16 Salutes Karate Instructor

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From time to time, here at Newswatch 16, we're going to highlight someone in the community who deserves a "16 Salute."

Our person this week is karate instructor Anthony Gilbert.

While hundreds of students learn martial arts at Pocono Crimson Dragon in the Poconos, Gilbert is also teaching his students how to defend against bullies.

His lessons come from personal experience.

Gilbert is a karate instructor at Pocono Crimson Dragon in Pocono Summit.

In class, his students refer to him as "Sensei."

But this Sensei isn't teaching his young pupils only martial arts. He's also teaching them how to stand up against bullies.

It's an issue brought to his attention by parents and his students.

"Someone was trying to bully me, then I wanted them to stop. I almost got angry, but I didn't," said Douglas McKenzie, a first grade student.

"It was this group of two kids. They would always be mean to me. And then my Sensei started this anti-bullying program and I learned how to stop it," said Thomas Dennis, a fourth grade student.

While schools in the Poconos are teaching anti-bullying programs, Anthony Gilbert felt he needed to help too.

Because for him, bullying is something that hits close to home.

"Basically when I was young, I was bullied all throughout school. So I decided to make a change in my community just this past summer," said Gilbert, "We do it for free. I take around my black belt club and we go to schools and give assemblies."

At an assembly Newswatch 16 attended, Gilbert addressed the young audience, saying, "The reason they bullied me is because I got so upset when they bullied me. So I decided to change it for all of you guys by teaching how to handle it," said Gilbert.

Gilbert's first lesson is to build confidence in students by teaching them to look people in the eye and stand up straight.

The next lesson, is to turn a bully into a buddy.

"However, even the most confident people sometimes are bullied. So what we do is tell them to try to change the phrase, so if someone tries to bully me, I'm going to try to change it and make them into my friend," said Gilbert.

Gilbert demonstrates this in his assemblies.

He brings up a student to pretend to be a bully, who makes fun of Gilbert's t-shirt. Then Gilbert shows the students how to try to turn a bully into a buddy.

"Hey,", says Gilbert, "I really like your t-shirt. You like angry birds? Wow! That is so cool! At my karate school, we have an angry birds night at school where parents come over and do angry birds stuff. Maybe you can come with me?  I will check with my Sensei and see if you can come.  Wow, that's awesome! I can't wait to hang out with you," said Gilbert.

Gilbert's efforts are working, just ask Douglas McKenzie's mom.  He's the first grader we spoke with earlier who explained he was bullied at school.

"I think it's working, absolutely," said Marie-Claude Chalvignac.

"If I drive four hours to do one seminar for an hour, and I change one kid. I stop one kid from stopping committing suicide. If I stop one kid from being a bully because they didn't realize they were bullying. It's worth it," said Gilbert.

And that's why we think that Anthony Gilbert deserves a "16 Salute."

Gilbert isn't stopping at the local school districts. He's hoping to expand his mission and visit more schools beyond the region.

He's also set up a foundation at Pocono Crimson Dragon.

The money raised goes into helping him continue his mission to build an anti-bullying army, which consists of more than 3,000 students who know how to turn a bully into a buddy.