By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
VOLUSIA - Bullying culminates in shoving or punching, but it usually starts long before it gets to that.
Mike Panebianco said children can defend themselves from bullies without mastering roundhouse kicks, and he hopes to add to the county's economy by teaching families how to make their children hard targets.
"I don't want kids to change to fit the program," he said. "I want the program to wrap around them like armor."
Mr. Panebianco is co-owner of Bounce Forward, one of a dozen companies now getting their start at the University of Central Florida's Business Incubator, 601 Innovation Way, at the Daytona Beach International Airport. Bounce Forward will develop other online training programs, but its flagship offering is www.nobullyfear.com. The web-based training program is rolling out this month.
"This (training program) here is probably going to be our big one," Mr. Panebianco said.
Many families, he said, are frustrated when their children come home complaining about bullies. Many parents start calling martial arts instructors when bullies target their children. Mr. Panebianco said when he was working for a combat-training company; he frequently got calls from parents.
"It was very frustrating to me as the director of that company when I talked to a parent whose child came home with a black eye," he said.
The company didn't have children's self-defense programs, let alone anti-bullying training. Mr. Panebianco said. Anti-bullying training must include much more than physical self-defense. He said when he looked into it, few martial arts studios seemed to have organized anti-bullying components. So was born the idea for No Bully Fear.
"(No Bully Fear) guides you through a conversation," Mr. Panebianco said. "It's guided to make a healthy-thinking process."
A healthful-thinking process, such as social confidence, helps children develop characteristics that naturally repulse bullies without violence.
The program is a set of 16-episode online training videos that help families understand the anatomy of bullying and the attitudes and behaviors children can adopt to avoid it. Also, nobullyfear.com will have a blog and other features to give additional support. A training subscription will cost $80, and Mr. Panebianco believes that up to 15,000 subscriptions will sell a year. The program has a physical self-defense portion, too.
"I teach behavioral self protection, not martial arts," Mr. Panebianco said. "I don't want martial arts folks to think I'm a competitor. Ninety percent of the bullying problem is not physical."
Mr. Panebianco has a business partner, Lou Paris. He was unavailable for an interview.
The business incubator celebrated its first anniversary recently. In 2010 the Volusia County Council approved $1.4 million to renovate a 10,000-square-foot facility to house it. Additionally, the county gave the university $750,000 to run it for three years.