Champions Martial Arts Center will throw open its doors on Halloween for kids of all ages.
To celebrate Domestic Violence Awareness month and to pledge to save at least one life in Puyallup, Champions will hold an anti-bullying seminar from 5 to 6 p.m. before the Haunted House Halloween event.
Master Eric Shields, owner of Champions, will lead the seminar. The Halloween FunFest, with face painting, prizes, games and the haunted house, will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Both events are free.
Champions, located at 15111 105th Ave. Court E., has three large rooms set aside for the anti-bullying event, which is geared for school-aged students. Shields will talk about successful skills, such as kids being aware of their surroundings, how to recognize a dangerous situation, how to talk to peers and how to stand up against bullying — strategies that can be used to diffuse difficult situations.
Maria Dill, director of marketing for Champions, knows how dangerous bullying can be. Her daughter was cyber bullied and had a tough time until Shields intervened and taught her coping strategies.
“He explained the dangers of the Internet, and even though it is readily available for her age group, it doesn’t mean she is emotionally able to handle it,” Dill said.
Shields led the teen through one-on-one sessions and gave her outlets and resources.
“He built up her confidence,” said Dill, who added that Champions does not promote using physical violence to solve issues.
“The moves that the kids are taught in the anti-bullying seminars and classes are all self-defense moves, just in case it goes beyond using their words,” she said.
Shields, who has been involved in martial arts for 27 years, said he was bullied as a child.
“I was a small kid and one of the only Korean kids in Alabama,” he said. “I was an easy target because I wasn’t the norm.”
Shields said his experience taught him how to deal with bullying, and now he can connect with kids because he knows how they feel.
“I saw the first Karate Kid movie, and I wanted to do it,” Shields said. “I learned how to have perseverance and believe in myself, instead of believing what the bullies told me.”
Martial arts gives students something they can call their own, Shields said.
“Once they start learning leadership skills, they gain confidence, and they aren’t the shy kid in the back of the classroom,” Shields said. “If you have confidence and can also defend yourself, that is someone I don’t want to mess with.”
He recommends children start with verbal skills.
“Teaching them the verbal skills is better, and if you have to physically defend yourself, by all means, but the first step is, we try to show kids to use their words, talk your way out of it,” Shields said. “We have three steps — walk away, talk away, and if there are no other options, defend yourself.”
Shields said the event will help children to learn coping skills.
“I’m following my heart and passion,” he said. “I want to connect with the students and help them change their life and grow up. It is a life-changing experience.”