Martial Arts and Christians

QUESTION:
Someone wrote and asked: 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…

RESPONSE:
That is an excellent question and due to my lack of personal experience and the fact that the Bible 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 is a man who is into martial arts and therefore obviously biased but he 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.

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.

A PRINCIPLE TO CONSIDER:
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 of the church – the standards 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 trouble.  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 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.

For more articles, including one from a Taoist who says Christians have no business getting involved in martial arts:
http://www.pastornet.net.au/response/
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.)

10 thoughts on “Martial Arts and Christians

  1. I have been in taekwondo for nearly 18 years. This is a Korean art form that is based on respect, courage, indomitable sprit, integrity and courtesy. But, search out the right instructor that teaches these things. That’s the hard part. I taught a group of students in a residential treatment center. It was great. It helped reduce their impusluvity and aggressive behavior as well. Hope this helps some.

  2. The assistant pastor at our church in Indiana teaches taekwondo actually at the church. Gives lessons to the church people and others.

  3. Our boy is moving up through a Tae Kwon Do program and we feel it has helped him with discipline and determination. We were blessed to find a sold out Christian leader who incorporates scripture into the program.

  4. Any Christian teaching any form of martial arts is deceived and teaching deception. The origin and purpose of all these disciplines are clearly seen and not a one of them is OK wih the Almighity Creator. The Grand Master RTO has said if you don’t get the philosophy you have missed it meaning all the disciplines are designed to lead you into the philosophy.

  5. For the Christian, martial arts falls into the broad Scriptural category of issues of conscience. There is no Scriptural command for or against it. If anything, you could argue for it since we see that neither Christ nor the apostles told military personnel (men trained in the martial arts of their time and culture) to leave the military.

    Martial arts schools should be viewed similar to any extra curricular activity, such as dance schools, gymnastics, volleyball, soccer clubs etc. The activity itself is not inherently unrighteous. The area we must examine is how the activity is conducted and the motivations behind it.

    For example, there are many dance or cheer leading schools that clearly teach (however unintentional it may be) young girls to view/conduct themselves according to popular culture and not according to Scripture. Is dancing inherently evil? Of course not. But the way some instructors teach it points the girls away from Christ, towards unrighteousness.

    As a Christian, I want to encourage all people towards Christ and away from sin, but I also want to avoid speaking where Scripture is silent.

    It’s easy to look at truly pagan expressions of martial arts and label them all the same, simply calling it all sin. It’s takes a lot of effort to do the right thing and examine each instance on its own merit/lack of merit and decide accordingly. It takes time to find out what someone’s really teaching. But taking that time, engaging them inter-personally is exactly what we should do. Not only because we are more likely to find out the truth, but also because we are far more likely to have an opportunity to speak the truth of Christ as well.

    On a side note, I’ve practiced Greco-Roman wrestling, traditional Japanese karate, Chinese-American Kenpo, Brazilian Jui Jitsu, Thai kick boxing, American boxing, and rapid assault tactics using various things from Dumog and Jeet Kune Do. No, I’m not trying to sound like some big shot. I’m really not that good at any of them. I’m just pointing out that in addition to Scripture, I do have some experience in the matter. I’ve seen both sides. Some schools really pushed eastern meditation (emptying the mind…bad idea. Christian meditation = filling the mind with Christ). But the vast majority cared nothing about spiritual things, including the one I’m at now. I approach it like I would any secular activity; I prayerfully keep watch on myself and look to glorify God in word and deed.

  6. IF you believe something is sinful-it is sinful to do it. If your conscience is directing you away from something-it seems foolish to do it anyway. Paul said so clearly with references to eating meat which had been offered to idols. To many BBQ is BBQ yet to others one’s BBQ is poison to their faith.

  7. THERE IS A CHURCH IN OUR TOWN THAT USES TAE KWON DO AS AN OUTREACH. THE PASTOR AND HIS DAUGHTER ARE BOTH BLACK BELTS AND THEY TEACH FREE CLASSES AT THEIR CHURCH FOR THE COMMUNITY. THEY ALSO DO DEMONSTRATIONS (I.E. BOARD BREAKING AND KATAS) AT COMMUNITY EVENTS AND WILL CHOREOGRAPH KATAS TO CHRISTIAN MUSIC. AND THEY WILL USE THAT AS A WAY TO SHARE WHY THEY DO WHAT THEY DO. I ALSO HAD A TANG SOO DO INSTRUCTOR INCOLLEGE WHO WAS A CHRISTIAN. WE EVEN STARTED EVERY CLASS KNEELING AND PRAYING. CHRISTIAN INSTRUCTORS ARE OUT THERE, BUT EVEN IF YOU CANT FIND ONE, THERE ARE LOTS OF PLACES THAT TEACH THE SPORT OF IT AND DON’T FOCUS ON THE SPIRITUAL ASPEECT. GOD CAN LEAD YOU TO THE RIGHT PLACE IF IT’S SOMETHING GOD WANTS FOR YOUR SON. AND I DO AGREE THAT IT CAN BE A GOOD LEARNING EXPERIENCE AND PRACTICE IN STICKING WITH YOUR CONVICTIONS AND BELIEFS HUMBLY BY NOT PARTICIPATING IN CERTAIN ASPECTS OF IT IF IT COMES TO IT. I AM A BALLET DANCER AND EVEN IN BALLET, THERE IS SOMETIMES CHOREOGRAPHY THAT I DON’T FEEL RIGHT DOING AND BY HUMBLY SAYING YOU CAN’T IT OPENS UP A LOT OF DOORS TO SHARE CHRIST AND SHOW LOVE AND HUMILITY IF DONE IN THE RIGHT WAY.

  8. I want to thank all of you for some super comments and encourage anyone else who would like to share a thought to jump into the conversation. This is really good stuff and I especially appreciate the way you are approaching it, respectfully, even if you may disagree with someone else’s ideas.

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