The Future Of Christian Martial Arts (Part 6)

On Guard

We are pleased to bring you the next response to the question “What is the future of Christian Martial Arts?” that we posed to many instructors. The responses are published in the order of when we received them.


Shihan James Tenney

Founder Musuko Shirudo Kenpo Jitsu

The Future of Christian Martial Arts 

Shortly after I had joined a Christian Martial Art Organization called the Ambassador Martial Arts I bought a book called ‘The art of the Seja’ that was written by Kyoshi Kirk Steward.  He was a board member and I was probably in only my second or third year with the group, so it would have been about 2009.  In the inside cover Kyoshi Steward wrote that I was the future of Christian Martial Arts.  That has been over a decade ago.  I would not say I am the future of Christian Martial Arts, but I would say I am its present.  I would say my Students and the Sensei under me are the future.  

I own a small dojo in a tiny town in Northeast Iowa.  I held my first class in Iowa at the Fayette Community Church in 2006.  Day one I had two students.  I borrowed or rented different spaces from community centers to Rec Rooms at the local University.  In 2014 I bought a building to teach from and then I tried from March of 2017 until March of 2020 to run it full time.  Covid shut me down.  Covid shut down a lot of martial art schools, and many will not re-open.  With half of our income coming from the dojo I had to look for other employment.  I was hired as a Deputy Sheriff in our county.  Because my shifts and schedules are so different the main teaching in my dojo has shifted to the Sensei I have trained.  My dojo weathered the storm for a year and reopened.  We were able to because our mission was to Equip, Encourage, and Empower others.  The bottom line was not the bottom line.  Investing in others in this hard time, and letting our light shine in the dojo is our bottom line.  

Christian Martial Artist have something secular martial artists do not.  The Hope and mission of Christ.  It is for that reason we will not be extinguished.  We will teach the students God brings to our path.  We will teach in Churches, Community Centers, Garages, and Back Yards.  Because we know a fancy building, modern tools, and custom uniforms are only trimmings.  We are the only tool needed.  We can teach as long as we have breath.  We are just as valuable as the high paid commercial dojo instructors, yet we know we MUST pass on what we know.  Students’ ability to pay is nice, and the worker worth the wage, yet we will teach anyway.  

While running the dojo full time, and in my ministries at church I prayed a prayer constantly.  Lord send them in, or send me out.  My father is not a martial artist, but a Pastor.  He once preached that the great commission’s ‘Therefore Go’ meant that as we walk our life we are to minister where we are.  I feel Christian Martial artists do just that.  It is not about the building, or setting, but the equipping of others.  This is why we will continue on.  We do not teach for our benefit, or prestige, but for our students.  

I believe because of the current state of the world after the Covid-19 Pandemic we will see a huge divide in the martial arts community.  Commercial large schools will grow bigger,  and the water downed martial arts they usually teach will be the most widespread form of martial arts available. The middle sized schools have been struggling to survive and may have to close their doors.  And then there will be us smaller Schools run by Godly people, with great martial arts, equipping true warriors, strong of body and Spirit.  That is what we will pass on.  That is the future of Christian martial arts.  It will be a form of Discipleship as God intended and as traditional schools operated originally.  

I pray my fellow Christian Instructors pray my prayer.  Lord send them in, or send me out. 

If I were to leave teachings for the future, my catch phrases, and some of my guiding thoughts could include. 

‘Respect all men, But fear no man’ — Shihan Tenney  

(That is a teaching in how we need to treat others, but also that we need to only fear God.)

‘Train as if every man is your enemy, but live as if every man is your brother’ – Taught to me by Shihan Jim Roman, but a quote from Professor ‘Vee.’  (Imagine what your training looks like if you trained to be able to survive an attack from innumerable enemies, at anytime.)  Also what would it look like if you honestly treated every person as if they are your own family.  As a Deputy Sheriff this philosophy is lived out every day.

‘If your tea cup is full, you cannot put anything more into it’ – Taught to me by Kenneth Smith. 

(This was a lesson taught to me, but also used by me with new students all the time.  When you have students who think they already know it all, or compare your teaching to something they ‘think’ they know.  Or try to ask to learn something from TV.)

‘If the item taught doesn’t fit you, put that item on the shelf.  You may find you need it later, or that you simply didn’t understand its purpose yet’ – Taught to me by Kenneth Smith.  (I found that I did not always understand the purpose of the basic item taught and so I would not train as hard in it.  Then as a 3rd plus Dan Black belt I found the truth of what was being taught.)

‘Hold on guys the Bus is going somewhere’  — Shihan Tenney. (Students cannot always see why we have to learn what we do.  So sometimes I demonstrate some Black belt level throws, locks or the like but not explain how.  Yet I will explain that it takes all the basics we learn, and all the practice we do to get to that level. )

‘Failure to breathe in class is bad.  Failure to breathe outside of class is also bad’ – Shihan James Tenney.  (This one is a funny way to show the seriousness of breathing.)

‘I teach whoever God sends me, It doesn’t matter if it is One person or 100.  I just have to be willing to teach who he sends.’ — Shihan Tenney.

In conclusion our belt colors hold our belt creed.  Purity, Honor, Respect, Courage, Loyalty, Patience, Humility, Discipline, and Love.  I could break them down and define these traits, But the heart of these takes longer than we have here.  These are traits of the Warrior Servant.  These are the characteristics we need to strive for.  These characteristics will help us show the world the character of Jesus Christ.  

Shihan James Tenney 

Warrior Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Founder Musuko Shirudo Kenpo Jitsu


Your Part

If you would like to share your thoughts with our readers, please email gracemartialarts1@gmail.com. You can write a few sentences or several paragraphs .. however God leads you. We also invite you to include one or two photos of yourself and your students (or teachers if you are a student) with your email.

Thank you for your interest in Christian Martial Arts!

Sensei Mark McGee


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