Religion and Martial Arts

Bob Hubbard

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Aug 4, 2001
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Land of the Free
Actually, Gou was does take all kinds, and while I may personally not agree with the beliefs of alot of folks, hey, if its what strengthens you, and a posative influence on others, more power to ya.

Me, I'll go back to dancin with the trees in my robes. :)

Actually...thinking about it..... a lot of the arts leand themselves to a poetic rendering for both the christian and jewish faith, but not many lend to the others. I've heard of Jew-Jitsu (a friend used to take it, its his joke, no hurt me) :) Karate for Christ...and of course, Taoist Tai Chi....But I've never heard of Wiccan Wing Chung. :)

How many MA organizations are there that are built around a common faith? Does that make their arts "better"? or worse?

I wonder. :confused:
Personally I would say that it takes away from things. IMO, there's no place for religion in Martial Arts, unless you're learning general knowledge of Buddhsim, Taoism, Shugendo, etc for a better understanding of the reasons why the arts were developed.

Well, there's Shorinji Kempo, which I believe is heavily into Buddhism. In fact, 'Shorinji Kempo' is the Japanese translation of 'Shaolin chuan-fa'.

Morihei Ueshiba was heavily influenced by the Shinto Omoto-kyo sect, but I don't believe that belief system was hammered into the students. The Shinto religion figures prominently in many Japanese bugei.

I think there are quite a few Japanese bugei that utilize many Mikkyo Buddhism teachings as well.

But I've realized I'm a bit off of the point. I'm listing styles and systems, but the question was regarding organizations. I'm sure there are many many organizations put together around a common faith. I think whether or not that makes the system 'good or bad' is highly subjective. Not being a particularly religious individual myself, I could take it or leave it. As long as nobody tries to force their belief systems on me, it doesn't really matter. I look at the person, not their faith.

You could worship flying green gorillas from Venus for all I care; if you're a good person, then that's how I'll respond to you. If you're a penile cranium, well...:D As long as you don't try to force your belief system on to me, we're cool. :)

babbling and straying yet again
Makes sence. Part of my thinking was from a Kenpo "ritual" I saw while looking at that art. The start/stop of the forms..."Temple of Karate" .."Mind, Body, Spirit"...seems very christian to me... I know theres alot of Taoist influence in Tai Chi.

Hmm...I need to read more...research project time. :)
I believe Baghua/Pakua is based on the I-Ching. I think Taoist principles run through many Chinese martial arts. Bruce Lee utilized many Taoist principles in his teachings. In fact, many of his quotes are simply Taoist quotes he paraphrased to make them more accessible to the martial artist.

The Kuki family has their martial arts...and also their family diety (of which Ueshiba sensei worshipped...which later helped form Omoto). That's part of the project though. That would make sense to get into that form of shinto as part of the training.

Christian Karate though? At what point did Okinawa-te masters use Christianity in the development of their arts or the basis of understanding of humanity?

If you look at koryu bujutsu, most all that I've come into contact with have very buddhist/shinto/shugendo outlooks within them. Gyokko ryu Kosshijutsu is often referred to as esoteric buddhism with the body.

Religions have been a strong part of martial arts for a long time. That's completely understandable. But taking a religion that has nothing remotely similar to do with the art it's being attached to kinda throws me off. Take "Christian Aikido" (don't laugh, I've seen it). You take something that was based on the blending together of Ueshiba sensei's learnings of Kukishin ryu, Daito ryu and Omoto......but someone thinks they can blend Christianity into the mix?

Do you all think the instruction itself would become a problem? What happens when the subject of Ki is stiffled because of conflicting principles?
Yikes. Getting too hot for me to touch. Since I've already said I'm not a religious person, I think I'll keep my yap shut from now on in this thread. I may pop in just to inject more factual stuff (like my earlier posts regarding the religions found in early Japanese systems), but I think I'll steer clear of the debate :D

practicing his famous Chicken style of avoidance Kung Fu :D
I think its all on how you look at it... ki, chi, tao, spirit, etc, to me, are all the same, just described a lil different. But thats me. The question is, can you take an art (say Chi Kung) and apply Xian concepts to it, achieve similar results, but remove the "heathen" aspects.

I don't think so. I think that if you remove the "spiritual" part from the "spiritual" arts, and replace it with a different "spiritual" component, you have in fact created a new art.

Hope Im clear there..Im a bit tired, brains just not firing right. :)then again, does it ever? :D

I agree with you partly. In bujutsu schools, you have Shin (spirit or "heart") then you have Ki and Hara...all seperate ideas of thought.

From my knowledge of Xtian ideals (someone that is Xtian, please correct me if I'm wrong), most of those concepts would be, as you said, "heathen" ideas.

Now if you were to remove those concepts from Aikido let's say...what's left? A physical representation of what once was.
Thats my point. :)

Some things, once you seperate them, dont seem right.
Well, I knew one person whose father wouldn't let him train with somebody because he believed the meditation done in class was counter to his Christian beliefs. However, you can't really do anything about that. His beliefs must be respected, just like anybody else.

Re: ki/chi/qi/pikachu
Whenever I talk to students about chi (Okinawa-te uses the Chinese 'chi' rather than the Japanese 'ki', since Okinawan culture was heavily influenced by the Chinese before being taken over by Japan), I tell them three possible scenarios:
  1. It doesn't exist.
  2. It does exist.
  3. It's a way of visualization to help coordinate mind and body for the most efficiency in movement and technique.

    I use the third explanation, but tell the students that what they believe is up to them. I think all instructors should do this, to give students a chance to think for themselves and come up with their own ideas on ki/chi.

    Shinto figures heavily in the classical Japanese martial systems. The Katori Shinto-ryu, and Kashima-Shinryu schools have the names of Shinto temples in the names of their systems. The forging of Japanese swords involves Shinto rites, I believe. Shinto is the only indigenous religion in Japan, and it only makes sense that it would figure heavily into their martial arts.

    Furthermore, I believe Togakure ninjutsu is heavily influenced by Mikkyo Buddhism, as well as other Japanese arts. However, I think Shinto influences more Japanese arts, particularly the koryo, than Buddhism.

    I agree with the others here: removing the religious element of some classical martial arts systems changes the essence of the art. For example, trying to infuse Christian/Muslim/Jewish teachings into Shorinji Kempo would be foolish, at best. It would cease to be Shorinji Kempo.

    I think if you are wishing to study a martial art, and find some conflict with your religious beliefs in that art, you'd be better off studying something else. It is unrealistic to try to change a system that may have existed for centuries just to fit your own belief system. If your belief system can't accept ki/chi, then don't take aikido,baghua,hsing-i,tai chi, etc. And don't try to insult the creators of these arts by trying to omit the ki/chi concept just to make the art fit your own belief system. Just study something else.

    for someone who wanted to steer clear of this, I wrote an awful lot, eh? :D
Good post..

Togakure ryu was developed from teachings of Gyokko ryu and Koto ryu...both heavily seated within Buddhism. Mikkyo is a practice of buddhism, not a kind of sect.

Something interesting though...Shugendo seems to be part of it's past to a pretty significant degree..

Anyway..I have a dear friend that studies Goju ryu Karate. He's Jewish of the Orthadox there were many things he looked into before he could honestly take part in training. He finally came to Goju ryu, but cannot bow or the like.

I don't feel that he looses anything in his training. And he trains to a depth that very few I've ever seen.

He's accepted the parts of his training that he will not take part in. I don't fault him for that in any regard.

Now...when Xtian Aikido starts explaining the internal essence that they feel is from Ghod.............. :D
Thanks for the correction on Mikkyo. I didn't know that, and now I do! :)

I think instructors can accomodate different religious beliefs to some extent, akin to letting Christian Scientist children leave the classroom during discussion on evolution and the like.

I don't really see the omission of bowing to be that big a deal, and your friend's instructor must be lauded for finding ways to work with his student's concerns. Your friend must also be commended for doing the research necessary to settle on Goju.

However, I think if you're going to study aikido, you have to deal with the concept of ki as it was put forth originally...not by attempting to force it into some other doctrine. In the case of Christian aikido, it's an offense to both Ueshiba and Christianity.

In general, we all have to be tolerant. However, as Western martial artists studying (for the most part) Asian martial arts, we have to be even more tolerant. I've seen many people who can't work their minds around the 'strange' Asian concepts and practices. Invariably, they do poorly. If you are going to partake in the activity of another culture, then don't try to take the culture out of that activity.

rambling, rambling, rambling
I have heard that James Mitose tried to form a church of Kenpo, he approached Ed Parker who politely told him to get lost. If the style is originally steeped in religion fine, I have no problem with it, but some people should not mix martial arst and religion.
Mod note - Split this thread and relocated to the General forum. It went on a more general trend than the originally cited Website and I thought more people could see the thread from here.


I agree. People easily loose sight of the fact that Japanese martial arts were developed in Japan by Japanese for Japanese based on Japanese customs, thoughts and the way of life.

We need to be the ones to conform...not the other way around. (All Shotokan analogies are being held in) :)
FMA have a strong Christian belief system to their arts, as do many silat systems. Interesting influence from Spannish occupation. they have also maintained some of their ancient customs and managed to combine the two. Evidence of this is often found, as with many arts, in the salute and ritual preperations for battle. Muay Thai, for many, has a heavy spiritual component to it. Many calling upon spirits from graveyards for power before a match. an almost
Don't some FMA have Muslim beliefs, or at least come from Muslim Filipinos (Moros?)? How prevalent are these arts in the U.S.?


I think there is a diferance between religion and philosophy. Personaly I think that all martial art should have a philosophy, it is irresponceable to teach some one to fight and kill but not teach them a philosophy to understand when they must fight. Is Ki/Chi a philosophy? Probably. A religion? I doubt it. Bowing before you enter the dojo? Again probably a philosophy. Now I am not saying that a religion is a bad thing in a dojo it is just not my thing. Persoanly I woudl not train in a dojo who advertised themselves as a christian/muslim/shinto/buddist/catholic/etc. based martial art. I am not a religious person and have no desire to be, but I enjoy philosophy in martial arts and think that any art will benifit from a phlisophical edge.

Despair Bear

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