Carfagno enters hall of fame

Martial arts instructor is honored at Madison Square Garden for working with youth:

{Q}"I felt the award was for the kids, and that this recognition would help me reach even more kids," said recent inductee to the Martial Arts Hall of Fame, Mark Carfagno.{Q}

Carfagno's program Life Skills seeks to help youth effectively diffuse violent situations, especially among the peers.

"They learn that they have choices and not to be controlled by fear," Carfagno said. "Most conflict comes from fear. A bully chooses his target by looking for someone who is afraid."

Life Skills teaches children how to cope. It's about learning different choices. "Rehabilitating someone brought up on the streets and that has been in the correctional system is a huge task," Carfagno said, "but at five years old, had he been taught that he had choices? If he had learned to think instead of fear, maybe his life would have been different.

"Youths who bring a gun to school, or attack a parent or other authority figure, or turn a gun on themselves, are young people who feel they have no choice. Teaching children at a young age that there are many ways to deal with any situation is the answer. Many children feel there is only one thing that can be done in a conflict or situation, when in reality there are limitless choices or alternatives. Life may be hard but knowing there are so many alternatives would almost eliminate those extreme choices."

Skills learned?

Carfagno's students learn coping skills such as simply walking away, befriending the other person or using humor.

"There are well over 20 choices to avoid conflict," Carfagno said, "but the best thing is, while you're thinking of what you can do, you're not afraid so you're not a target and most of the time the conflict never happens at all.

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