Grace Martial Arts Fellowship began in 1990, went online with a website in 1995 and began publishing newsletters to the Christian martial arts community in 1998.
Because of the quality of information found in those early newsletter articles and the fact they are no longer available online, we’ve decided to re-publish many of them in the coming weeks and months. Our hope is that a new generation of Christian martial artists will be blessed by the wisdom of those who were on the path before them.
Welcome to the GMAF Newsletter! We pray it will encourage you in your Martial Arts and Outreach for Christ.
THOUGHTS FROM THE MASTER
“Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”
The Apostle Paul
“Praise ye the Lord: for it is good to sing praises unto our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is comely.”
WHAT’S CHRISTIAN ABOUT CHRISTIAN MARTIAL ARTS?
Last month we asked the question “What’s Christian About Christian Martial Arts. ” Here are some of the answers we received.
“What would make a Christian martial art is the goals, intentions and actions of the people involved. Learning to fight is not inherantly sinful, your motivation to do so could be. Learning martial arts from the point of self defense, exercise, or just ’cause you think it’s an interesting hobby is perfectly OK. Learning them so you can be a ‘tough guy’ or to serve your own ego can be a problem. If combative training was sinful then no Christian could be a police officer, corrections officer, or soldier. As with all things not directly addressed in scripture, the intention of the believer’s heart would determine if an activity was offensive before God.”
“As an instructor and participant in the arts since I was six (well, maybe not instructing since then), I have some very definite views on the Christian in the Martial Arts. First and foremost, there is a very large difference in defending you or your family’s life, and turning the other cheek. Almost every time I discuss this topic in depth with a non Martial Artist, the conversation will turn to the believers need to be ‘non-argumentative’ or combative. The subject of witness is always brought up as well. The inference, of course, is that the Christian Martial Artist is somehow compromising his or her witness by participating in an activity that is contrary to Scriptural doctrines and teaching. I can only surmise that this goes back to the common understanding of the attitude of meekness, and wether or not training in a combative art is or is not in opposition to this. Most people, Christians included, think that being meek is synonymous with being timid or’whimpy’. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Greek word that is used for the word ‘timid’ is the same one that is used for the breaking of a wild stallion to the bit! What a great word picture! The Christian, new in Christ, is like an animal which (to us) has enormous power, and is brought under a master’s control. It does not in any way change the fact that it has tremendous power. We, as christians are precisely like the horse, full of the power of God, but brought under His control and guidance. Whimp, indeed! God gave us a spirit of power, a sound mind, and bodies that are His dwelling place. In no way does training to protect that temple in a way that is glorifying to Him, compromise a Christians testimony. Sorry for preaching, but that is what I do for a living, and I get carried away on this topic. Don’t even get me started on the dicipleship opportunities afforded a Christian instuctor by a student’s long term traning in the Arts. Anyway, if I rambled, I am sorry. I have so much to say, and so little space to get it out. Hope I made some sense :)”
“Actually it was Hinduism, Judaism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Daoism, Christianity, Islam. If you learn your discipline correctly, you will discover that the question is the other way around. The discipline of the arts will strengthen you faith in God.”
“Just another thought to answer the question of how does Christianity mix with a violent fighting art? Answer: The arts are not violent, period. It’s Hollywood and the Media that show violence and even glorify it, and many are deceived into thinking thats what the arts and/or guns are all about.”
Defending Like Christ
One of the more popular movements among Christians today is “What Would Jesus Do?” (WWJD) Would Jesus defend an innocent person who was attacked by someone who meant them great harm? How would he respond to someone who attacked Him? What would Jesus do in the face of injustice? How would He deal with an enemy who meant harm to members of His family? We don’t have to go far to find the answer.
“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him…And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war…And the armies which were in heaven folowed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God…And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army…And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wought miracles before him…These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.”
Jesus Christ is a Warrior of the Highest Order and Greatest Skill. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, taught hundreds of thousands of Israelites across the centuries how to wage war against the enemies of God. Reading the exploits of David’s Mighty Men in 1 Chronicles reminds us of the outstanding skills of their Martial Instructor. One of them killed 300 enemy soldiers at one time armed with only a spear. Now that’s a martial arts warrior! In the future, Christ will fight Earth’s final battles with the Sword of His Mouth (The Word of God). He will kill hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of heavily armed soldiers with His Sword.
Jesus is also the One Who told those who would follow Him:
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God…Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 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…Ye have heard that it hath ben said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
Jesus also used physical force to drive out all who were buying and selling in the Temple. He overturned the money changers’ tables and the benches of the people selling doves. “And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” Jesus defends and protects what is His.
Jesus had the power and skill to destroy every soldier who came to arrest Him. What did He do? He went with them like a Lamb to slaughter. Why? Because it was His Will. He came to Earth to die in our place. Christ took upon Himself the sins of the world and shed His blood for our forgiveness and righteousness. He gave Himself over to the soldiers for our benefit.
What do we learn from Christ’s Life about what He would do about using physical violence to defend and protect the innocent? We learn there is a time and place for fighting and for making peace. There is a time for defending and a time for sacrificing. Jesus Christ has the Power to create and destroy. He is the Lord and the Savior. He is the Master and the Servant. He is the Warrior and the Sacrificer. He always does the Right thing in any situation. We learn to do the same as we cooperate with His desire to live His life in and through us.
How do we decide how to react to the variety of challenges we’ll face as Christian martial artists? Watch for some ideas next month. Please send us your ideas and we’ll include them in the next GMAF newsletter.
Martial Arts Has Hidden Meaning?
We came across this article recently on a web site. I’ll reprint a portion of the article, GMAF’s e-mail response to the site’s webmaster and then responses from other Christian martial artists from an on-line discussion group.
“The martial arts aren’t just physical exercise, they’re Zen Buddhist meditation techniques, warns a minister who was involved with them for 20 years. …Ed Hird practiced karate, sometimes three times a week, and was so enthusiastic that he recruited other Christians to join him, he said in an article in Anglicans for Renewal Magazine. He is rector of St. Simon’s Anglican Church in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and chairman of Anglican Renewal Ministries of Canada. …But he thought twice when his sons wanted to take taekwondo, a martial art similar to karate, as part of their Christian school gym class last spring. He began to research the history of taekwondo to discern its purposes, and agreed to present his findings to the principal and the school board. …He read “dozens of pro-martial arts books,” and for several weeks asked questions of a number of taekwondo and martial arts experts from North America and other parts of the world on Internet chat forums, he told Religion Today. …What Hird found surprised the 45-year-old, who had been involved in martial arts from 1971 to 1992, and had dabbled with hypnosis and astral projection before becoming a Christian in 1972, he said. The research led him to believe that taekwondo and other martial arts are “far more than just physical gym exercises,” but actually are seemingly innocuous doorways into non-Christian religions. …Taekwondo and martial arts are ‘Zen Buddhist meditational techniques designed to bring a person into the experience of satori, or Buddhist enlightenment,’ Hird said. They can be traced to Bodhidharma, a 6th century Buddhist monk who taught his disciples sitting meditation and moving meditation, or the martial arts, to obtain spiritual enlightenment, he found in his research. …The sitting meditation commonly done in taekwondo and most martial arts is an essential part of the training, done before and after class to clear the mind of all thought and relax completely, according to the book Official WTF Taekwondo, Hird said. …Synchronized breathing is a key to both Buddhist and Hindu meditation, he said. “In contrast, biblical meditation is meditating on God’s written Word the Bible, rather than meditating on the empty mind” by using breathing and visualization techniques. …The ritualistic patterns of motion in the martial arts also concern Hird, he said. Many of the patterns are “rooted in semimystical Taoist philosophy and their deeper meaning is said to be far more important than the mere performance of a gymnastics series of exercises,” Hird said, quoting taekwondo author and instructor Eddie Ferrie. …Westerners can be naïve about the “very subtle” influences of martial arts, and lack the experience to notice their “hidden religious nature,” Hird said. But there are some obvious clues, he said, including the Ying-Yang symbol that appears on “even many innocuous-looking taekwondo websites and brochures.” …Some Christians practice the martial arts for exercise, or even as a way of evangelizing, but don’t really know what they are getting into, Hird said. “If it works they don’t ask questions about what it
means.” …Eastern religious techniques often are portrayed as neutral so anyone from any religion can use them, “but in fact there is a lot more than meets the eye,” he said. Christians “sometimes are seduced,” he said. …Practitioners can try to ignore the spiritual dimension of the martial arts, but spirituality is their ultimate purpose historically, Hird said. He noted that The Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs considers the martial arts as “forms of spiritual education that function as means toward self- realization or self-enlightenment.” …Martial arts are “a Trojan Horse in the house of the Lord, eroding the spiritual barriers between Zen Buddhism and the Christian Gospel, and potentially leading vulnerable children and teens into the early stages of Eastern occultism,” Hird said. …As a result of Hird’s research, “our Christian school board decided to no longer offer taekwondo or other martial arts,” he said.
“I read your article about martial arts with interest. I understand the Rector’s concern. I once struggled with the same concerns. That’s one of the reasons I now believe strongly in Christian involvement in martial arts. If Christians pull out of everything that has any history with non-Christian values or emphasis, we’re out of everything. Satan has infiltrated this world; every inch of it. Satan uses music, movies, television, radio, newspapers, magazines and the internet, among many other forms of communication, to impact the beliefs of non-Christians. Do we pull out of all forms of personal and mass communication because some of it has been used to promote ungodliness? Of course not. Our battleground is in the heavens and on the earth. We battle spiritually while in our bodies on this planet. We fight against Satan through earthly situations and devices. A television set does nothing until someone programs and transmits a signal to it and someone else turns on the set and watches the program. Television, radio and other communication devices are not evil. They are boxes with wires and electronic pieces that send and receive sound and pictures. The same is true with martial arts. It is not evil in itself. A punch is a technique of the hand forming a fist and moving toward a target at increasing velocity until impact. If the person punching intends the punch for good, it is good. If he intends it for evil, it is evil. The punch has no religious significance whatsoever. It is a rapid movement of the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, back, chest, hips and legs. Intent adds purpose to the movement.
Christian martial arts instructors have a wonderful opportunity to share Spiritual Truth with students, Christian and non-Christian. Rather than pulling out, we need to be jumping in with all the strength God gives us. We are the counter-measure to what Satan has done to the martial arts.”
Discussion Group Responses
“Sorry to be a little forward, but that article was just inane! It completely misses the ENTIRE point of the Christian Arts. The whole concept is to take all of the negative aspects that have previously been FORCED into the various defense systems, and then claim them for Christ, changing false philosophies into solid Truth. I am sure that Mr. Hird is a good and well meaning man, but it is beyond my imagination that anyone involved in the Arts as a Christian for twenty years could ever believe as he does. If the school was teaching eastern meditational practices, that is the individual instructor’s fault. He should not be teaching in a Christian institution. To then extrapolate that one case to infer that all MAs are “trojan horses” into our faith is absurd. In writing my dissertation on the very subject of the MA’s history, and its use as a ministry tool, I can(after exhaustive research) assure you that the Arts and Meditational practices were not origionaly(nor ever were for that matter) one in the same. They were never made with each other in mind, and can be easily seperated. They mearly ‘grew up in the same neck of the woods’. Of course the eastern religious influences are found in the Arts-they were for centuries, almost exclusively practiced by people who believed in both! This can be, and is, the case with almost anything that is created. If I, and my Christian circle of friends were to create a completely new system of our own, devoid of any religious overtones, and practice amongst ourselves, it would obviously eventually take on our personal ideas and concepts. It is only natural. Does this make the Art and the religion inseperable? Of course not. Could someone take the exact set of moves, and put an entirely new philisophical ideology to it? Yes. This point is almost never advanced by Christians, and is vital. We want to believe so badly that MAs are no good. I am just about on a personal quest to rectify this incorrect, and illogical thinking. So there, there are my two (or is it twenty?) cents worth. “
“This can be a long subject, so I’ll just hit the high points. This is based on Japanese traditions because I know far more about them than Chinese. Buddhist influences exist in Japanese arts simply because Buddhism is a large part of Japanese culture. Buddhist philosophy was appealing to the Samurai because of the way it approaches living life to the fullest, and it’s simple ‘just do it’ attitude. To a warrior who could face death at any time, it was a very attractive philosophy. As warriors taught the younger generations, this philosophy went along with the skills of war. When American servicemen began learning the arts after WW II, they went along with the Buddhist ideals for no other reason than it was taught to them along with martial arts. They didn’t know any better. Another reason it stuck around with the arts when they became transformed to the modern Budo forms is that some concepts are eaiser to explain to someone native to Japan or Okinawa because it uses commonly understood ideas. One quick example is the concept of ‘Mushin’ or no-mind. Part of this concept deals with acting independent of conscious thought. Supposedly, if you pratice meditation and work hard you can develop the ability to react to an assault seperately from your conscious mind. Sounds real mystical huh? Except most people do this every day repeatedly. It’s called muscle memory. Drive a car? When was the last time you had to think ‘Pull my right foot up, move the foot over six inches to the left, then press down evenly on the brake pedal.’ No? You ‘just do it’. You have performed the action so many times the proceedure is hard wired to your body. You didn’t have to spend years meditating and and performing sensitivity exercises. The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, absolutely hated using any Buddhist references in teaching Aikido (he was a devout Shinto). But he understood that using Buddhist terms was a good way to get the point across to students in his culture. Now we have the fields of physiology and sports medicine to accurately explain how and why the body does things in certain ways. Using Buddhist explanations isn’t necessary in our country. But it remains because most martial artists don’t really know any better. Part of Christian martial arts should be finding and explaining this to people. Not in a confrontational way, but in a manner of education. “
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