Religion and Martial Arts

Nightingale

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Recently, I've seen a lot of "Karate for Christ" and "Christian Martial Arts Federation" and things like that...

What do you think?

Is it appropriate to mix religion and martial arts?


In my opinion, its fine... as long as you tell people up front that your program includes religious elements, so your students know exactly what they're getting in to.

A program at your church is fine, or a studio with "Christian Karate Federation" on the window, or some other obvious religious reference, or a pamphlet handed out stating how you integrate the two... something that makes it very clear.

what I have an issue with is the instructors that run "after school programs" who, keep the first lesson secular so the parents can watch, and then start preaching at lesson #2, when the parents feel its ok to just drop the kids off. Or, the instructor who keeps it secular during the three private lessons, gets your money for a year's contract, and then when you join the group classes, its obvious that he's using it as an outlet to evangelize. In my opinion, this is deceitful.

what do you all think? Have any of you seen any strong, positive church-based martial arts programs? Has anyone come across the rather underhanded ones? What's been your experience?

also... I know this can be kind of a touchy issue, so please keep it polite, respectful, and non-personal.
 
F

fist of fury

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I agree that if you're going to be teaching religion with your martial art that should be stated up front. Personally I would find it a waste of money if the instructor was going to use the class to try and convert me to whatever religion he was a follower of. I personally haven't seen any church based MA programs myself.
 

Cthulhu

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Personally, I don't mind what anyone does with religion as long as they don't try to force their beliefs upon me.

Cthulhu
 

DAC..florida

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We actually teach martial arts at our church, we also have a small dojo that is not related to our church there is no religion or politics inolved at this dojo, all of the students are aware that we also have another at our church and that they are more than welcome to attend classes at either location.

I agree that you shouldnt force religion down anyone's throat, everyone has thier own point of veiws and that is thier right.
If a instructor wanted to start a martial arts school and include religion in the teaching they should advertize that.

:asian:
 
M

MartialArtsGuy

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I'm with Cthulha and fist of fury.

I also think diverting the focus of the training from martial arts to religion can be harmfull to the quality of the training. If you have to defend yourself, chances are that the skill-building physical training will develope your martial arts attributes more than religion discussion will. I belive everything has a time and a place. Church is not the time for martial arts, and the dojo is not the place for religious related topics.

Although I do feel some discussion of ethics is fine in the dojo because it can help people stay out of trouble in the first place.

This is all my humble opinion of course.

:asian:
 

Bob Hubbard

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I've had 2 instructors who are deeply christian. In both cases there were enough comments made that let you know it, but in neither case did I feel it crossed the line into 'preachin'. I think that many traditional arts have a spiritual side to them, and an understanding of that may allow for a deeper understanding of things.

But, I think everything needs to be upfront. Somethings are obvious as in "Karate for Christ" or similar. Its the 'wait til I got their money and no ones looking' group that IMHO is both decitful and violates their own religious guidelines. But then again, God never said "Build a Waterslide" either. :)

I'm not decided on how 'Chick tracts" by the class schedule and newsletter qualifies.


:asian:
 

Ender

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As I posted earlier, our pastor is an 8th Dan San Soo Kung Fu teacher. he was asked how he can justify martial arts and being as pastor: he answered "if you are out with your wife and kids and are attacked, would you just stand there and say "Hallejueah"?..no, you take a 2x4..and bless him with it!"....*l

the point is everything has it's place.
 

Old Fat Kenpoka

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I am Jewish. I don't mind taking instruction from someone with strong religious beliefs. I don't mind if some un-Kosher Zen philosophy and meditation is thrown in.

However, in accordance with the requirements of my religion, I will not recite any pledge promising fealty to any other deity or religious institution. I will not bow to any picture, statue, or image of any deity or martial artist.

More importantly. I would not be comfortable signing my kids up to study with someone who included religion as part of the curriculum if that religion was not my own.

The area I live in (Silicon Valley -- San Francisco peninsula/San Jose, CA) is very diverse with large Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh populations. I am sure that many of these people feel the same. As a matter of fact, I'll ask some of them next time I find myself in a place with all of these religions and no Christians -- like Tower Records on Christmas morning.
 

Cruentus

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My opinion matches Nightingales pretty well. Martial Arts "Clubs" and "groups" are private clubs, and although I think everyone could benifit from Martial Arts, not every club is for everyone. If one private club promotes "Christian Karate," then I see nothing wrong with it.

I do have a problem with people who use deciet to promote their religion. People who say they embrace all religions, when it is clear that they do not.

My experience with some of the Indonesian MA schools in my area fits the above description. The instructors claim to uphold "indigionous religious beliefs," But they claim to embrace all forms of religion. When you start to train with them, though, you find that they progressively push you more and more to do things that may be completely contrasting to your religious beliefs. You eventually find, after some serious $$ have been paid for your training, that you "can go no further" unless you start adopting some of their religious beliefs and behaviors. Understand, that these are flakey "New Age" interpretations of indiginous beliefs, in my opinion. Some of these students who have bought into this B.S. look up to the head instructor as if he is a diety of some kind. Scary thought.

My point is, though, that I disagree with their behavior in that religion is downplayed to the new student as not playing a significant part of the training, when nothing could be further from the truth.

PAUL

P.S. I have not been decieved into training with this group personally, but I almost was. I was smart enough to do a lot of digging before getting involved, as I suggest that everyone does when contemplating learning a different MA at a different school.
:cool:
 

DAC..florida

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I feel that you can keep the religion seperate from the training and unless your advertizing religion you should!
 
A

Andi

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Yep, I agree. Any instructor who feels the need to get people in under the pretext of MA and then tries to jam a religion down the students throats is clearly misrepresenting his art and his religion. I think you'd struggle to find people who would advocate this position.

And I don't have any problems at all with the "Karate for Christ" type clubs- far from it in fact- I'm a christian myself and would love to help people interested in Christianity. I just wonder how effective these clubs are.

I just can't see how you'd get high quality MA teaching and high quality preaching-teaching to gel in the same class without losing focus on one or the other aspects. If the God stuff gets neglected-that's OK, I can still go to church and do all the other things I would be doing anyway, but if the MA suffers, well, what am I paying my money for? But hey, if it works then great!

It's something I'd quite like to have a look at really, just to see what it's like and if it works! Not that there's any clubs like that round here.
 

Old Fat Kenpoka

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So what does everyone think of pledges that exhalt a diety such as Jesus or Buddha? What does everyone think of bowing to a picture of the style's founder? Both of these are required in many schools. I am uncomfortable with either.
 

DAC..florida

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If the pledge advertizes the religion! whatever?

I will never bow to a picture of anyone!
:asian:
 

Bob Hubbard

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Originally posted by Old Fat Kenpoka
So what does everyone think of pledges that exhalt a diety such as Jesus or Buddha? What does everyone think of bowing to a picture of the style's founder? Both of these are required in many schools. I am uncomfortable with either.

I've been known to reword things to fit my own acceptable use policy. I can of course mention the rewriting that was done to the 'Pledge' in the 50's, but thats been discussed elsewhere.
 

Ender

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I have seen several church-type MA clubs that teach for a fee, then donate the proceeds to hunger prevention, etc. I don't have a problem with that.
 

Cruentus

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Originally posted by Old Fat Kenpoka
So what does everyone think of pledges that exhalt a diety such as Jesus or Buddha? What does everyone think of bowing to a picture of the style's founder? Both of these are required in many schools. I am uncomfortable with either.

I have never heard of a school with a pledge that exhalts a specific diety. The closest thing to a pledge that I have seen is "The pledge of alliegence" was said at my old TKD school after every class. We do have the phrase "One Nation under God" in our pledge of alliegence, but "God" isn't really as specific as "Jesus" or "Buddha," and could be embraced by any/all religions. I do remember that for some reason "The Pledge" conflicted with the beliefs of one of the students. I don't remember what the conflict was exactly; I was very young at the time. The student was A. smart enough to sit in through an entire class before joining the club, so he found the "conflict" before joining, and B. he asked the head instructor in private if he could somehow avoid saying the pledge in class. The head instructor just advised him to just stand in the TKD "attention" position, but that he didn't have to put his hand on his heart and say the pledge if he didn't want to. So, he just stood at attention silently during the pledge.

At the same TKD school some of the most senior members were very christian, more-so on the fundamentalist side. Our head instructor had earned the title "master" so he had been using it. They objected because they believed that they only had "1 master" which is God. So, he said "fine, just call me Mr." This caught on and soon everyone was calling him Mr. instead of master. He didn't mind at all, and now even today, on his business cards he uses "Mr." instead of "Master."

Now, I know some highly structured and traditional styles do a considerable amount of bowing to the head instructor, and to pictures of the founder. When I used to do Aikido, we had a very ritualistic method of bowing in before and after class which included bowing to the picture of the founder, the sensei, and a kneeling meditation. I could see this conflicting with religious beliefs.

My opinions as to the best solution: I feel that the best solution, especially for you Old Fat Kempoka, is if you run into a school that does something that might conflict with your beliefs, just ask the head instructor in private if you can elect to not participate during that portion of the class. I think that a good instructor with an open mind will respect your beliefs and allow you to stand quietly, or step off the floor during the portion that conflicts with your beliefs. If the head instructor won't let you do this, then perhaps that is not the right school for you.

I do, however, believe that some things should be kept up if that is the tradition of that "culture" or "art." I feel that people can often be way too uptight, and there has been too much of a drive in the last 10 yrs or so to secularize EVERYTHING. I feel that this is unfair. I remember when saying the pledge in school was hotly debated because of the "under God" part. I remember when "holiday policies" became in full effect in school districts where Kids could get sent home for wearing a Santa Claus shirt, or saying "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hannaka" to their fellow students; they were specifically instructed to say "happy holidays" just in case some bystander who wasn't of whatever religion was mentioned might get offended. Yeah...like if I say Jesus or Buddha or Yahway someones ears might bleed.:rolleyes:
I think that this is crap. "The Pledge" is part of our identity as a country. Their religion can be part of a persons identity also. I agree that intolerence is a problem, and some things are inappropriate. I think that if I was a teacher in a school, and I splattered Bible verses and Jesus quotes all over the walls in my classroom, this might be inappropriate. I am an authority figure who now might be ramming my beliefs down kids throats. However, a teacher or another student should be able to keep their identity.

I believe that intolerance is a problem, but the solution is not to be intolerant of EVERY religion. I think that the drive to make everything so politically correct, and to secularize everything does exactly that.

Now, to apply the example to a martial arts school, I think they should be able to keep the traditions of their art. In Modern Arnis we are fairly untraditional, but we do have a specific "salutation." In Bando, or salutations go a bit deeper, including a meditation or "moment of silence". Some schools traditionally begin classes with bowing, quick meditation, etc. Some schools traditionally call their teachers "masters." I don't think that this is wrong. I think that heritage, tradition, and culture should be upheld even in martial arts. I do feel though, that the instructors should be "tolerant" of other beliefs, and that they should understand if someone doesn't want to partake in certain aspects of the tradition. And, I think that the person who has conflicting beliefs should also be "tolerant" of the traditions that are being upheld in that school, and that they should be able to politely ask to not participate in those traditions.

These our my opinions...

:soapbox: Thank You...thank you very much... (as I decend from my soap box. :p )

PAUL

P.S. I am a Catholic Christian. I believe in the Catholic interpretation of "diety", however I love the study of religion/philosophy of cultures outside of my own. I particularly like the indiginious way of thought. I don't feel that it conflicts with my beliefs to bow in class, or call someone by the title master. To me, it's the intent behind the actions/words, not just the actions/words. I know, as does everyone else, that if I bow to a picture I am not intending to dietize that person in the picture. I am just showing respect. This is just how I handle it.

However, I can understand and respect if someone else doesn't feel the same as I do, and wouldn't feel comfortable with certain actions/words. :asian:
 

Old Fat Kenpoka

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Here is a "Kajukenbo Prayer" recited at the end of every class at a local Kajukenbo school. When I saw this on their website, I had to take them off my short-list of schools to visit. I am OK with everything until the last sentence.

"Dear Lord we pray thee. Keep us from doing wrong throughout the day. Be beside us as we undertake these exercises. Our sole purpose is to develop our bodies, to keep mentally strong, to be morally straight. To protect ourselves and our loved ones, from dangers that are forced upon us. Help us to do the things that we should, to be kind and good to others at all times. O'mighty God we thank thee for thy care, health and strength. In the name of thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen"
 

Cruentus

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Wow, man! I've never seen a school do anything like that before.

Ah well....take em off your list, I guess! :idunno:

I don't really know how I feel about that.

If they claim to be a "Christian" Martial Arts club, then I have no problems with this; they are at least being straight forward and not decieving people. You were able to take them off their list right away without having to pay for lessons, then find out somewhere down the line that your expected to do certain things that would violate your beliefs.

However, if they claim to be a secular organization then I can't say that I agree with it. "In the name of thy beloved son, in Jesus Christ our Lord..." is hardly secular! And, I highly doubt that the "prayer" is a traditional representation of their art, so that arguement is shot to hell.

So...off the list they go....;)
 

Bob Hubbard

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Originally posted by PAUL
Since we both mentioned "the pledge," how was it modified in the 50's? I missed that discussion somewhere.

See http://flagday.com/history/origional_pledge_of_allegiance.shtml

On September 8,1892, the Boston based "The Youth's Companion" magazine published a few words for students to repeat on Columbus Day that year. Written by Francis Bellamy,the circulation manager and native of Rome, New York, and reprinted on thousands of leaflets, was sent out to public schools across the country. On October 12, 1892, the quadricentennial of Columbus' arrival, more than 12 million children recited the Pledge of Allegiance, thus beginning a required school-day ritual.

At the first National Flag Conference in Washington D.C., on June14, 1923, a change was made. For clarity, the words "the Flag of the United States" replaced "my flag". In the following years various other changes were suggested but were never formally adopted.

It was not until 1942 that Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance. One year later, in June 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that school children could not be forced to recite it. In fact,today only half of our fifty states have laws that encourage the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in the classroom!

In June of 1954 an amendment was made to add the words "under God". Then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower said "In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace and war."

In June of 2002, a court ruled it unconstitution due to those 2 extra words. There was a big stink for a while, then it all got forgotten by the media as someone dangled something shiny and distracted the public.
http://www.cnn.com/2002/LAW/06/26/pledge.allegiance/

For me, when I was in school I would simply omit those 2 words. At one point I was informed it was required. After that, I sat silently. Did I get in trouble? Yup. But it wasn't such a big issue (at the time) to make a big tado over.

So, how does this relate to the concepts in martial arts?

Simple.

You can view it as an abstract concept and say it.
You can reword the parts that bother you. (replace God with "Allah, blessed be his name" or what fits your system)
You can remain silent.

Proper communication between you and your instructors is of course required so that they know why you are doing what you are doing. I believe that most will understand and allow you the freedoms. Those that don't I think have missed the true meanings, not only in the arts, but the faiths they claim to follow.


(Plus, when you're polytheistic, 'under god' makes ya ask, which one?') :)
 

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