Sport has a key role to play in beating bullying.
None more so than Taekwondo, a sport driven by courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit.
Blackpool girl Erica Wilkinson knows too well just how damaging bullying can be. The 11 year old was taken out of school by her parents, fraught with concern for their daughter, who had been bullied for two years.
Erica had become terrified by the thought of going to school after she was severely victimised by bullying, which began due to a hip condition which turned her right foot inwards. A condition that can be corrected when she is older.
When the problem, which seemed to show no sign of resolving, became so serious, Erica’s doctor advised her parents to take her out of school to protect her health.
British Taekwondo instructor and former Royal Air Force operator, Ben Constable, has a personal investment in supporting the victims of bullying.
“I was bullied myself at high school, and I know sometimes there’s not much help out there.” Said Ben.
“There’s still a lot of stigma attached to being bullied and it’s often played off as ‘character building’ or just kids being kids. It’s a growing problem in many schools.
“Taekwondo helped me overcome my confidence issues as a result of bullying.”
With this in mind, Ben recently set up Forward Sports Taekwondo at Claremont Park Community Centre to support bullying victims and other vulnerable people. The idea: to provide tools for individuals to become more confident through Taekwondo, have fun and socialise.
“It can take months and months of practice for someone to learn some of the techniques, and when it finally clicks it really makes them smile and feel proud of themselves.
“Getting that sort of achievement really boosts confidence.”
Ben had heard about Erica’s plight with bullying, and got in contact through the Gazzatte to make her an offer of free Taekwondo lessons.
“Erica is a credit to her family. She came in a bit nervous but once we started teaching she soaked up information like a sponge!
“She’s even been doing extra homework in her spare time.”
Erica is attending a new school, and trains regularly with Ben. A great activity for families to do together, Mum and brother have also got stuck into the art and sport.
Erica is a tremendous example of the great influence sporting activity can have, and we’re delighted to hear she’s enjoying her new-found sessions. With the This Girl Can campaign celebrating its first birthday recently, it seems appropriate that Erica is kicking into 2016 feeling more fit for its challenges with the help of Taekwondo.
We’d love to see more women and girls taking on a healthier, more confident and active lifestyle through Taekwondo. To find out more about KickSister, our female-only Taekwondo programme, go here.