I was bullied {My story}

As I fourth-degree black belt and Martial Arts instructor, R. J. Kern doesn't stand for bullies.

As I fourth-degree black belt and Martial Arts instructor, R. J. Kern doesn't stand for bullies.

I'm 36. I'm a fourth-degree black belt instructor. I teach kids life skills through martial arts for fun. I'm confident and love what I do at Lakes Martial Arts in Minneapolis, MN. It's my hobby and a passion.

Yet, I was bullied as a kid and as an adult. There. I said it.

It hurt. Lots. When I tell this to my students, many are surprised at my story. "I'd never guess it, they'd say."

The Early Years

As a military family, I moved around from coast-to-coast. Between grades 6-7-8-9, I switched schools four times, once each year. As a young adolescent, making new friends and fitting in was difficult. As the new kid in town, I was an easy target. Shifts in geography at that young age made maintaining long-distance friendships difficult. The benefit I would appreciate years later: I learned to make new friends quickly.

Getting flicked in the ear seating on the back of the bus made my 50-minute bus commute horrible. I never knew when they would reach over the seat a whack my ear 7th-grade ear. Hard. The bus driver couldn't see that far back to know what was going on. My parents would pick me up from the bus stop, in tears. And there was little they could do. There was no policing until the damage had been done. I remember a middle school trip to Washington, DC. It was even a longer bus trip. I will spare details, but will just say it was a very long three days away from home. These were just a few examples of the types of damage to my confidence that continued during middle school years.

In Winter 9th grade, I would rather spend time during my lunch in my 9th grade geometry teacher's office rather than face the hallway, feared I'd be stuffed into a locker. Again. Kids can be cruel. I would get tripped in the hall consistently. When I least expected it. Others would laugh. I often didn't know what to do. 

We need friends to feel apart of a community. This makes us feel value, feel a belonging. Yet when cornered by an individual in private space, the odds can feel stacked against us.

The Later Years

Sometimes a dear friend you trust 100% turns away. Laughs at you. Behind closed doors, yells nasty names. In a violent temper hits you, threatens you, damages property. Refuses teamwork with a pointed finger and demonstrates a lack of loyalty or trust. Occasionally an apology would be offered, yet the same behavior would be repeated over again and again. Escape seemed impossible, like an abused dog who crawls back for scraps of food to survive.

Those were dark years. Yet, I didn't realize it until after the cloak had been lifted and I could trust again, knowing everything would be alright. It took the love and support of friends and family, the knowledge of counselors, the strength of my faith and community, and therapy in the arts to rebound fully. And it has been an amazing ride over the last few years which keeps getting better and better.

Why do I share my story?

I don't stand for bullies. Period. Yet in those early years, I didn't even know what bullying was. I knew I didn't like it. I knew I didn't want it to happen. Yet, I wasn't aware of tactics how to report it. How to stop it. Or how to prevent it all together.

I want to share what I've learned so the same thing doesn't happen to others in my community. I'm setting my sights on stopping bullying. And I'm serious.

What can you do to help?

I can't do this alone. I need your help.

The good news: The Fulton Neighborhood Association awarded us a partial grant this year for a bullying prevention seminar, a 90-minute action packed learning experience for kids ages 6-12. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE.

The bad news: Our original goal was to get 100 kids through the *FREE* program, however with the current funding, only 50 kids can do so. Already 30 kids have signed up of our first seminar offered on April 25, 2015. Which means spots for 20 more kids and that's it. I KNOW we can do more. I want at least 100 kids through this program before school starts next year.

If we can raise $1000, then our goal would be met. And if we raise more, then program would grow to offer even a greater impact, including more seminars >> more kids >> greater awareness >> less bullying. SUCCESS!

Important Details

Join us Saturday, May 9, 2015 (the day before Mother's Day), for a fundraiser to stop bullying. Lululemon supports our cause and will offer a trunk sale in which 40% proceeds from any purchase will fund our mission. 

  • Who >> Our Community at Large
  • What >> lululemon athletica Galleria Edina Trunk Show to benefit Bullying Prevention
  • When >> Saturday, May 9, 2015 from 12pm - 2pm
  • Where >> Pershing Park Recreation Center, 3523 W 48th St, Minneapolis, MN 55410
  • Why >> 40% proceeds for Bullying Prevention

Lululemon representatives will be available to answer questions and have product on hand.

Unable to make it? Speak with Mr. Kern about details. Where there is a will, there's a way.

Spread the word and come early! Coffee and treats provided.

With the assistance of lululemon, the city of minneapolis parks and recreation, and lakes martial arts, bully prevention seminars will help kids prevent bullying.

With the assistance of lululemon, the city of minneapolis parks and recreation, and lakes martial arts, bully prevention seminars will help kids prevent bullying.

When not wearing my white uniform, I enjoy training in comfortable athletic wear. I really like the Kung Fu 2.0 pants and the Protean Short Sleeve, perfect for running, gym cross-training, and practicing my form in fresh air.

I use my legs for everything I do in martial arts and don't want to be held back by uncomfortable clothing. One of my favorite things about wearing their gear is they allow the freedom of movement. I can stretch, kick, jump without restriction which makes kicking high with confidence easier. 

This program is made possible with the generous support from a Fulton Community Association grant, the Minneapolis Parks & Recreation Board, and Lakes Martial Arts.

Before and after each Bullying seminar, an online survey will be conducted to determine overall impact and to assess the effectiveness of the program. In October, a presentation will be given to the Fulton Neighborhood Association on the results. I look forward to sharing stellar results!