Christian Martial Arts?
Is it possible to have a Christian Martial Art?
Eagles Corps Karate
Is “Christian Martial Art” an Oxymoron?
I have been interested in martial arts, for self defense and entertainment, since I was a kid. This is the experience of many young men growing up in America during the last fifty years. With the TV shows “Green Hornet” and then “Kung Fu,” America fell in love with oriental martial arts. As I was growing up, Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris were icons. They were heroes to every young man aspiring to be a “real man.”
In this culture, I grew up thinking that the Far East was where all real martial arts came from. If it was not from China, Japan, or Okinawa, it was not real martial arts. Of course, that is not true, but it was the cultural conception.
Now, if you have grown up with conservative Christianity in you life, you have also heard someone say, “Martial Arts are evil because they are based on false religions.” This statement is based on the premise that Martial Arts can be religious. This is a premise that I agree with. But that does not mean that all martial arts are evil. While some martial arts are based on false religions, some even based on satanic beliefs, not all are.
In America these days, there are large groups of people that want to secularize everything, from martial arts to government, from entertainment to holidays (holy days). While this is their goal, it is not possible to entirely divorce anything from the philosophy behind it.
It is clear that the Eastern martial arts are closely intertwined with their oriental religions of origin. The vestiges of pagan ancestor worship, reincarnation, and perfection through the unity of opposites (Tao) are all still to be found in the oriental martial arts, even as they are taught here in America.
The orient, however, does not have a monopoly on martial arts. Martial arts are as old as man. Man did not start in China, but in the Middle East. Martial arts did not start in China; they were in the Middle East first. Every culture has had some type of martial arts. (Did you know about the Bowie knife martial art in America?) Nor does the past have a monopoly on martial arts. Martial arts are still being developed and changed. While there is nothing new under the sun, there are martial arts still being developed based on new philosophy or theology.
Where did the Martial Arts originate?
Dr. Randy Young
Christ: The Heart of Cha Yun Do
I cannot speak authoritatively about every martial art out there in the world. I have trained formally in only one martial art, Cha Yun Do. I know what it does and why. But I have had many opportunities to compare that to other martial arts.
Cha Yun Do was made by an American, Randy Young. Cha Yun Do is copyrighted and registered with the Copyright Office of United States of America. You can see his HubPages articles at: http://docyoung.hubpages.com/
The credentials for the Art of Cha Yun Do are as follows: The Christian Martial Arts Fellowship teaches and has taught the Art of Cha Yun Do exclusively since it beginning in 1989. It is recognized and sanctioned by:
• Christian Sokeship Federation
• United States Martial Arts Association
• USMA International Board of Martial Arts Masters
Cha Yun Do is copyrighted and registered with the Copyright Office of United States of America is the exclusive property of Randolph A. Young.
Cha Yun Do has a Korean heritage. It is an American martial art. Yet it uses Korean terminology in respect of its origins. There are reasons for this. It gives people an experience in another culture. It also recognizes that Dr. Young relied on some formalities he learned in some Korean martial arts to formulate his American art. Plus, some people feel like it is more “karate like” if there is the foreign terminology.
I know Dr. Young personally. He is a Christian and started Cha Yun Do because he was tired of the influence of Eastern Mysticism he was forced to deal with in other arts. He was very accomplished in several disciplines. He decided to take what he knew from his martial arts training, law enforcement experience, and his Christianity and formulate a new American martial art.
Dr. Young wanted to have something that was fundamentally basic to the way that God made us. So, his guiding philosophy was if it is based on natural motions of the body, this would produce the most power and speed for the technique. There are many martial arts that are not very natural to the human body. We can do them, but they often cause long term issues that will manifest themselves in the practitioner later in life. There are arts that a young person can do, but as they age they have to stop because of the joint or nerve damage done.
“Cha Yun Do” means the “natural way” or “natural art.” So, the motions in this system are designed to follow the natural motions of the body. These motions are not only safer than the techniques of some other types of karate, but in fact they strengthen the body, increase agility, and add flexibility. Some arts use jerky motions that force the joints of the body to absorb force that is not necessary. This can cause problems in the joints.
Cha Yun Do is useful for those that have challenges in their joints and ligaments. The young and elderly alike find this system healthful for their bodies.
Most important is that this is a Christian Martial Art. This art was designed from the very beginning to be based on Christian philosophy and world view. There is no non Biblical mysticism here. At my Cha Yun Do school, you will find prayer requests and prayer before every Eagles Corps Class. There is also Scripture memorization and recitation. We strive for a Christian spirit of community and brotherly love.
While we all pray that we never have to defend ourselves or our families, Eagles Corps Karate (my school) and Cha Yun Do give us tools if God ever calls on us to do so.
Is there ever a time that a Christian should fight?
- Doc Young on HubPages
Call me "Doc." I am the President and Founder of the Christian Martial Arts Fellowship (CMAF) here in Michigan. I began my martial arts training...
- Christian Karate: Christian Martial Arts Fellowship
The Christian Martial Arts Fellowship (CMAF) is a full-disicpline, martial arts program. Students may earn a Black Belt in a recognized discipline through study, training and hard work.
What is the Impact of Christianity on Martial Arts?
What I am about to relate to you about our Christian Martial Art will make no sense to you if you are not a disciple of Jesus Christ. But if you know Christ, these principles should resonate with your faith and practice.
Proverbs 3:6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
I. What is the Impact of Christianity on Martial Arts?
We are Christians, right? Jesus taught us that we should not fight right? The Bible says we should not kill, right?
What does the Bible say about fighting, killing, and murder? Murder is older than human government. When Cain killed his brother Able, there was no retribution allowed by God. While murder was a sin, it was not yet a crime. God said that there should be no capital punishment. But then after the flood, many things changed. In Genesis 9:6 “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” God said that if a man murders, then he must be put to death. This was the beginning of and the basis for human government. This demonstrates the principle that law without penalty is not a real law because it is not enforceable.
From this theistic mandate, man’s right to self defense is certainly assured. Whether man had the right to defend himself by killing an attacker before this mandate, he definitely has it since.
A. But Christian Martial artist, that’s an oxymoron, right? Psalms 144:1 A Psalm of David. Blessed [be] the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, [and] my fingers to fight:
The Bible shows from Genesis to Revelation that not all killing is murder. Self defense is not murder. It is simple to see by extension that defense of an innocent other person is justified. We just saw that God’s mandate against murder justifies human government to use capital management. The natural extension of that mandate is the ability of government to wage war. If you do not defend your country, the enemy can come in and kill your citizens. This justifies the soldiers to be warriors and to practice the art of war.
So, we see, there is a personal right to learn martial arts to protect self. Furthermore, soldiers have a right and responsibility to learn the art of war.
B. But Christians should not fight. Luke 22:36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take [it], and likewise [his] scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one . . . 38 And they said, Lord, behold, here [are] two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.
Yes, but that was the Old Testament, right? We are in the New Testament. This is the age of grace. We should not fight, right? “Jesus taught us another way. We should have mercy on people, not put them to death.”
Is that really what Jesus taught? No, Jesus told his disciples to get a sword when he was about to be crucified. Why would Jesus tell them to get a sword? They were not soldiers. They were not police. The only reason Jesus would tell them to keep a sword is for self defense. This is clearly an authorization by Jesus Himself for his disciples to protect themselves even to death.
Furthermore, we see that the Apostle Paul confirms the death penalty in Romans 13:4 “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil.” Why does he have a sword if not as a weapon? Paul demonstrates that capital punishment is valid and still in proper use for our dispensation.
C. What about turn the other cheek? Matthew 5:39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
But Jesus said that we should turn the other cheek. How does that square with self defense? Notice that Jesus said that Jesus said if they smite thee on right cheek. But if someone punches you, chances are they will strike you on the left cheek. How would a right handed person strike someone on the right cheek? A back hand. Jesus is not saying if someone tries to beat you up you have to submit to it. He is saying that if someone insults you by giving you the back of the hand, turn the other cheek. We do not respond to insults with violence. If someone insults us, turn the other cheek. This makes sense of the two verses very nicely.
II. What is the Impact of Christianity on the Philosophy/temperament of a martial art?
A. The brotherhood of the saints Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Many martial arts still carry the vestiges of human idolatry in their schools, both in philosophy and practice. The Instructor (Sensei) in some traditional martial arts is still revered with demigod respect. Black belts are revered above all students below.
The experience is much different in Cha Yun Do, as a Christian martial art. There is, obviously, respect for the instructors and for the black belts, but this is different from the traditional schools. We do not lord rank or position over others. There is a greater sense of brotherhood in a Christian organization because we know that all men are equal in the sight of God.
God does not love any man or woman more than any other. He is not a respecter of persons. God loves us all and that love should be showed equally by each of us to the others around us.
This Christian humility is not the same spirit that is conveyed by many of the traditional Eastern martial arts. But this is the spirit that will be in the school that has Biblical principles guiding it.
B. The humility of the leader Matthew 23:11 “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.”
As previously mentioned, the instructor in traditional arts is revered and idolized. This is a vestige of the pagan theologies of the East. In some cultures, the bow with eyes down is a sign of worship. In contrast, to bow with eyes still raised is a sign of respect between equals.
We, in Cha Yun Do, bow with eyes raised. We do not worship the instructor, the black belt, the grand master, or any ancestors as is common in Eastern martial arts. We retain an eyes-raised bow of respect but there is no idolatry.
The Christian leader is called to be a servant. This is based on our spiritual “grand master” Jesus Christ. He showed that to be a true instructor/leader, one must be a servant/leader. He bowed the knee to his disciples and washed their feet. Because he humbled himself more than anyone else has ever humbled himself, God will raise Jesus higher than anyone will ever be raised.
So, in Cha Yun Do, as should be in any Christian martial art, the grand master, Dr. Young is one of the most humble men I have ever known. He exudes a spirit of authority and power in his teaching, but it is not based on his own strength or personal presence. Rather it is an authority that arises from his spiritual life in Christ. He is a servant to his students and has true care and Christian love for them.
This is a great difference between a Christian and pagan martial art. Traditional arts elevate the master in pride and position. “You do what I say because I tell you to.” This is not a Christian principle. Paul said in I Corinthians 11:1, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also [am] of Christ.” We should follow our Christian leaders/instructors, but only to the degree that they follow Christ.
Dr. Young and other Christian martial artists will tell their students why they should do it a certain way. But often in traditional arts, the instructor cannot tell the students why. Sadly, the reason they cannot tell is because they themselves do not know.
Dr. Young also emphasizes another difference between a traditional martial art and a Christian one. In traditional arts, the master always keeps back something. This guarantees superiority over his students. This keeps the students lacking one piece of the puzzle. In this way, over the generations, information and techniques have been lost in the traditional arts because of this practice. But the students of these arts blindly do what they have been taught without knowing why. It was just the way they were taught.
In a Christian martial art, the master pours out everything that he can to his students. He does not hold back to maintain false superiority. He does not need to erect false walls. The Christian leader is a servant. He wants his students to succeed, even if that means that they become better than the instructor. There is no threat to the Christian instructor if his students become better than him because of the spirit of Christian community. The student and the instructor both esteem the other better than themselves (Philippians 2:3 above)
C. The Principle of wealth Ecclesiastes 11:1 Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.
The traditional martial arts cost a lot of money to study. The workman is worthy of his hire, Luke 10:7 “. . .for the labourer is worthy of his hire. . .” But there seems to be many martial arts instructors that charge far more than they need to. Some demand that the students lock themselves into staggering contracts that chain people into commitments in spite of circumstances that often inevitably change.
In contrast, the schools in the Christian Martial Arts Fellowship (CMAF) do not use contracts. Although there is nothing wrong with contracts if they are fair, our schools do not use them because we approach our schools differently. We also have a better than average retention rate of new students, even without contracts.
None of the CMAF schools are there to make anyone rich. They are designed to teach people to defend themselves without the students impoverishing themselves. Frankly, every instructor in the CMAF could charge much more than they do. While there is nothing wrong with a martial artist to make his living by instructing, that is not why we in the CMAF are there.
I do believe that a Christian martial artist will approach the matter of money and tuition differently than those in the traditional arts. Even if they make their living by teaching, they will not charge exorbitant prices. Rather, they enrich their students by the teaching in a spirit of charity.
Should a father fight to protect his family?
III. What is the Impact of Christianity on the Expectation placed on students? II Corinthians 10:12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
The instructors of traditional martial arts have much different expectations on their students than Christian instructors will. The difference goes back to the theology of the art. Because many of the traditional arts are based on ancestor worship, there is a heritage in these arts that extends even to today. This heritage translates into the expectation that each student must measure up to the instructor. “If you do not do it like I do it, you are not doing it right.” This is a subtle kind of idolatry but it is there.
In a Christian martial art, the instructor understands that God has made every person different. God has made some people able to do some things better than others. This means that students may not be able to do things as well as the instructor because of congenital or genetic predispositions. On the other side, some students will develop better techniques than their instructors. This is a Biblical principle. Psalms 119:99 “I have more understanding than all my teachers. . .” The Christian martial artist rejoices when his students become better than he is. This goes back to the last point on humility.
The Christian instructor teaches his students that the standard is not the grand master. Jesus is our God. This translates into the principle that every student should strive to be the best practitioner than he can be for God. This is what Christ expects of us. He does not want us to compare ourselves among ourselves. He wants us to compare ourselves with what God has made us to be. This is the wisdom of the Christian martial artist.
A. Standard of Excellence I Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
So, if the master/instructor is not the standard of excellence, how will people know what to reach for? The answer lies in teaching our students that all things are possible in the will of God. The standard of excellence is God. We need to teach our students to do all that they do, in discipline, self-defense, or service to others for the glory of God. The instructor is a default standard of excellence because “baby” martial artists look to the instructor for all that they know about self-defense. But as the “baby” martial artists mature into experts, they understand things for themselves. At this level, they should also strive to exemplify Christ in their discipline. They need to do the best that they can do for the glory of God.
B. Standard of Service Matthew 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
The Christian martial artist recognizes that he practices for God’s glory and for the service of the saints. So, the Christian artist does his classes, drills, and self disciplines to be better able to serve his fellow man. He treats his class mates with respect and humility in a Christian martial art. In contrast, this is not the guiding principle of the traditional arts. There is a certain cut-throat competition in the traditional arts. Traditional arts encourage this for best results. But there is a different respect for others by followers of Christ. No student is better than any other. We all help each other to become better. We are not threatened by the success of fellow students.
IV. What is the Impact of Christianity on Training in the Martial Arts?
A. Necessity of Prayer
A Christian martial artist recognizes that all that we need comes from the Father above. If we are going to be the best martial artist we can be, we will need the help of God. So, Christian martial artist pray. A Christian Karate school will also pray. Philippians 4:6 “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
You may think that martial arts and religion should be kept separate. King David did not think so. Psalms 144:1 “A Psalm of David. Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:” The Eastern martial arts do not think so.
The Kung Fu, Karate, Kali (etc.) all wrap spirituality and martial arts into one whole. Transcendental meditation is a spiritual practice. The closest counterpart to it in Christianity is prayer. They meditate to be commune with the universe and open up themselves to the power of the universe. Christianity’s practice to commune with God and receive His power is prayer.
The Christian martial artist that is not practicing prayer is not practicing martial arts to his full potential.
B. Necessity of Scripture
If our requests are made known to God by our prayers, the other side of that equation is God’s communication to us. Christian martial artists must hear from God to be wise and have guidance and direction. This communication comes in various ways, but the most important way is through the reading of God’s holy Word.
The warrior that does not know the rules of engagement will work against his commander and fail his general. God’s rules of engagement and guidelines of battle are found in the Bible. The Christian martial artist that does not read and follow the Bible will fail his Captain, Jesus Christ. You may be able to do great karate, but if you do not know when to use it, how, and to what ends, you will inevitably fail in life.
C. Necessity of Spiritual Leadership
The discipline of martial arts is a spiritual discipline. The acts of fighting, defense, and warfare all have questions of right and wrong. If a martial arts instructor does not instruct on when it is right to fight and when it is wrong, he is not fully teaching his students. These questions cannot be divorced from the study of martial arts.
We have all seen this in the movie “Karate Kid.” We see the noble instructor Mr. Miyagi, teaches Daniel-son when to fight and when not to. We also see the Cobra Kai instructor being evil in his wisdom and perverted in his nobility.
The best martial artist in the traditional arts will never be able to know what God’s true will is for his martial arts unless he learns God’s wisdom of the use of it. So, in Christian martial arts, the instructor must point the students to the origin of highest wisdom, Jesus Christ. For an instructor to give the tools of self defense without the wisdom of when and how to use them is careless and dangerous. The instructor must know God’s ways.
The Christian martial artist can give spiritual instruction in three ways: Communication, Example, and Attitude. All three are vital. We must tell our students the truth and wisdom of God. But then we must continue by doing it ourselves. If we do not do what we say, we are become hypocrites, speaking one thing in word and another thing in action. But then we need to have the right attitude. If we say the right thing, and do it, but with the wrong attitude, we will fail to communicate God’s wisdom. Our students will rebel against such hypocrisy.
So, the martial arts instructor must have the spirit of humility, kindness, respect in his words and actions. Otherwise, his wrong attitude will speak louder than the words.
By Pastor Andrew