Rika “Tinydoll” Ishige is one of ONE Championship’s brightest young stars, but it wasn’t too long ago that she was a timid young girl who suffered at the hands of bullies.
Because of her slight frame and mixed heritage, Ishige found herself the target for bullies, despite her sunny disposition and smiling persona.
As a result, “Tinydoll” was the victim of mental abuse and even physical attacks.
“I do not remember the first time I got bullied because I used to get bullied since I was young,” Ishige said.
“When I was a junior in high school, I was bullied by the seniors because I am only half Thai.
“At first they made fun of me verbally, like calling me terrible names, and after that I was physically bullied. I got pushed from behind and had my hair pulled.”
With the teachers either unaware or unwilling to do anything to address the issue, Ishige was left to deal with the situation herself. She was one of many targets in her school, as the bullies made school life hard for Ishige and many of her classmates.
“If you have a weak point or are different, you can be the target of bullying,” she explained.
Initially, Ishige tried to hide away from her tormentors, but she decided she needed to be able to defend herself in case the bullies tried to physically attack her again. That led her through the doors of a local martial arts school, where she transformed her outlook, and as a result, her life.
“I did not learn martial arts to hurt people, just for self-defence,” she explained.
“I decided to start practicing aikido and karate.”
Her development in the martial arts gym helped build her personal confidence, and it helped her to keep her emotions in check and not allow the bullies’ jibes to affect her as easily.
“I became stronger — not only physically, but mentally,” she explained.
“I felt calmer and better at controlling my emotions.”
Eventually, the bullies started to ease off and eventually stopped altogether. The benefits of martial arts extended beyond the actual techniques learned, and proved hugely helpful, as Ishige was able to shake off the torment of the bullies and move on with her life with a renewed sense of self-confidence.
“You cannot change others, only yourself,” she said.
“Get ready to deal with every situation. You should get physical strength by working out or practicing martial arts to protect yourself from physical or sexual bullying. Also, you will build mental strength for dealing with verbal bullying, including cyberbullying.”
Ishige’s tale is even more powerful when you consider her small frame – she didn’t have the stature to stand up and fight back with her own physical strength.
Instead she learned technique, control and clarity of thought, with all three making her a far more confident individual when faced with negative influences like bullies.
“Jiu-jitsu helped me a lot, both in my normal life and in matches,” she explained.
“It is good for small people like me.”
Today, as one of the biggest stars in ONE Championship, competing in events screened around the world, she has a powerful message to the bullies that tormented her during her schooldays.
“Now we have become adults – and I think some have children – please teach them to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. No one wants to be bullied.”
What Ishige’s story proves is you don’t have to be physically big and strong to cope with bullies and stand up for yourself. Martial arts can be a huge help.
It certainly helped “Tinydoll”, who has gone from victim of bullying to role model to millions.