Historically or traditionally Christian martial arts

OP
D

Daniel Sullivan

Grandmaster
MT Mentor
Joined
May 27, 2008
Messages
6,472
Reaction score
269
Location
Olney, Maryland
Let me begin by pointing out that I am a Presbyterian (PCUSA) minister. Most people would consider me quite liberal so my theological understanding is radically different than the neo-evangelical tradition that drives the impulse to "Christianize" things like martial arts. Being a pluralist and a progressive myself I'm always very suspicious of dojos that bill themselves as "Christian" dojos. I don't care much for fundamentalism and go to the dojo to train, not to be indoctrinated into fundamentalist pseudo-theology.

For that matter, I'm not real crazy about things like the Christian Yellow Pages and the whole idea that Christians should only patronize "Christian" businesses. I recently went to a new eye doctor. Unbeknownst to me, he is listed in "The Christian Blue Pages." When he found out I'm a minister he asked me if I chose him because he's a Christian. I said, "No, I chose you because you're on my insurance company's preferred providers list."
I view this trend as addressing a market that is largely unaddressed. It does not bother me, but is also does not make me instantly want the product.

Also, I see one distict advantage to billing one's dojo as Christian: they can be as religious as they want, from opening with a prayer to using a Christian symbol in their school patch and they will not have to worry about turning away their non-Christian students, as there will not be any. It does tend to shrink the market, but it also focuses the demographic target.

If it is done in a spirit of, 'we believe that martial arts should have a spiritual element, and ours just happens to be Christian' then I think that that is healthy. If it is used as an evangelization tool, I think that it is a poor tool, as it will tend to turn away the very people that the school is trying to reach.

I also have a problem with martial arts being used as an evalngelization tool because generally, the staff are better in the evangelization department than they are in the martial art department. Also, they generally divorce themselves from the larger community of whatever martial art they are practicing, which can be problematic as one moves to more advanced levels.

Daniel
 

blackxpress

Green Belt
Joined
Jan 27, 2007
Messages
115
Reaction score
12
Location
Carlisle, OH
There are no Daoist or Buddhist underpinnings to karate. No more than there are Catholic underpinings to Western boxing. Even Itosu is on record as saying that karate practice does not derive from Confucianism, Daoism, or Buddhism.


Sorry. I guess "underpinnings" was the wrong term. I wasn't trying to say that Karate derives from Eastern religions. I certainly did not mean to imply that Karate is a "Buddhist" martial art. I do think it safe to say that Eastern thought is far different from Western thought and that each, like any culture, has been heavily influenced by its religious traditions. An Asian martial art (Karate, for example) is more than just a collection of fighting techniques. There is also an underlying philosophy and an ethical code, both of which cannot help but have been influenced by the religious traditions of the culture that produced them. Fair enough?
 

Errant108

Purple Belt
Joined
Feb 18, 2008
Messages
347
Reaction score
26
Actually, not really.

Karate is no different from boxing or wrestling.

It's a set of physical skills designed to enable a person to survive hand-to-hand combat.

Everything else are things that we bring to karate. They are not inherent in it. There is no underlying philosophy in karate that isn't there in boxing.

Eastern thought is not that much different from Western thought. That's also something we bring to the table. The "underlying ethical code" is not inherent in karate either, any more than good sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct is inherent in fencing. We just think they are, because karate is exotic to us. The Confucian structure of karate is found everywhere else in Japanese society, and to a lesser degree, Okinawan society.

It's kind of heartbreaking for many Westerners who attach to ideas of fortune cookie fantasy, but karate, kung fu, all Asian martial arts, are inherently pure physical skills, designed to hurt, maim, and kill. If you divorce them from that, you lie to yourself.

Karate is about breaking people.

What you do with that, however, is purely your own path.

To be a martial artist, you must be a fighter. You may be more than a fighter, but you must at least be a fighter.
 

Xue Sheng

All weight is underside
Joined
Jan 8, 2006
Messages
31,812
Reaction score
6,341
Location
North American Tectonic Plate
A big issue when talking eastern and western views is compartmentalization.

We, in the west, tend to compartmentalize things where in East Asia they do not everything is connected or all part of the same thing, there is Taoism and Buddhism and Confucianism in everything and that does not necessarily equate to anything spiritual. So to say it was would be kind of like saying the Pope breaths air so to breath air one is always being spiritual and Catholic

We see the Tao De Ching discussed as being important to Taijiquan and immediately go to it is a Taoist Martial Art and add to that all the Taoist religious stuff that goes with it and that is simply not true. We see Buddhist practicing Qi Gong and say Qi gong is spiritual and in the case of a monk sitting there doing Qi Gong it might be but in the case of a Chinese Doctor it likely is not and in the case of a martial artist it is not necessarily in anyway spiritual either.
 

blackxpress

Green Belt
Joined
Jan 27, 2007
Messages
115
Reaction score
12
Location
Carlisle, OH
A big issue when talking eastern and western views is compartmentalization.

We, in the west, tend to compartmentalize things where in East Asia they do not everything is connected or all part of the same thing, there is Taoism and Buddhism and Confucianism in everything and that does not necessarily equate to anything spiritual.

Thank you. That's what I was struggling to say in my last post.


To be a martial artist, you must be a fighter. You may be more than a fighter, but you must at least be a fighter.

Agreed.
 
OP
D

Daniel Sullivan

Grandmaster
MT Mentor
Joined
May 27, 2008
Messages
6,472
Reaction score
269
Location
Olney, Maryland
None that I know of, unless some fighting method was developed to defend against lions in Rome?? :)

Honestly, having studied religion and philosophy around the world, I see why some people replace some ideals and develop a "Christian Martial Art."

First, it's easy to add in the spiritual components of training. It can be difficult to really verbalize, but the raw component of fighting for one's survival integrates well with philosophical musings and spirituality. The exploration of combat becomes an exploration of the self. Add to that the idea of detachment (critical in Buddhist thought) and you develop the idea of mu-shin (no-mind). Arriving at this state without thought and you become, in Western terms, "in the zone." These are all parts of advanced martial training.

Second, it's easy to replace Buddhism or Shinto or Taoist thought with ideals from other religious schools. The reason? There are very few religions or world philosophies that truly contradict each other with respect to behavior and thought. The WHY behind things might be different, the terms may be different, but often the WHAT and the HOW are the same. Christians are taught compassion and understanding as an expression of Godly love and following Jesus. Buddhists are taught compassion and understanding as a way to end suffering and embrace their natural Buddha-self and fulfill the bodhisattva ideals. The WHY is indeed different (Jesus versus Bodhisattva), but the WHAT (compassion and understanding) are the same. Traditional Eastern philosophies (Buddhism, Shinto, Zen, Taoism, etc.) all are generally pretty malleable systems that can easily fit in with traditional Western religions. I think that is why you see "Christian Martial Arts" that aren't originally Christian or from the Western Judeo-Christian mindset at all, but rather ports of Eastern religions and philosophies.

Additional points:

One also sees the development of "Christian Martial Arts" as a way to justify practicing an art that has non-Christian philosophies and spirituality to it. Some people find this a problem with their own faith, so if it can be altered to fit Christian ideals, then it is allowed to be practiced. If it can't, it is to be shunned as taking away from Christian pursuits at best, and at worst, it is considered an affront to Christianity.
I would say that the above is fairly accurate.

Second (comical note) - there is no way historically speaking for their to be a Judeo-Christian martial art.
By historically, I mean within the history of the art. If a guy created an art called Christjutsu in 1970 and based every technique on some Bibical passage, then the art is historically a Christian art.

Thus Taekwondo is less than a hundred years old. It had no specifically Christian aspects to its philosophy at its inception. The major organizations make no inclusion of specific Christian values in their tenets. Thus if I start a "Christian TKD association", I am adding something that was not historically part of the art.

Jews throughout history have been the victim of invasions, takeovers, slavery and just generally been treated as the red-headed stepchild of indigenous peoples. At no point in history have the Jews been able to establish themselves as holders of a consistent country (had to have the rest of the Western world help them to get Israel, and we all have seen what happens there!). Thus, any martial art system truly from Judeo-Christian traditions is obviously worthless and ineffective. :)
Methinks that you may not be correct on this assessment. In the ancient world, I believe that Israel existed for a longer peroid of time than the US has been a soveriegn state. And let us be realistic; we needed help from France.:)

I would say that Israel's past loss of sovereignty was more an issue of their foes having much a larger military force. Israel was also usually one of many countries steamrolled by such powers as the Greeks, the Babylonians, the Phonecians, and the Romans. This is a separate dynamic from the effectiveness of a martial art.

Daniel
 

mwd0818

Green Belt
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
174
Reaction score
9
Location
Louisville, KY
By historically, I mean within the history of the art. If a guy created an art called Christjutsu in 1970 and based every technique on some Bibical passage, then the art is historically a Christian art.

Thus Taekwondo is less than a hundred years old. It had no specifically Christian aspects to its philosophy at its inception. The major organizations make no inclusion of specific Christian values in their tenets. Thus if I start a "Christian TKD association", I am adding something that was not historically part of the art.

Makes sense - I was going a little older in "history" and looking at an art that would have developed with or because of Christianity. But yes, you are correct in that most arts taught today are well under 100 years old.


Methinks that you may not be correct on this assessment. In the ancient world, I believe that Israel existed for a longer peroid of time than the US has been a soveriegn state. And let us be realistic; we needed help from France.:)

I would say that Israel's past loss of sovereignty was more an issue of their foes having much a larger military force. Israel was also usually one of many countries steamrolled by such powers as the Greeks, the Babylonians, the Phonecians, and the Romans. This is a separate dynamic from the effectiveness of a martial art.

Daniel

And I'll agree with you there on the most part . . . part of the reason that I made the comment "comical note." Israel has never been very stable and has been conquered, enslaved, divided up, shared, fought over, etc. pretty much its entire history. Does that relate to any martial skill the Israelites may have had? Well, not directly, but I figured if we are talking about a people that have survived for a few thousand years but always seem to get conquered, do you really want to learn their art? :)

And to compare that to the US . . . well, the French helped, but I really think it was a plot by aliens. Why do you think that WE have Area 51?
 

Carol

Crazy like a...
MT Mentor
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Jan 16, 2006
Messages
20,311
Reaction score
540
Location
NH
Shh! You said you weren't gonna say anything about the aliens.
 
Top