Verbal Jujitsu

A middle school counselor from Utah shared an experience he had helping a boy to empower himself. The boy was smaller and a group of older larger boys would often push him around. They would jokingly jump on him, pick him up and carry him in the opposite direction of his classes and push him around like tossing a rag doll. The boys in this situation did not feel like they were causing any harm. “Their intent was not mean spirited. They were just having fun at his expense, but he hated it although he would try to laugh it off like he was a player in the game and not just a pawn.” This boy physically was incapable of standing up for himself against multiple larger boys.


Instead of addressing the bullies directly the counselor took the smaller student aside and worked with him in a strategy the counselor called “verbal jiu jitsu".

Jiu jitsu is a Japanese Martial art that translates to “gentle”

or “Yielding technic”. This idea is not to fight against an

opponent head on, but to manipulate their own force against

them. The counselor practiced and role played with the

student about things he could say to employ his “verbal jujitsu” skill.

The counselor said, “I watched the next time the larger boys grabbed

him and picked him up in the hallway, he said calmly and matter of factly,

in a voice loud enough for others to hear, “Guys, I’m not really comfortable with this kind of physical display of affection.” At which point the larger boys immediately released him—not out of concern for the smaller boy, but to avoid the appearance of being gay. After a couple of instances, the boy I had worked with was no longer manhandled by the larger boys, and he had dealt with the problem himself.” (Simmons, "The Anatomy of Bullying.", 2017). The strength in the tactic employed by this counselor is that he did not just solve the problem for the student. Nor did the counselor simply give him a pep talk and abandon him. The counselor helped and coached the student so he could solve the bullying himself. Now the student has the power to stand up for himself when he does not have the safety of administration to run to. He is an empowered person, not a victim. It is also important to realize that bullying did not stop immediately, but it did stop long term. He also has the tools to stop future situations.

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