A Bullying Prevention Week Special Feature
Shihan Joe Bove, Executive Director of Special Programs/Therapeutic Martial Arts for Summit Academy Schools, remembers all too well his painful bouts of being bullied, of struggling in the classroom, of yearning for acceptance among his childhood peers. In his teen years, he found martial arts as a pathway – not to physical fighting – but to accepting and working through his personal challenges. He has remained on that pathway ever since, paying it forward with a special blend of expertise and empathy.
Shihan Bove, who also serves as a master Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) trainer, often reflects on his childhood days in order to put himself in students’ shoes. He helps create an environment of trust and a kindred bond with students, because he has lived “some form of their life” at one time. Shihan Bove provides a sense of security for Summit Academy students, relating to them and introducing them to a safe space: the dojo.
“The dojo [where students practice martial arts] is a feel-good, safe and comfortable space,” says Shihan Bove, explaining how students discover, in the school dojo, a place for managing anxiety, fear and other obstacles to learning and social acceptance. Through martial arts, students not only gain control, self-confidence and respect, but also a sense of achievement.
In Summit Academy Schools’ dojos, students practice Kwanmukan, a style of martial arts that merges Shotokan, Taekwondo and Jiu Jitsu. It is an important component of Summit Academy Schools’ curriculum, typically offered to students for 45 minutes a day as part of their physical education.
“We found this style is universal. It covers Japanese and Korean martial arts styles,” explains Shihan Bove, who emphasizes how particular he is when recruiting Summit Academy martial arts instructors. “They not only need to adapt their individual martial arts styles, but also understand students with special needs. It’s very hard to find someone who comes with that distinctive combination of expertise in the field and deep compassion at a human level.”
Shihan Bove oversees a team of 18 Senseis (martial arts teachers) who take a mind, body, spirit approach to martial arts instruction and therapeutic education. Over his past 22 years with Summit Academy, the three-time martial arts Hall of Fame inductee has helped numerous students clear the social, emotional and academic hurdles that often come with ADHD and autism. He sees a reflection of himself in the students and they in him. They see living proof that bullying is powerless in the face of self-belief.
Shihan Bove provides the example of the board-breaking ceremony, which all Summit Academy students participate in. They learn that the process isn’t so much about breaking boards. “They realize, if I can break a board, I can break through any obstacle,” he says.