Friday, January 28, 2011

Handle Bullies with Verbal Judo Comeback Lines

USA Martial Arts Bully Prevention Advice

Handle Bullies with Verbal Judo Comeback Lines

Read new updated Bullying Comeback Lines here

Verbal Judo for Handling a Bully by John Nottingham, EPS, 6th Degree Black Belt, founder The Arizona Bullying Intervention Initiative - The Phoenix Bully Prevention Project

Over the years I developed a highly effective five step method for handling bullies-and it has worked every time in over twenty years of teaching it. I have been bullied and know what it feels like... it stinks. Here are some strategies I teach if the bullying behavior has yet to become physical.

Flip It Around

Judo comes from Jujitsu and specializes in using ones energy against them. In martial arts, science, leverage and strategy are used to give smaller, weaker individuals the power to defend themselves against bigger, often stronger attackers.

Do a Verbal and Emotional Flip!

This lesson applies to not only the physical aspects of martial arts, but in other areas as well. You can use it if someone tries to bully you with words or emotions. Instead of turning energy from a shove into flipping them to the ground, you can use the energy of their words to flip it into something funny or make it a boring flop.

Instead of fighting fire with fire, try using water! Never return insults or show emotional upset because that only gives the bully behavior the reaction they wanted and fuel to do more.

Bully behavior can come from kids and adults in school, work and social settings where people get together. Having strong social skills, confidence and a sense of humor can go a long way in disarming this unwanted bully behavior early before it ever escalates.

What is Bullying?

Bullying is a display of power.

"Rudeness is a weak man's imitation of strength." -Eric Hoffer

Should I fight back? Yes and No

YES! Fight back by being so busy working on yourself you don't have time for their rudeness. Build yourself mentally, physically and emotionally. That's just one of the reasons I love the traditional martial arts. It does all these things! But NO, I do not recommend fighting back physically unless it is a last resort and you cannot escape in any other way. Nobody has the right to damage your body. Even then, in most situations you should only do enough to escape.

My favorite way of handling a bully is to make them a friend. This is the first step. At least try to make them an ally.
Who is mighty? One who can make enemies into friends. This holds great power.

Physically fighting back can have serious unwanted consequences and usually leads to more problems. Walking away usually fuels the bully behavior by inadvertently giving permission to their behavior. It can also leave a lot of damaging emotional scars, escalating and perpetuating more harassment.

Show Confidence and Inner Strength

Most bullies don't like confidence because they don't feel good about themselves. Instead of being rude, try being clever, funny and showing inner-strength in unique ways. Developing these social skills go long way in being a harder target and you will find that you are less likely to be the target of bullying behavior.

Humor takes away the power of bullying, "Yeah, that ones so old I heard it in DayCare!"

Role play the your favorite lines, or make up your own. Look them right in the eye. Remember, comebacks are not insults. Don't stoop down to that level or you might invite more problems. Remain calm and say:

  1. "Are you talking to me?"

  2. "That means nothing to me."

  3. "That was low."

  4. "Whatever."

  5. "Why do you say things like that?"

  6. "Feel better about yourself now?"

  7. "Feel special now?"

  8. "Again??? Are you that bored?

  9. "I hope nobody ever does this to you."

  10. "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I heard you the first time."

  11. "Sorry, my spam inbox is full."

  12. "That's kind of funny but enough now OK."

  13. "Thats cruel. You can stop now."

  14. "Been there, done that. It's old now."

  15. "Why are you acting like a bully? You're so much better than this."

Practice saying it with confident body language, proper timing, clear voice, and then rise above it and move on to something as if it wasn't a big deal.

I posted lots more bully resources in this blog. Feel free to get ideas and develop your plan. Above all, take heart and know that other people care and can help you!

John Nottingham is a recognized expert in personal protection, author, consultant, speaker and a founder of Nottingham Security -Scottsdale Bodyguards- and the USA Martial Arts chain of schools. He resides in Scottsdale Arizona USA and provides professional consultation and training, products, and services related to self-defense, personal security and physical conditioning. A bodyguard, law enforcement and military trainer, he is certified Executive Protection Specialist (EPS).

He has trained in martial arts for over 25 years including Taekwondo, Hapkido, Jujitsu, Aikido, FMA/Arnis, Jeet Kune Do, Kickboxing, Kyusho-Jitsu, Krav Maga, Wushu Kung Fu, Shamrock Submission Fighting, and weaponry. He developed his own integrative MMA or mixed martial arts curriculum designed for the average person to use for self defense and a healthy lifestyle. In his chain of martial arts schools, he and his staff teach men, women and children of all ages self defense and practical martial arts skills in a fun and exciting manner.

Master Nottingham also served honorably in a USAR Military Intelligence Det. of a Special Forces (Airborne) unit where he developed a unique hand to hand combat course for Special Operations Military forces.

He is currently hosting lifestyle and wellness events to train companies and individuals how to increase performance, improve health and vitality for an improved lifestyle. An award-winning instructor, he is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer, boxing and Yoga teacher. He also is a sought-after speaker, consultant, subject matter expert, entrepreneur, and author.

Bullying Information Bullying Resources Bullying Statistics Bullying Prevention Training How To Deal With Bullying Arizona Bullying Prevention School Bullying Programs ABC's of Conflict Avoidance Best Bully Program
AZ Bullying Prevention Project:
Bullying Prevention Initiative International
North Phoenix:
Children Martial Arts

* Credit for Verbal Judo to G. Thompson. Who is mighty definition: Dave Kovar

5 comments Bookmark: StumbleUpon Digg

Posted 04:57 PM April 05, 2009


I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Comment by Sarah on 08:36 PM April 05, 2009

Thanks for the positive feedback Sarah. I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

I'm just learning this blogging thing and thought I'd give it a try as a way to present different ideas to readers as well as promote my sites and efforts.

Let me know if you have any questions. I'm no writer but I'm giving it my best shot!


PS You have a cool site.

Comment by John N on 09:10 PM April 05, 2009

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Comment by Sarah on 12:22 AM April 07, 2009

I never thought it would be easy this way, all verbal. But I think I have to be confident first before implementing the words given above. This is a great way to fight back without being physical.

Comment by buy wow gd on 01:08 AM April 13, 2009

especially enjoyed the comebacks and have forwarded and provided website to my daughter. she is a beautiful girl who feels friendless and left out from the crowd. she can handle herself well but does need to use these comebacks when they ask her to leave the crowd or by just plain being rude to her. i truly feel her pain but we need to move on

thanks again

Posted by dardar on 11:59 AM June 04, 2009


  1. Thanks for posting this advice. My son has been harassed every day for a year and a half. He is 13 and has several disabilities that make school alone a challenge. He also takes medication that has produced bad body odor in the past. We have since changed it and the smell is gone. He is very conscious about his hygiene and is very clean but the kids still insist that he smells and mention it whenever they can. The other children were justified by the school staff when I called the counselor about it. She told me that the teachers and she agreed with the kids and they (the other children) should not have had to be near him. There has been no help now that we have eliminated the problem of body odor except to answer an email inquiring if they notice the smell anymore. They said the "don't think" they have. The children not wanting to sit near him and blocking their noses etc., is still tolorated by the staff. Worse things are said behind the teacher's backs. He feels that it will never change and he will always be the "loser kid that smells". I am heartbroken for him. He is so lonely and would love to have just one friend. He is a sensitive caring person and anyone would be lucky to have him as a friend, but I think the other kids find it too risky. I finely told him to fight back. I am not afraid of him getting attacked. He is 5'11" and 165lbs. These kids are much smaller than he is so I doubt he would have to defend himself anyway. Is this bad advice? Should I tell him to keep ignoring him? It has not helped yet, and don't think it will. I'm not sure what to expect from you, I just thought your ideas were well written and felt safe to vent here. If anyone else has advice or a blog to suggest, it would be appreciated.

  2. Christine:
    Thank you for writing a response and sharing your story. I think it can help others who identify with your son's situation with bullying. My heart goes out to you and your son because I know the pain that difficult situations with bullying and cruel comments can cause. It isn't just the words that hurt but the social ostracization and an undeserved reputation.
    I would suggest enrolling your son in a quality martial arts program with bully prevention training. A good Martial Arts instructor will help him build on positive experiences, learn social skills in a safe-haven, as well as effective tools for how to handle a bully without fighting.
    With several of my students we had an instructor from our martial arts academy visit the school where the bullying was taking place. They conducted bully prevention training and then highlighted our student (the child being bullied) by having them come up and demonstrate how to break a board. This usually wins the peers over and gives them a new reputation that supersedes any previous one. I think you son is blessed to have such a caring and involved mother.
    Strength in safety,
    John D. Nottingham

  3. With you on his side I think he is already on his way to a brighter future. If you live in the Phoenix area I will extend a free Bully Prevention and self esteem training course for him. If not, I'm happy to direct you to a quality school in your area. -John Nottingham

  4. thanks. i grew up raised to 'just accept it' and never learned to speak up for myself when being bullied. the afteraffects of that passive "niceness" just seeped into my later years in emotionally abusive relationships both socially and at work. everyone has the right to talk back! and make it clear that being singled out is discrimination and has nothing to do with social equality.