WESTFIELD, NJ — John Mirrione is a master karate teacher. He performed as a break dancer at Harlem’s Apollo theater in the 80’s and is a veteran of the United States Air Force. But when you ask Mirrione what he’s most proud of, he speaks about his work helping kids who are bullied.

Mirrione heads one of the most influential anti-bullying campaigns in New Jersey. He founded and directs the not-for-profit organization Harmony Power Foundation, the charity arm of his well-known New York City based Karate School, Harmony by Karate. 

“The mission of my charitable organization is to stand up to bullying and to stand for human equality,” said Mirrione, 52, who lives on the south side of town. “Considering the world events, issues of bullying and racism are intertwined. When children bully they mostly attack human differences.”

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Harmony Power was officially formed in 2015, but it was years in the making, as Mirrione had planned on making this his own personal mission. In 2010, Mirrione with his own money and with sponsorship by Harmony by Karate embarked on a 17 -city tour including stops in Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles where he imparted his message.

On the trip he shared with children at schools and YMCAs that he visited with tales of being bullied himself as a child and what he did to stand up to the people who wanted to destroy him. Most importantly, he said, he stressed the importance of being self-empowered, believing in himself and knowing that anything is possible.

Since that trip, Harmony Power has become part of a New Jersey anti-bullying bill that was submitted by assembly women Shavonda E. Sumter. The goal of this bill is to recognize as many children as possible to promote harmony through art, music, dance, community service and other such avenues. As part of a school assembly program called Universal Harmony Day in June, 75 awards were given in Bayonne, NJ, and 95 awards were given in Elizabeth.

This month alone Mirrione has 24 school assembles organized in Bayonne and Elizabeth to impart his anti-bullying message, which will include more than 5,000 children in total. He hopes to bring his program to the Westfield schools at some point.

“Children bully in every school and in every city,” Mirrione said.

“Kids need to believe, give of themselves and then they can achieve,” he said. “This takes away the desire for them to hurt each other.”

Mirrione moved to Westfield with his wife and three children in 2016.  His wife, who is an elementary school principal in Summit, and Mirrione, who has a Masters Degree in Spiritual Development, were drawn to Westfield in part because of the strength of the schools. He has learned firsthand the quality of the district having a child each in elementary, middle and high school, he said. What really impressed Mirrione about Westfield was the sense of community that he experienced during his frequent visits to the town living in nearby Edison. He likes to tell people it’s Norman Rockwell meets the Upper West Side.

“It’s a blend of old America and New America,” Mirrione said.

Mirrione’s anti-bullying campaign has allowed him to get his message across to millions of people world-wide as a guest in 2015 on Deepak Chopra One World TV station. The show was broadcast to over 200 countries. In addition, in 2016 he was the keynote speaker for GE’s World Leadership Conference in New York. In front of representatives of 70-plus countries, his stressed the importance of being focused on the present and in creating a more harmonious environment in which to live.

For more information on anti-bullying and the Harmony Power Foundation, visit harmonypowernow.org or harmonybykarate.com. If you would like to speak to Sensei John P Mirrione, you can contact him directly at 646-387-2073.

Tapinto Westfield asked Mirroine for some practical advice regarding bullying:

How do you recognize a bully? It’s one who repeatedly uses verbal or physical aggression to hurt another person.

How do you confront bullying? Choices:

1. Walk away.

2. Deep listening.

3. Being present by using listening and compassion to feel and understand why the other person is so angry.

4. Deep listening then walking away.

5. Use verbal aggression back by standing up.

6. Yelling the word stop as loud as you can to create awareness to people in your surroundings while at the same time raising your hand with your palm facing forward as a hand singnal.

7. Stand up by using physical aggression to protect yourself from being injured.

What if you discover that your child is the bully?

1. Ask your child why they are doing that.

2. Ask them also how would it feel if someone were to do that to them.

3. The child should go back to the other child or children to apologize and express empathy.

Mike Cohen is a frequent contributor to TAPinto Westfield. In addition to being the Sports Editor of Education Update, he is the Founder/Director of Throwback Sports (a sports program for children of all abilities). He can be reached at throwbacksports@verizon.net.