Northwind Martial Arts LLC is open to students of all faith traditions, and there is no religious requirement to training, but we all have to figure out how to put our own spirituality in harmony with our martial arts, or the martial arts become an obstacle to our well-being instead of a benefit.
A few of the regional masters have blogged about spirituality over the past month or two, and I received an excellent question from the parent of one of my Christian students this past weekend. Putting the two together, I thought that I would throw some of my takes on the tricky issues of life as a Christian and a martial artist.
Since my faith is Christian (Lutheran / medieval ) one, I can only demonstrate how I reconcile my life as a martial artist with my beliefs. Hopefully there is something here for students who share my Christian faith, and some examples of how to I approach it for those with different faith traditions.
How can you be a Christian and DO that?!
Part of Christianity is the idea that God is remaking us into his image, a process that is only going to be completed in heaven. It is easy to forget that God has told us that he is, among other things, a mighty warrior, a judge, leader of armies (God the Father in Exodus 15:3, Jesus in Revelation 19:11). So I think a valid part of trying to be Christlike is to have martial arts ability.
Aren’t Christians supposed to be about peace?
Absolutely! One of the fascinating things about life is that strength brings peace. A strong army keeps our country from invasion and war. In my own personal life I have avoided many fights because I was able to stay calm and assured in my ability to handle myself even when other people were acting in an aggressive manner. This strength and confidence brought peace in my life when there could have been conflict. Psalm 46 is entirely about how God’s strength brings peace to the people he’s protecting, and martial arts is one way I can build my own strength to bring peace to those people who stand with me.
More than that, the Bible repeatedly talks about God training our hands to war (2 Samuel 22:35, Psalm 18:34, and Psalm 144:1). Since we know that God is a warrior, and that strength can bring peace, then helping other people be strong warriors is a way to love others the way God has loved us!
But swords are for killing!
In Haidong Gumdo, swords are a tool to help us improve ourselves. The martial arts are a way we build up our own physical power and self-discipline, and God himself gave us a spirit of power and self-discipline , so these are admirable goals (2 Timothy 1:7).
I have always been amused by what a passage in Luke says that might surprise a lot of modern Christians.
35 And he said to them, i“When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that jthis Scripture must be fulfilled in me: k‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For lwhat is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two mswords.” And he said to them,n“It is enough.”
-Luke 22:35-38 ESV
So, for starters, here is a command from Jesus to buy a sword! Then, it turns out that two of the disciples had been walking around with swords for what I assume was the whole time (probably Simon Peter and Simon the Zealot). Strange that in all the Jesus movies none of the disciples are depicted as having swords, but they did!
Aren’t the martial arts a religion?
They probably are to some people, who put their trust in their martial arts above all things for their mental, spiritual, and physical well-being.
How is that different from any other good thing on earth? Idolatry is taking something God made good and making that good thing into god, which it can’t fulfill. Both rich and poor people alike can worship money, but money isn’t evil. Folks worship goods, sex, fame, power, and even family over and instead of God. I think that the martial arts are the same deal, a great good but a terrible god.
What about meditation?
My take on meditation is as different from the oriental version as oriental and western meditation are different from one another. The meditation that came up from India to Buddhism and Zen culture in the orient is about not thinking. But in the Bible we hear about meditation all the time, and that is always described as thinking about something. So when it is time to meditate, I do it the way the Bible shows.
I figure that the idea in eastern philosophy is to empty one’s self to connect with the universe. Since I’m on a first name basis with the power that made the universe I skip that step and get right to the praying.
Ever since I was twenty-two and the doctors said I could never do martial arts again with my leg, I have begun every training session with the same prayer: “Lord, let me acquit myself with honor in this hour of trial.”
I know that many Christians, in the best of intentions, believe that it is wrong to practice martial arts. This idea is frequently rolled up in a lot of other regulations: Don’t play cards. Don’t dance. Don’t listen to this kind of music, and so forth.
Ultimately, I rest my freedom and joy to practice martial arts in Colossians:
20 If with Christ tyou died to the uelemental spirits of the world, vwhy, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 w“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (xreferring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to yhuman precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in zpromoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are aof no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
-Colossians 2:20-23 ESV