I’ve been thinking about writing about the audiobook I’ve been listening to – Before the Dawn, by Nicholas Wade. It is a very interesting book that I would highly recommend to anyone who is interested in archeology, anthropology or evolution. Although really, those are just the broad categories that are covered by this book. One of the topics that he covers in this book is the question of human aggression. He suggests that humanity has always been violent and in fact, 50,000 years ago we were a lot more violent than we are today. He makes the case that while we are becoming more efficient and capable at killing, we are in fact, on the whole less prone to aggression than ever before and that we are slowly breeding for peace. Today people are successful as much for their conciliatory art as for their martial arts.
This got me thinking about how often parents send their child to take a martial arts program as an antidote to school yard bullying. At the same time, parents of hyperactive or aggressive children will also send their kids to a martial arts program as a way of directing and controlling the violence. So ironically, the child who is being bullied is not well served by taking self defense lessons since the antagonist is just as likely to have taken similar courses thus nullifying any potential advantage. What I propose is that a course in the conciliatory arts are in fact a much better option.
There are countless books, going back to Sun Tzu and Machiavelli, that will provide adults with instruction and guidance on power politics, influencing others and social manipulation. Adults can also take conflict management, interpersonal skill building and effective communication courses through work or continuing education programs. Yet there is no formal program that I am aware of that teaches such skills to children. It seems to me that if someone were struggling with a bully at school, a good strategy would be to develop allies, become more persuasive, learn how to be more astute at reading a situation and knowing how to diffuse a potential conflict before it takes a physical turn. I think that this kind of a program would appeal to many people and could be very popular. 30 years ago martial arts went from being a small niche sport to a massive multi-billion dollar industry. Similarly, the communication and interpersonal coaching market is huge. Now is the time to get in on the ground floor of a new market for child-focused social skills workshops. Open the first conciliatory arts dojo!