Raz Chan knows what it’s like to be bullied. He lived through it in Winnipeg in the ’70s and ’80s.
“I was one of the few Chinese kids in the area,” he told the Record, adding kids would get physical with him “just for being Chinese.”
He had trouble fitting in at school. His parents would tell him to walk away, to turn the other cheek, he said. Sometimes he’d tell a teacher, which stopped the bullying, but only in the classroom.
“When I left class, I was fair game,” Chan said.
Today, Chan, who goes by Professor Raz, runs Gracie Barra martial arts and Brazilian jiu-jitsu school in New Westminster. Gracie Barra is a chain of hundreds of schools run all over the world.
This month, to help kids who are experiencing bullying like he did, Chan is holding free anti-bullying seminars for ages four to 13.
Chan said he’s got a soft spot for kids.
“I want to help them avoid the situations I was in,” he said.
While there’s more awareness about bullying today, Chan said, kids also have to deal with online bullying.
The school helps build confidence and teaches that violence is a last resort, he said. They show how to take control of a bully and take them to the ground without hurting them.
“Kids have a right to protect themselves,” Chan said.
The seminars are an introduction to what the school teaches, building awareness and going over common scenarios, according to Chan. They also deal with what to do if you witness bullying.
“What we recommend is to tell a teacher or a person in authority,” he said. “And step in, tell the bully to stop.”
Bullies want an audience, he added, and stepping in stops that dynamic.
A mother recently shared a story of how her son handled a bully, according to Chan.
“He’s not a competitive kid, he’s very shy, inward, but he told the kid to leave him alone,” he said. “The kid was much bigger and older and he said, ‘No, I’m going to continue to do what I’m going to do.’ And he got physical with my little student here, and my student did a little takedown on him and got on top of him. And the kid tried to hit him multiple times, and my student just blocked him and held him down and screamed leave me alone, and ran and told the teacher, and the bully ran away.”
No one got hurt, Chan pointed out, but the student defended himself.
“Teaching these kids, it’s a very rewarding experience,” he said.
The seminars would also be good for kids who are bullying other children, to teach them empathy, he pointed out.
The 45-minute seminars run on Feb. 26 for Pink Shirt Day at Gracie Barra, at 482 East Columbia St. Seminars are also available at other times for those interested.
For more information, contact Gracie Barra New West.