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.
[Podcast version available at the end of this post.]
Sensei Joseph Lumpkin
The Future of Christian Martial Arts
What will become of Christian Martial Arts? What does our future hold?
As I end my 50 th year in martial arts, I look back and see a long and troubling arch. It is the same basic arch the world is following. It is the trajectory of self-serving arrogance and pride.
I have seen men chase rank, paper, and attention. I have seen splits between teachers and students, where a moment of painful self-examination would have melted both hearts. I have seen schisms between groups based on ego and lack of self-awareness. I have seen the inability to admit any wrong and I have seen the lack of will to correct courses that were obviously incorrect. Pride blinds us to the truth, but we, out of all people, should be stronger and more humble than that.
I have seen 30 year olds declare themselves 10 th dans. I have seen immature men form small groups with big names for the purpose of awarding themselves high ranks that no one outside the group thought they deserved. I have seen teachers crave the spotlight to the extent they post pictures and videos daily in silly poses doing silly techniques and performing meaningless kata. Vanity is captured in still-framed silhouettes on hilltops and by the ocean for all the world to see in a daily cry for attention.
What has happened to the warriors who are supposed to train in private and pray in closets? They have been replaced with strutting peacocks and photo ops. They are sounding brass and annoying symbols. They desert the old ways without the wisdom to see the ancient truths. Instead, they make up movement and kata that look flashy. They explain the movements but the form will not work to train, build, or protect. It is a tale “told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.” These things are done to keep the spotlight on them. Yet, as we do all of these things we produce fewer and fewer true, tough, and tested Christian warriors. We produce soft men, made from soft boys because we think it is better for them if we do not demand much for fear it might push them away from class. So we do them the disservice of awarding black belts to those who could never stand up to the world’s assaults. They will melt away under any heat or pressure of the world’s fires. The rest of the world sees all of this and they do not respect us nor wish to join in.
I have seen those who work quietly and continually, and they go unnoticed. They are in our midst and we should celebrate them. I have seen great men keep working through pain and injury just to teach the children. I have seen high ranking, powerful martial artists donate time and wisdom to those who were too poor to pay and too unaware to know the gift they were being given. I have seen God in the eyes of great men who were humble. I have seen that state of grace that lasts only a moment but everyone knew they had witnessed perfection on the mat and in their soul. I have seen the perfect kick, the mighty shout, and unmistakable state of grace when men push passed their natural limits and touch the heart of God. I have seen
men literally die for their beliefs. I have seen, I have known, and I have buried heroes who gave their wealth, status, and finally their life for the cause to which they knew God had called them. These men were warriors who followed the old ways, toughened by their training, their wills sharpened by years of being brought to their limits over and over on the mat, until their bones and their will turned to iron. Their teachers knew the old ways and demanded that their students walk the same path. These students became the next generation of teachers. They knew that it would take strength and determination to make a difference in today’s world, and
they would settle for nothing less.
What will become of Christian Martial Arts depends on what camp you are in. Do you want to be the peacock or the lion? Do you want to be seen with your high rank and strutting techniques or do you want to pay in time, sweat and blood to be rewarded with simple moments of grace?
In Shinsei Hapkido we wear no stripes on our belts. There is no 10th dan. That is reserved for Christ himself. The rest of us are called to pay the price of the refiner’s fire as we burn the dross within us on the mat in hopes of seeing a soul of purity and hardened metal. There is no rank for that. Only time, pain, strength of will, and the ability to change the world. In this world, it takes uncommon strength to live the way Christ has called us to live. Where do you think that strength will come from?
Sensei Joseph Lumpkin
If you would like to share your thoughts with our readers, please email email@example.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
Grace Martial Arts Fellowship Newsletters 2004-5 – Grace Martial Arts
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