SOUTHAVEN, MS (WMC) - A Southaven gym instructor is working to give children a helping hand against bullying.
Danny Shell and other instructors have been leading classes to teach kids basic self-defense tactics and improve their confidence when it comes to facing a bully.
Each child in the gym has a story.
"I've been bullied and talked to--talked about--and I've been hit," student Jacob Ward said.
"I have been bullied. I have been kneed. I have been kicked," student Bre Shell said.
Danny started the class after Southaven Middle School student Andy Leach committed suicide. Leach's family said he was repeatedly bullied at school.
"That really got me stepping. It put a fire under me, and I just want to speak out for him," Danny said.
The class teaches children to be mentally and physically strong, so they can stand up to bullies going after them or their classmates.
"We try to stick up for the kids who are in need, in need for someone to help them up," Ward said.
"If we can save any other children from being bullied, that's what we are here for," Danny said.
The class puts parents minds at ease, knowing their children have the tools—and confidence—to take back control from their tormentors.
"It's about making our hearts stronger, our minds our hearts and our physical bodies," one student said.
Big Dan's Bang Gym offers self-defense classes aimed at 4 to 7-year-olds, along with a wider mixed martial arts class for kids 7 to 14.
The students in the anti-bullying self-defense class plan to attend a vigil for Leach in hopes of raising awareness about bullying.