North Devon Gazette & Advertiser

25th August 1999

Getting to grips with bullying

by Geoff Staddon

An imaginative millennium project has been launched in North Devon to help local schoolchildren get to grips with bullythe problems of bullying.

North Devon MP Nick Harvey and martial arts champion Matt Fiddes of Barnstaple are joining forces in a self-defence tour of the region’s primary schools.

Its emphasis will be on techniques to instill confidence and beat the bully without the need for fighting.

“It is about getting away from a situation by using Mindpower, talking, body position and body language,” said Matt.

In this he is helped by techniques learned from one of his martial arts pupils, psychic superstar Uri Geller, with whom he has recently been working on the subject of bullying.

There is even hope of getting Uri to play a part by visiting some local schools, too.

Nick is supporting and helping to organise the project and will be adding his own message for the youngsters.

Matt said his martial arts academy receives large numbers of letters from parents whose children are being bullied and are looking for somewhere to turn. He has been contacted by a number of schools asking if he can put on courses.

The letters and phone calls he receives point to a big problem, he said.

“We will be putting on courses over three weeks at each of the primary schools. They will include basic self defence techniques and also techniques on how to beat the bully and get away from a situation without the need for fighting.”

“We are also aiming to address the problems of drugs among young people, highlighting the dangers and helping them to overcome peer pressure.”

Matt himself turned to martial arts after being bullied as a youngster. Now 20, he has been six times British champion and earlier this year won the World Freestyle Martial Arts Championship in Australia.

“I have been there and done it. It has made a complete difference in my life,” he said.

Nick said that Matt had built up a good reputation and if he could share what he was doing with a wider range of children it would be to the good of schoolchildren throughout North Devon.

“It would be very foolish to think there isn’t a problem of bullying in North Devon. In any school there is some bullying,” he said.

“This is a whole way of thinking and of self discipline that really tackles the problem. It gives people a better self esteem, teaches them a few ways of dealing with the bullies and in general promotes a much healthier atmosphere from which all kids will benefit.”

“I think many schools in North Devon will be keen to take up the offer of this expertise free of charge and that when they look at what this is all about they will see it as a real benefit to their schools and children.”

“Children will learn very positive and good skills and attitudes which will serve them well.”

Nick admitted that he had never been involved with martial arts himself.

“I wish I had,” he said. “I wish there had been someone like Matt coming around when I was at school. It would probably have taught me a lot and I think it would have done a lot to stamp out bullying a long time ago.”

The millennium anti-bullying project is due to start with the new school term next month.

In themeantime Matt and Nick are seeking donors or sponsors to help provide specialty designed T-shirts to highlight the project.

Anyone who can help should call (01271) 344620


“Uri Geller has always been my mentor ever since a young child. I started martial arts at seven years old because I was being so severely bullied at school. By the age of twelve I had achieved black belt and I had won the British Championships.

Uri has taught me how to focus my mind and concentrate when dealing on a set task to gain maximum results out of my training. He also advised me on my personal ambitions in business and my career generally.

Now at twenty years old I have held the British Freestyle Martial Arts Championship title for the last six consecutive years and this year 1999 I have won the World Freestyle Martial Arts Championships held in Australia. I have one of the largest martial arts and fitness centres in the country with nearly one thousand members and twenty-six members of staff. I am financially independent and at peace with myself.

Uri Geller to me is a true genius and if it were not for him I would not be one of the youngest most successful businessmen and sportsman in this country. Uri is very knowledgeable about sport and fitness and is in great shape. Only last Thursday when I spent one day with him and we went for a long walk in the countryside, I found out his pulse rate at resting is at 45 beats per minute. I am a world champion and even my own pulse rate is not that slow. Considering Uri is 50 something (sorry Uri) I think that this is a truly amazing achievement.

I would personally like to take this opportunity to thank Uri Geller for making me what I am today. I owe everything to you Uri and I look forward to collaborating on the video and book projects that we are currently working on together”.

Matt Fiddes

World Freestyle Martial Arts Champion Six times British Freestyle Martial Arts Champion


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