By Erika Webb
Wallace Bailey is a 5-foot, 3-inch, 130-pound man with a good attitude and naturally pleasant demeanor. People don't tend to push him around. They never did, even in school.
He considers himself one of the lucky ones and has compassion for kids who are bullied.
Mr. Bailey, a compliance officer for Volusia County, began studying the martial arts just over three years ago. His goal was to "get in shape."
Today he's a second-degree blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and, as an independent contractor at Championship Martial Arts in DeLand, he teaches the techniques to children and adults.
Some historians of Jiu-Jitsu say the origins of "the gentle art" can be traced back to India, where it was practiced by Buddhist Monks, according to the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation's website.
The term "gentle art" is not to imply Jiu-Jitsu is dainty.
The Modern Army Combatives Program, using moves based on a core of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu techniques, is now the U.S. Army's standard training method for close quarters combat, according to livestrong.com.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a modified combination of traditional Japanese Ju-Jitsu and Judo -- a martial art meets combat sport that uses leverage and proper technique; it contains stand-up maneuvers, but is most well known for devastating ground-fighting techniques.
There is no punching or kicking in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Mr. Bailey said. It's all grappling, submission wrestling.
Gaining superior positioning -- to apply the style's numerous chokes, holds, locks and joint manipulations on an opponent -- is the key, according to blackbeltmagazine.com.
"A martial artist does not want to fight, if at all possible," Mr. Bailey said. "If backed into a corner and there are no other options, this will train you to defend yourself. I'm a fairly small guy, but if a bigger guy comes at me, I can defend myself using control and leverage techniques."
It's about self-control before self-defense, he added.
That's one of the reasons Mr. Bailey doesn't train children under the age of seven. He said seven is about the age when they can begin to focus and comprehend the martial arts mindset.
"Any younger and they tend to just play around," he said.
Passionate about his subject, Mr. Bailey said he began teaching at the gym where he first trained. His reward was seeing the rapid growth in confidence among the majority of his students.
"They came in kind of timid and I think that's why their parents wanted them to learn," he said. "I saw their confidence go through the roof. They were friendlier and their athletic ability greatly improved as well."
Brazilian-native Helio Gracie learned traditional Japanese Jiu-Jitsu techniques from his older brother, Carlos. In the late 1920s, he began to modify these techniques to accommodate his frail physique.
His objective: to develop a system that would enable him to defend himself against larger opponents, according to the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy's website.
Ultimately, Mr. Gracie proved the effectiveness of his refined techniques by routinely defeating larger and stronger opponents, some of whom outweighed him by as much as 100 pounds, the website states.
By nature Mr. Bailey is a peaceful, non-confrontational person. People like him. His awareness that not everyone shares his kind of fortune led him to teach others how to respond if threatened and how to achieve confidence.
But it's not the cocky kind.
In teaching children ages seven to 15, he is able to convey the concepts during critical periods of growth when lifelong habits and patterns of thinking are formed.
His philosophy: Why not establish these habits early in life and not have to forge new pathways in the brain later on, after years of struggle?
Bullies methodically pinpoint victims before taking action against them, according to Psychology Today.
"Those singled out lack assertiveness and radiate fear long before they ever encounter a bully," the website states.
Mr. Bailey seeks to instill, early on, the quiet confidence martial arts are known to foster.
"You don't learn this and think I'm going to learn this and go kick the bully's butt," he explained. "I teach them to put their hands up and say I don't want to fight, but if there's no other recourse and people are detaining you, this has self-defense take downs to block a punch, throw (the threatening individual) down successfully and then back away."
It comes down to that reflection of personal power, Mr. Bailey said. First, it's a matter of sincerely projecting a lack of fear and uncertainty. Ultimately, it's about sending the message to oneself and others that he or she is capable of fending off a would-be attacker.
That understanding alone can stop bullying in its tracks.
A sense of belonging, at any age, is another component to self-esteem.
"Brazilian Ju-jitsu is like a family," he said. "When I started doing it you just became part of a family. Even though you might be competing against somebody there's honor and respect between everybody."
And these tricks are not just for kids. Mr. Bailey teaches people well into their 60s. He said the sport provides a great cardiovascular workout, with less harsh impact on bones and joints than running.
"Jiu-Jitsu is for everyone, from young to old," Mr. Bailey said. "There's no judging. Everybody starts somewhere, starts as a white belt. It's a great way, absolutely a fun way to get physically fit and meet new people."