SAUGUS — The owners of Saugus Karate Kung-Fu are fighting back against bullying.
“Everyone thinks of bullying as being kicked, pushed, or punched,” said owner Jason Scaduto, who has been teaching for more than three decades. “When I was a kid, you had a problem but then you went home for the weekend and you didn’t have to worry. Today, it never ends because of social media and phones. It can continue all weekend long.”
Nestled in the heart of Saugus, the karate studio has become a resource for parents who need help dealing with bullying, teasing, and related problems their children are facing. Each October, in observance of National Bullying Prevention Month, Scaduto offers a week of free karate classes for Saugus students with the hope that it can help them in bullying situations. Last year’s offer drew 65 children.
“Bullying has always existed and it’s always going to exist, but I want them to have some tools in their toolbox to deal with it,” said Scaduto.
But the answers aren’t just in self defense, he said.
The classes focus on the principles of respect, self-control, etiquette, effort, character, and sincerity.
Part of the process is earning the trust of his students, said Scaduto. Many are afraid to talk to their parents or teachers because they think it will make the problem worse. He encourages them to ask the bully to stop as a first step. If the bully does not, they should tell the teacher, then a parent when they get home and leave a paper trail.
“I explain to the kids every class that nobody can help them if they don’t know there’s a problem,” he said.
At the start of an hour-long session, the children have floor exercises for stretching and calisthenics. This is when time is spent talking about upcoming birthdays and what is going on in the students’ day-to-day lives.
“Most kids feel pretty comfortable sharing their tale of woes,” said Scaduto, who teaches them that laughing together is teasing, but being laughed at is bullying.
“Our ultimate goal is to win a fight without fighting,” said Scaduto.
Children are offered to take up to three classes during any week from now through the end of the month.