MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As the kids head back to school, parents have prepared them for the typical ups and downs that come with any school year.

Some parents have even prepared their kids for what to do if they encounter a bully.

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At Extreme Mixed Martial Arts in Kendall, instructor Michael Cardosa teaches his students self-defense to help protect themselves against a bully. Many of his students said they have experienced a bully before. Justin Perez said he’s been called bad words and bad names. Perez has been taking classes for 11 months.

“Ever since people knew I do MMA now they haven’t really wanted to mess around with me”, said Perez.
The kids learn how to fight but it is not the fighting the instructors promote.

“We do what we call – talk – tell – battle,” said Cardosa.

The ‘talk’ is for children to talk to their bully in effort to get them to leave them alone. The ‘tell’ is for them to tell their parents, school administrators or teachers that they are being bullied. The last one, ‘battle’, is for them to defend themselves if they have to.

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Cardosa said they work with the kids to build their self-confidence. Perez is smaller in size compared to other kids. He said since taking classes at Mixed Martial Arts his confidence has improved dramatically.

“When I was in soccer, before I did this, I was afraid of getting hit and once I started doing this my confidence was much higher”, Perez said.

Justin’s father, Alex Perez, put him in MMA because he was worried about his son’s future in middle school. He said he wants his son to be comfortable in his own skin.

Cardosa said learning self-defense skills will not bully proof kids but it does teach a set of skills that will likely prevent them from becoming victims.

“The kids are more likely to stand up for themselves when they know they can defend themselves. When kids can’t back it up, they really won’t stand up for themselves,” Cardosa said.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties have anti-bullying policies.

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Both school districts have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to bullying, harassment and intimidation. Bullying does not just happen at school it can happen online too — so parents keep a close eye on your children’s online activities.