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Are martial arts too spiritual for Christians to participate?
Recently, I asked a question about yoga being anti-Christian and the answers were interesting. So, I started wondering if people used the same thought process when analyzing martial arts, which has origins associated with Hindu-Buddhist philosophy.
(Photo attribution: By sefcmpa, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Hi MarleneB. I've been practicing qi gong and tai chi for years. As a Christian, I've never felt a conflict. When I practice tai chi, I'm not worshiping Buddha. I focus on my breathing and universal Spirit. I find that my beliefs and martial arts practice marry well. There was a time I would journal about my practice struggles, as well as triumphs, and have conversations with God in my writing, and thank him for the gift of tai chi.
The martial arts and yoga can be taught separate from the Buddhism and Hinduism that infuse them, but most instructors see them as integral.
It is like stripping out the cultural aspects of Shinto from sumo wrestling - you could do it, but then it loses some of the appeal.
Martial Arts teach young people a high level of discipline and they usually carry that into adulthood. I would not worry about any religious conflicts etc..just let your children keep studying martial arts and they will turn out to be well behaved youth with high levels of confidence and good self esteem.
My son is in Gaurdian Quest Karate. It has made a huge difference in his confidence and pleasant assertiveness. He also is learning great discipline skills and physical skills. The tenets of the program for youth is Christian based and the master is also a preacher. Go figure.
My 35 years' research shows that the earliest martial arts, besides "cave-man fighting", appeared thousands of years ago in the ancient Egyptian military, as depicted in inner pyramid wall paintings with not a single mention of spirituality or religious connections. A video tape (VHS) of the paintings is available, if you can find it. I don't think it was made into DVD. It is political to say it was all Hindu or Buddhist, but also incorrect.
I'm a long-time evangelical Christian and a 9th degree black belt grandmaster in five martial arts - The rankings/practice all took a lot of work during 20 - 25 hours a week for 25 years and then 10+/wk for life.
My first instructors, Asians raised Christian, taught our classes with no Eastern meditations at all and I followed suit. We always perform deep breathing, perhaps with focusing on counting instead of blank-mindedness, but many students always pray silently during their breathing exercises. Those who do not believe breathe quietly and no one bothers anyone else for those minutes. This is all good.
Some people have approached me to learn how to cast spells on others, levitate, throw fire balls, manipulate demons, and to beat up others, but I always refuse to become involved in all that. I have, however, been able to administer massage and flexibility drills for which I was trained via medicine and martial arts, etc.where appropriate.
Studying the history of martial arts long term, I find some misinformation, but also find that many of the arts were once (maybe still are) rooted in various Eastern religions - some began in monasteries, after all, but in the mid-20th century of the USA, much of that began to fall away, especially in the 1980s when children's classes bloomed (to the annoyance of hard-core male fighters). Complaints of "watered down" arts filled the US and martial arts have never been regulated here, as say, in Korea.
We speak of inner spirit as being confidence, honesty, determination, discipline, etc. - all things we can strengthen and the physical training and concentration help.
The monks of Shaolin are very kind, by the way, and never think of forcing or even offering their faith on/to others when they visit our city. I know nothing of their activities elsewhere in public, though.
Cool! Thanks for that it is really interesting.
Patty, you provided a rich and thorough explanation which answers a lot of my questions about the relationship between martial arts and religion. I naturally separate the physical activity from the spiritual. Thanks so much for your enlightenment.
My pleasure! My training has helped me stay healthy, where my same-age friends have arthritis and a host of other maladies ever since their late 40s. I am fortunate and thankful.
Martial art is a study of combat skills and technique, many design to over come biological limitation, to defeat opponents, which you should not be able to defeat in ordinary combat technique (people who are not train highly rely on brute size and strength, which mean if your opponent is bigger and stronger then you, you are screw, if you are a girl, fighting a guy, you are screw.) different martial arts style, have their own strength and weakness, in boxing for example, you don't need to be big, but you still need to be strong. Tai Kan do for example, frequently give an advantage of fighting larger opponents, by KO them in long distance with your legs, before your larger opponents can get close, but those who are well train in it, can still improvise techniques to fight close range battles, by attacking vital place, such as nose, stomach and if it is a man, his balls and block punches of most fighters. But Tai kwan do's weakness is that to defeat opponents in long range, you need to be very flexible, people who do ballet or is a gymnast, can pick it up very quickly, because they already have that flexibility and only need to learn, practice and become familiar with the combat moves, while others need to train for such flexibility also. Styles such as Judo, focus on tripping and flipping your opponent, they know how to use your enemy's strength against them, it is great for women or young teens, to fend off full grown men and is prefer by many female police officers, since male criminals are for certain stronger then they are. I myself have a black belt in Tai Kan do, but to be a professional fighter it is hardly enough, due to the fact it still have weakness. But to deal with untrain people, it is more then enough. Professional fighters, including cops and soldiers, their combat style combine multiple fighting style, due to each style have its strength and weakness. Frequently, the continue to improve upon these style, for example, CIA and FBI now have its own combat style, unique to any known martial arts, due to them continue to improve upon the skills they originally gain from civilian martial artists. The only martial arts that have no change is bayonets. the fighting style is that of a Chinese short spear. In the 10th century, China had long/short spear, long spear has range but lack flexibility, while short spear have flexibility but only have medium range, they then invented the pistol and attached a pistol to a short spear to create first bayonet.
You are a true expert peter565. I didn't know the CIA and FBI had their own combat style. Interesting! I assume you see martial arts as a physical exercise more than a spiritual exercise. Right?
Martial art is combat training, but to be an all round warrior, you need to learn multiple. Most ordinary people who aren't cops/soldier, at most know one, because we don't use that for a living
Martial arts is really more to do with developing our physical and mental strength using intense workouts, practice and discipline. The spiritual aspects that have practitioners performing meditation and yoga are simply to improve our concentration and composure, which in turn help us act with agility and makes us resourceful. Whether we call them spiritual or basic life skills is up to us.
Though many of the martial art forms came from Buddhists, Hindus and other religions, I strongly believe that it must not be tied to any specific religion. Anything that helps us understand and be in harmony with our environment is simply a life science. Martial arts is a way of life and therefore is more to do with philosophy, it is neither pro- nor anti- as far as any religion is concerned.
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