MA Marketing Tool: Religion

Nolerama

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This is inspired by a few posts that have come up.

Statement (My opinion, and I welcome opposing parties' comments):

Why mix religion, specifically Christianity, with martial arts? There are fight groups that promote their Christianity. There are definitely schools out there that do the same.

Those groups alienate, and are in the position to recruit new members of their faith with an attractive carrot at the end of their stick: MA training.

I'd like to see what you all say. If you're in one of those groups, please state why you're there, and what your goals as a MAist are.
 

Aiki Lee

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I'm a christian, but my current martial arts school is a commercial non-religious organization. My former martial arts group was at the local YMCA. My karate teacher there was a hardcore catholic, but even the non christians didn't have a problem with him, because he didn't force it down everybody's throat. He said that if people believe what he believes that's good, but if they don't he's not going to make them feel weird by trying to convert them.

If a martial arts group starts off as a particular religious group right off the bat, then I don't see an issue with it. Anyone who wants to join should be part of tht faith or at least open to the idea, because that's part of the reason they are meeting.

I do not approve (as if my approval counted for anything) of a group that starts off secular but then changes later. That would alienate some people and make them feel uncomfortable.
 

Aniela13

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I don't even know what religion, if any, is held by any of my instructors (save one, and that's only because I go to church with friends of his family)...and to a rather large degree I prefer it that way. The way I see it, I'd rather have even the religion that I agree with separated from my training than to be subject to whatever religions those around me who wear black belts support.

Granted, there are schools where every student and instructor believes the same way...at that point I have to resort to a "to each his own" mentality :)

~Ani
 

Jaspthecat

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We don't get this in the UK (at least I don't think so), but from my perspective it's good for Non-Christians to see that not all Christians spend every waking moment with their head in the bible or walking around the town with an A-board reading 'The End is Nigh!'

We're normal people, honest.:ultracool
 

searcher

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I am a pretty hard-core Christian.
I teach at a YMCA.
I do NOT talk about my faith with my students.

If a student asks me my beliefes I am more than happy to talk with them, but I am a firm believer that I can not, will not try to force MT beliefs on another peson. As a matter of fact, The Bible tells us to not force it on anyone. The person has to decide for themselves, it is not up to me. It is between them and God.

I am not sure how Christianity as the faith of a particular school would be any different then that of another religion.
 

seasoned

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I believe everyone needs to live their own life. If you happen to stand out, and someone notices it, then they can ask. If they ask, then, and only then, you can answer up to a certain point. If you begin to make people feel uncomfortable, then back off. There is nothing hard about this, people make it hard for themselves. The DoJo is a platform for the teaching of martial arts, and nothing more. The martial arts, in and of itself, teaches most of the virtues found in church. If you are honest and forthright, people will seek you out, you wont have to knock on door, and push your beliefs down their throats.
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matt.m

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I am a believer, I am also secure in my beliefs. I don't think that unless the name of the school specifically says "Kenpo for Christ" or "Tae Kwon Do for Christ" or "Hapkido for Christ" "Judo for Christ." You get the point then you don't push onto people a belief system. It is just bad news

In MSK it states in the manual "No religious medallions, etc will be worn while in uniform." So unless a school begins as a Christian or Jewish or Muslim, whatever then it should not be in the school at all.
 

IcemanSK

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The TKD organization that I'm a part of is run by Christians. They have programs for schools that are run as Christian MA schools & programs for non-Christian (that is, commercial schools). One can a very big part of our organization & not be a Christian or run a Christian MA program.

My experience as a Christian & being involved in MA for more than 25 years, is that many Christians have a big misunderstanding of what MA is all about. (Yes, still! Even in 2009!) But apart from that, many Christian folks prefer a school where the instructor espouses the principles (& even prayer) of their faith. While their child is learning SD, to know that a fellow Christian is sharing the principles that the parents also share can be a comfort.

For the most part, running a Christian MA school is intended to give Christians a school that is a "safe" place, rather than to exclude non-Christians from joining. I understand that, for many who see a "Christian MA school" from the outside, some may wonder why someone would join one. For Christians, it would be the only way they would be involved in MA. I'd be wary (as a Christian) of an MA school intentionally designed to be exclusive only to Christians, however.

I've spoken to some folks who say, "I'd only learn MA from...an Asian, or an American, or a man, or a woman"...or pick any other reason. And no amount or marketing will change their minds. Christian MA school can have termendous value for those who feel that THAT is important to them.
 

Guardian

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Bad mojo to mix religion with MA/SD Training, bad mojo all the way around, my view only here.

Sure other countries have mixed religion and the MAs such as India, China, Japan and the list may go on, but for some dang reason, the west has always had a problem when you've mixed religion into things, same with mixing politics in the MAs, bad mojo there also.

Again, my view only on this.
 

tellner

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Why do it?

Here are the usual reasons. They are all bad.


  • Marketing your martial art. If you announce your faith loudly you will get your co-religionists to choose your school over the competition.
  • Marketing your religion. Students are inclined to listen to and obey or at least sit respectfully still when the guy in the funny suit talks. This allows you to preach with a somewhat captive audience.
  • You believe that effective practice of your martial art requires a particular religious orientation. Students will not be able to punch and kick correctly unless they believe in exactly the same Invisible Sky Friend as you.
The first whores out your religion to benefit your business. The second takes advantage of your students' good nature to manipulate their private spiritual beliefs in the time-honored fashion of the Amway salesman. The third is either a lie or involves some very esoteric and uncommon practices that are definitely not for beginners or indeed for most.
 

Steve

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Often, I believe it hides dubious credentials or in some cases a nefarious past.
 

Aiki Lee

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Wow, these last three posts seem quite negative.

If you don't want to believe in any religious ideals then that's fine, but there isn't anything wrong with being open about what you believe to th public.

Christian martial arts groups are usually made to attract a following of like minded people, not brainwash unsuspecting members. There is nothing bad about it, it's just a matter of prefrence.

All though there are some out there who act dubiously, the mojority are not like that.

Religion is not something you practice only at a specific place, such behavior would be hypocritical. Spiritual beliefs dictate a person's behavior so it should be evident in all aspects of life.

And refering to God as our "Invisible Sky Friend" is condescending. If you don't believe in God that's fine, but don't talk down to us that do.
 

Omar B

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I think it's a bad idea. As an atheist I don't like being preached to when I've already formed my opinions about that sort of thing. My father's side of the family is Hindu and my mother's side is catholic (hell, I have a priest uncle) so really hearing about something I don't believe in at every turn does turn a bit annoying. Besides, having a class full of impressionable youths willing to listen and please their instructor is just seems like a bad idea when the focus should be on honor, self controle and self esteeme.
 

Steve

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Wow, these last three posts seem quite negative.

If you don't want to believe in any religious ideals then that's fine, but there isn't anything wrong with being open about what you believe to th public.

Christian martial arts groups are usually made to attract a following of like minded people, not brainwash unsuspecting members. There is nothing bad about it, it's just a matter of prefrence.

All though there are some out there who act dubiously, the mojority are not like that.

Religion is not something you practice only at a specific place, such behavior would be hypocritical. Spiritual beliefs dictate a person's behavior so it should be evident in all aspects of life.

And refering to God as our "Invisible Sky Friend" is condescending. If you don't believe in God that's fine, but don't talk down to us that do.
I'm sorry, but that's my opinion. As a class 3 sexual predator has just this weekend been outed, having hidden behind a nickname and a christian martial arts organization, I stand by it.

My opinion is that the two are completely disconnected... who would open a Christian espresso stand? I've never seen nor heard of such a thing, and I'm not surprised. The two have nothing to do with each other. Similarly, martial arts and religion are unrelated. There is no point nor purpose in combining the two. So, when I do see it, I am distrustful. This would be true even were I a practicing xtian, buddhist or whatever.

Hold your religious beliefs, by all means. I have no beef with that. But predators and charlatans use religion as a shield to obfuscate their nefarious intent. I am not distrustful of people who are religious. I am immediately distrustful of people who use religion prominently in situations where it is irrelevant.
 

Kacey

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There are a number of activities that draw people together; religion is one of them. I have no problem with religiously-oriented martial arts, as long as the school operators are open and up-front that they will be including religious instruction with martial arts training.

As far as teaching at a YMCA goes - I noticed a couple of posts that mentioned that the poster or the instructor of a poster was hard-core Christian and teaches at a YMCA - and the two are not necessarily connected; I've been teaching at a YMCA for 9 years, and I'm Jewish. If my students happen to ask questions about Judaism, which is most likely to occur around major Jewish holidays, I answer them - outside of class. Other than that, religion does not enter into any interactions I have with my students.
 

tellner

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An anonymous coward is angry that I'm not "more respectful".

Sorry friend, but that's the unvarnished truth as I see it after over thirty years in this game.

Using your religion to market your martial art is whoring out your religion for money.

Using your status in a martial arts class to preach to the unconverted is a boundary violation and a pretty serious one at that.

People who use their faith to sell merchandise show no respect whatsoever to the Almighty, the Sacred or whatever you want to call it. In return they deserve none from those who respect Faith.

People who use their authority to pressure others into conversion are abusing the trust of their students. They have violated a trust and, as such, do not deserve respect from their peers - that would be me as a martial arts teacher - or from decent folk in general.

The remainder who teach martial arts which actually require practices from specific religions are outside the scope of this discussion. They tend to be hard to find and let the students know what they're getting into up front.

So I am showing these guys exactly as much respect as they deserve, no more, no less. And it's a tad bit more than they are willing to extend either to their G-d or to their students.
 

tellner

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I'll give a couple examples of ethical inclusion of religion in a martial art.

I. It's Right There in the Contract
Several of the old Japanese martial arts have historical connections to esoteric Buddhism. Sometimes this includes things like blood-oaths and the periodic performance of specific ceremonies. If you are accepted they tell you this up front, long before you become an official student in the ryu. The pressure is, if anything, to weed out people who aren't completely serious and willing to do this sort of thing.

I practised one of these for a few months. Things were put right out there on the table. I decided it was not something I was willing to do and left. No hard feelings and Best of British Luck to you. After 500 years they're not about to change what they do or how they do it.

II. Warning: Contains Devotion
Religious organizations often teach things besides strictly devotional activities and doctrine to their members. The local Shingon Buddhist temple has a traditional flower arranging group. The local synagogue does Kosher cooking classes. These activities are connected with a religion. Part of their aim is to develop religious observance and spiritual progress for members of their community as well as the everyday benefits that come from these practices. Anyone who shows up knows that religion might show up here and there. It's kind of assumed if it's a Church activity.

If you are at the local Sikh temple and a guy with a big blue turban is teaching you how to use a sword you can be pretty sure that religion isn't too far away. It kind of goes with the territory. Non-believers may be welcome, but it's not because they're potential converts. It's because the people who are practicing as a religious and cultural duty are kind enough to extend hospitality to outsiders.
 

Stac3y

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I think that some fundamentalist Christians think that martial arts are kind of a "gateway drug" leading to conversion to Eastern religions--I've read several articles lately about parents complaining about yoga being taught in schools for the same reason. When I was growing up in the armpit of the Bible Belt (yes, I know that's a mixed metaphor, but I just don't care), I heard all kinds of scary warnings about how meditation (kung fu, karate, etc., etc.) leads people away from God. So the Christian martial arts schools are catering to people who believe you'll wind up Buddhist or something if you pursue any type of internal/spiritual development other than praying to the Christian god. They have a niche market, I guess.

Personally, I think Christian MA schools are a pretty weird idea--as weird as Christian soccer teams and Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the rest of it. I stay as far away from them as possible, because I get very testy when proselytized to. That being said, to each his own. Although I like the fact that there are people with very different backgrounds and beliefs in my classes, if someone wants to train only with others of the same faith, I don't give a rat's donkey, as long as they are up front about it.
 

Steve

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Here's my big problem. Think of actual martial arts ability and skills as the bullseye on a target. That's the goal. That's what we're all aiming for. When you start adding things to mix, you are adding rings around the bullseye. After school day care, better grades, christian fellowship, improved self discipline, whatever... these are all possible byproducts of training in martial arts (or any other healthy activity). Each of these is an additional ring on the target surrounding the bullseye. Some, like Christian Fellowship, would be WAY out on the outside of the target. Health and fitness might be closer in.

But they often become the target when they are featured prominently as a goal, and they just as often supercede the actual bullseye (practical martial ability). Or, as I said earlier, intentionally obscure a LACK of bullseye. My experience has been that the more prominently a school features the rings, the more likely there is going to be a big, gaping hole where the bullseye should be.
 
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