Christians and Martial Arts

I have a question about martial arts like TaeKwonDo, Karate, Yoga, etc.  A lot of people think these Eastern “sports” activities are an initiation into mysticism or that it may be a way to practice the Eastern “religions”.  My son has specifically asked for lessons but I’m just not sure…

That is an excellent question and due to my lack of personal experience and the fact that the Scripture does not specifically address it I don’t feel qualified to answer.  Instead, I want to refer you to a web site that presents both positive and negative articles.  The author of the site, a man who is into martial arts and therefore obviously biased, gives a good summation of the articles so I am going to reproduce some of his summation here and then include the link to the rest of the articles.  In his conclusion, though he “severely paraphrases” Paul, he is totally accurate on the spirit of what Paul was saying.

MY ANSWER:  After you read the articles, you and your husband need to both be in agreement as to it being right or wrong for your son.  If there is no agreement then you need to abstain.  If in doubt, don’t do it.  Do not feel you have to enroll him in class just because he asks, begs or pleads.  If you are not both in agreement, it can be a great teaching time to explain that there are some things that even others Christians can participate in that we cannot.

I tried to teach my children that we certainly cannot live by the standards of the world but, unfortunately, often we can’t even live by the standards that those in the church live by.  We have to base our lives on God’s standards, as best as we understand them, and follow the dictates of the Holy Spirit in our own heart.  It is not that we are more “spiritual”, it is just that God knows what our individual weak areas are.  Others may be able to participate in an activity and have no problem with it but my participation might lead to me falling.  So, I need to read His Word, listen to His Spirit and then follow what I feel He is saying is OK for me without judging others who may live differently.  I hope that helps.

From the Author of the cited web site:

Here are some points I’d like to make to clear up my general position:

  • I believe it is ok to practice Martial Arts (and possibly other things such a Yoga) if the elements that totally conflict with Christianity are separated out. In fact doing so can be a powerful witness to those non-Christians involved as they ask why you don’t participate in some aspects of the practice. Personally, I have found no Christian MA or instructors locally and have not found any other MA that doesn’t have elements that cause concern (according to my personal experience and beliefs or what conflicts with my Christian faith). It is even more rare to find Christian practitioners of things like Yoga who have separated wrongful elements. Many Christian views tend to go to one of two  extremes: fundamentally condemn the practice or become fully involved in all practices.
  • I left Martial Arts and initially leant towards a fundamentalist viewpoint. I think that is a natural way of thinking initially but growth usually leads people towards a more balanced viewpoint. My search for answers into background and meaning of Martial Arts has eventually led me to return to practicing Taekwondo. I am now a Black Belt.
  • Ideally seek a Christian club or at least a Christian instructor. But, even Christian clubs may have some elements that are wrong so use discernment.. read up on the subject and pray about it.
  • Christians have lost a lot of mysticism and today we do not spend much time in stillness with God. Practices such as meditation, again having separated out wrongful practices, can be extremely beneficial. (What constitutes a “wrongful practice” is sometimes widely debatable. Typically asking questions about a practice provides some answers. Understanding Biblical principles helps us deal with these situations.)
  • Your relationship with God comes above all else. Are you spending quality time with God? Have you a healthy diet of His Word in your daily life?
  • Most of the articles here are not balanced. Most make valid points but don’t cover all the issues. Approach the subject like a debate and discover what all sides believe and have experienced.
  • Not all eastern philosophy is wrong, only that which conflicts with Christian ideals. And certainly eastern culture is important.

A bit more, some severely paraphrased teachings of Paul as I understood them 🙂

  • I also think it is a matter of faith. If a person’s faith is strong it may allow him to participate, whereas a person with a weaker faith should avoid participation.
  • If you have doubts then you should not participate as you would be sinning. But if you have no doubts then it should be ok for you to participate.
  • But also, be careful not to lead those with a lesser faith into sinning by your particpation.

Bradley G.

NOTE from Rick: In my opinion, the article by Bob Orlando tortures the Scripture dealing with “turning the other cheek” and his Biblical examples are sad.  Actually, they are worse than sad but I am afraid if I say how bad they are he may break my nose (since he doesn’t believe in cheek turning – Just kidding Bob.)

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