend a judo class, go to the Tortola Judo and Self Defence Facebook page.