Martial arts is a term that applies to all forms of combat-techniques, whether the more popular oriental forms such as tai chi chuan, karate, aikido, judo, and jujitsu, or the Western forms such as fencing, boxing, and archery. This writing of mine is concerned with the Oriental martial arts, which are so widespread also in the West and which are practiced even by many Christians all over the world.
First of all let me say something about the name ‘martial arts.’ All the oriental combat-techniques are called martial arts because they are ‘of warfare’ or ‘suitable for warfare’ (that’s the meaning of the word martial), and they are not merely combat-techniques but also an expression of an eastern spiritual philosophy (that’s why they are referred to as ‘arts’).
Let us now speak briefly about some of the most famous martial arts.
Tai Chi Chuan is a Chinese martial art. The term ‘Taiji’ means ‘the cosmos’, and ‘quan’ is the short form for ‘quan fa’ which means ‘fist techniques’ and refers to what westerners today would term as kungfu. So Tai Chi Chuan can mean ‘supreme ultimate fist.’ The real origins of Tai Chi Chuan are obscure. Many attribute it to a 15th century Taoist priest named Chang Shanfeng.
Tai Chi Chuan is composed of a series of movements or forms. These movements flex joints and muscles throughout the body, which in turn massage various acupuncture points (Chi channels) and organs within the body. This helps promotes the flow of Chi energy within the body. Yes, because this martial art is based on the Chinese concept of the vital energy called ‘chi’ or ‘ki’, which pervades all universe. So, through a series of breath control exercises and techniques the practitioners of Tai Chi Chuan seek to ‘collect, cultivate, and store’ the chi force. In other words, their aim is to improve the flow and strength of their Chi energy. Tai Chi Chuan was created with the basic intention of strengthening internal Chi. With a stronger Chi, and with the ability to direct at will (most practitioners testify that they can feel the Chi flowing through their body and are able, to varying degrees, to direct this flow), the practitioner can concentrate Chi at one point of his or her body when attacked, making this point stronger and less susceptible to injury. When the internal force is delivered during an attack, the power releases is very great.
The advocates of Tai Chi Chuan claim that this martial art promotes physical, emotional and mental health, and in addition to this it leads to spiritual fulfilment. There are many and varied forms of spiritual fulfilment. From the Taoist perspective, which constitutes the underlying philosophy in Tai Chi Chuan, these many and varied forms of spiritual fulfilment can be categorized into three major levels: 1) attaining good health and longevity in this life; 2) become a saint or an immortal; 3) attaining the Tao, which is expressed in other cultures as attaining Buddhahood, union with Brahman, return to God.
Aikido is a Japanese martial art which was founded in 1942 by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969). Aikido does not have an attack form. The practitioners of Aikido, therefore, do not kick, punch, or in any other manner, attempt to hurt their opponents. This martial art employs a series of flowing circular movements – in conjunction with locking, holding, moving, and tumbling techniques – to turn an opponent’s force against himself. In other words, the aikido practitioner concentrates on deflecting blows and checking offensive attacks by meeting, rather than blocking, a blow, and redirecting the flow of an opponent’s ki (energy force), dissipating it, and then using joint manipulation (wrists elbows or shoulders) to turn the opponent’s ki against him until he is thrown or pinned. As for the meaning of Aikido, ai means ‘to gather or harmonize’; ki is the universal life energy; do means ‘an artful path of discovery; so aikido means ‘an artful path of discovering how to gather and harmonize the energy of the universe,’ or ‘the way of harmony with ki.’ As it can be seen, aikido also is based on the concept of the Chi or Ki energy which pervades the universe. The goal of this martial art, according to Morithei Ueshiba, is ‘the unification of the fundamental creative principle, ki, permeating the universe, and the individual ki, inseparable from breath-power, of each person’ (Kisshomaru Ueshiba, The Spirit of Aikido, trans. Taitetsu Unno – Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1987 -, 15. See also Draeger, Modern Bujutsu and Budo, 137-62)
Karate (‘empty hand’) is a form of fighting that started on the island of Okinawa in the 1600s. Recognized for its devastating array of hand and foot strikes, karate is characterized by its demanding regimen of rigorous physical conditioning, concentrated breathing exercises, and repetitive rehearsals of blocking, striking, and breaking techniques (for breaking boards, bricks, and the like). Karate is strictly linked with Zen Buddhism. Masatatsu Oyama says: ‘Always more vital to karate than technique or strength is the spiritual element that lets you move and act with complete freedom. In striving to enter the proper frame of mind Zen meditation is of great importance …. The man who wants to walk the way of karate cannot afford to neglect Zen and spiritual training.’ (Masatatsu Oyama, Vital Karate – Tokyo: Japan Publications Trading Co., Ltd., 1983 – p. 8); and Daeshik Kim and Tom W. Leland affirm. ‘Karate is a mental and moral exercise, indeed, almost a spiritual experience. In each practice session there is a concerted effort to unite mind, spirit and body just as Bodhidharma sought to do with Zen priests almost 2,000 years ago.”(Daeshik Kim and Tom W. Leland, Karate And Personal Defense – Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Co., 1971 -, p. 4); ‘Karate is Zen — so says Oyama and many other karate masters. Zen is a school of Buddhism that has been called the Religion of Immediate Reality. The aim of Zen is to awaken the student to his true self and thus bring about a high degree of self knowledge through inward meditation. Zen students seek peace of mind through an enlightened awakening of an intuitive wisdom which they feel is dormant now in all people. Zen meditation tries to achieve ‘no mindedness’ which may be acquired by concentration and special breathing exercises which are taught to advanced karate students. Karate when combined with Zen meditation can appreciably assist the student’s quest for peace of mind and equanimity in the face of conflict and tension.”(Ibid., p. 5). In other words, the aim of Zen is the emptying of the mind which brings about a feeling of union with the universe. This spiritually unified state is a non-dualistic state of mind in which the distinction between subject and object is no more and the practitioner feels to be one with ‘the absolute.’
It is true that not all karatekas practice Zen Buddhism as such, however, some impact of the Zen philosophy is made upon every student of the art of karate, and in addition to this it must be said that to practice karate successfully, it is essential that a karateka cultivate spiritual power through concentration, and the basic element of this power is ki. In other words, he cannot ignore the spiritual implications. Hear what Tom Harris says about the way karate works: ‘Ki is an amorphous, undefinable force, but it is generally described as the energy of life itself. It binds all living things together and gives each person his or her spiritual, physical and mental power. In most schools, beginning karatekas won’t worry too much about ki. They focus mainly on proper technique and breathing exercises. But in these basic activities, they are laying the groundwork for later ki exercises. Through the power of ki, a karateka can break through concrete blocks as if they were made of paper. As karatekas develop heightened physical control, they become more aware of the seat of ki in their body. With concentration, karatekas can move their ki up and down, so their source of energy is higher and lower. Experienced karatekas generally center their ki, in order to achieve maximum balance and power. Ki is absolutely crucial in the higher levels of karate: It gives masters the power they need to break blocks and topple much larger opponents.’ Furthermore, it must be said that the term ‘Kiai’, the karate shout of power is formed from ‘Ki’ the symbol for spirit or energy, and ‘ai’ the symbol for a meeting or union. The shout of power is but the product of the union of body mind and spirit. The Kiai is the release of energy from the Hara, located two inches (three fingers) below the navel. Ki is released through kiai. As you can see, only a small part of the karatekas’ ability to perform seemingly superhuman feats comes from physical power, for the main source of their ability is spiritual.
Judo (the ‘gentle way’) is a martial art derived from Jujutsu. It was created by Professor Jigoro Kano who was born in Japan in 1860 and who died in 1938 after a lifetime of promoting Judo. In 1964 men’s Judo competition became a part of the Olympics, the only eastern martial art that is an official medal sport. In 1992 Judo competition for women was added to the Olympics. Judo is practiced on mats and consists primarily of throws (nage-waza), along with katame-waza (grappling), which includes osaekomi-waza (pins), shime-waza (chokes), and kansetsu-waza (armbars). Additional techniques, including atemi-waza (striking) and various joint locks are found in the judo katas. Judo is generally compared to wrestling but it retains its unique combat forms. Judo also has a spiritual aspect, for its purpose is the perfection of man. Jigoro Kano said: ‘Judo is the way to the most effective use of both physical and spiritual strength. By training you in attacks and defenses it refines your body and your soul and helps you make the spiritual essence of Judo a part of your very being. In this way you are able to perfect yourself and contribute something of value to the world. This is the final goal of Judo discipline.’ What about the Ki energy then? Do judokas use and develop Ki energy? Yes, they do, even though Judo texts do not speak of the Japanese concept of ki energy. Listen what is written in the book History of Kodokan Judo: ‘Typically, Judo texts do not reference the Japanese concept of Ki. This oddly distinguishes Judo from virtually all of the other Japanese martial arts, at least in the textbook area, particularly Aikido and Kendo. Yet, ‘Judo theory and training make implicit assumptions concerning this principle.’ This seeming absence of an important martial concept from Judo literature highlights the difference between Kano’s philosophy of martial practice, and those of virtually all the other modern martial art titans. Kano believed that ki as well as enlightenment and understanding would follow as a natural result of rigorous training in Judo. A modern proponent of Aikido, on the other hand, would argue that technical proficiency follows the development of Ki. Kano’s interpretation reflects the more classical approach of the Taoist philosophers; experience is the key to understanding; and not the other way around. …. Experience, not discourse, is the underlying philosophy of Tao. Kano’s attitude reflects this classical approach: Judoka practice randori to develop Ki.’ Randori is a Japanese term meaning ‘free practice.’
Wing Chun (‘glorifying springtime’) is a Chinese martial art. It is one of the most popular forms of Kung-Fu. This martial art was named after a woman known as Yim Wing Chum by her husband Leung Pok To in tribute to her superior skills as a martial artist. Yim Wing Chun was taught her art in the late 18th century by a Buddhist nun called Ng Mui. Wing Chun has three basic exercises: 1) siu nium tao (“little idea”/”minimal attention” form), which teaches the basic movements, and how to generate lim lick (mind power); 2) chum kiu (“to find the bridge” form), which teaches the integration of the upper and lower body movements and how to join one’s partner; 3) biu jee (“shooting fingers” form), which teaches attacking techniques, and how to generate energy in one’s limbs as needed or desired. Wing Cun practitioners, too, use and develop the ki energy. In an article titled ‘The soft force of Wing Chun’, written by Kris Eckert, we read as follows: ‘The essence of wing chun, from its inception, has been in the development of soft, yet penetrating force. All the movements, without exception, can be performed effectively by a small woman against a larger, stronger opponent. This kind of soft, feminine force does not come from hard external training. It is acquired through repetitive, precise positioning of the body. The positions and techniques are always practiced in a calm and relaxed manner. While the process to achieve this kind of force should be emphatically soft and relaxed, the end result for anyone on the receiving end of wing chun can be quite destructive’ (In Inside Kung-fu, February 1992, p. 52)
Kyudo (‘the Way of the Bow’) is the oldest of Japan’s traditional martial arts. It is a form of archery which is heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism. ‘In kyudo you don’t try to hit the target,” says Japanese Kyudoka Kanjuro Shibata. ‘It’s a matter of precision and discipline: the relationship you have with the bow, the arrow, your body, and your mind. Kyudo is like zazen, but it is standing meditation. When you shoot, you can see the reflection of your mind, as in a mirror. The target is the mirror. When you release, you cut ego. You can see your own mind.’ Kyudo practitioners, too, use and develop Ki energy. Here is what we read on the web site http://www.kyudo.org.uk: ‘Technique cannot be considered without an understanding of spiritual energy. Neither aspect can function without the other. The acquisition of technique grows with the increase in body-mind awareness to form a harmonious working together of the bow, body and spirit. Balance is taken physically and emotionally from the centre of the body. Unlike a Western bow where the focus is primarily around the shoulders and arms, with the Japanese bow the centre of attention is placed in the region below the navel known as the Tanden. The vitality and energy of the body-mind is generated from this point, creating a sense of centred-ness and well being. Each movement of the shooting is co-ordinated with the breath to flow in a continuity of action which forms an inseparable whole. All the movements for shooting culminate in the full draw when the archer is in every sense, physically and mentally, centred within the arc of the bow. In this condition of the full draw, all the physical and mental balances must be fulfilled to effect a correct release. At the higher levels of practice the archer attempts a release where the expansion of energy reach its highest point and the string is ripped from the glove hand in a spontaneous and natural action. The full draw and the release is the moment where the stability of the archer’s physical, mental and spiritual state is most vulnerable. At this moment the target becomes the mirror of the archer’s soul.’ As you can see, the purpose of Kyudo practitioners is to reach an harmonious spiritual union with the bow and this union can be achieved using and controlling the ki energy which is in them. When this union is achieved, then the archer shoots spontaneously the arrow. A correct shooting therefore is the outcome of finding such union.
A Christian must not practice the martial arts for the following reasons.
● The martial arts are violent, and Christians, being sons of peace, are not called to resort to violence even in defense of themselves, that is to say, Christians are not called to resist their enemies when they are beaten or threatened or robbed: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two …. You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven ….” (Matthew 5:38-41, 43-45 – NKJV), Jesus said to His disciples. So Christians, when they are attacked by their enemies, are not called to defend themselves with their hands or foot or with chains or swords or clubs or any other carnal weapon, and thus they do not need to learn any art of self-defense. Christians, by not resisting their enemies, honor the Gospel, for they follow the example of Jesus Christ who humbled Himself not resisting those who persecuted Him, beat Him and crucified Him. And thus they show that they are strong and valiant men in the Lord, even though they appear ‘weak’ to the world. Bear in mind that those who put the above mentioned words of Christ into practice, that is, those who have self-control (and remember that self-control is the fruit of the Holy Spirit), are better than the valiant soldiers who perform great exploits during a war, as it is written: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32 – NKJV).
● The martial arts are based on occult philosophies, which encourage martial artists to develop and use the ki energy, which is an alleged mystical force that pervades the universe. This force is from the devil, the prince of this world, and the demons which follow him, and enables martial artists to perform feats which actually go beyond the outer limits of their personal human capacity. Therefore, anyone who seeks to use this energy is actually using a demonic power, behind which there are wicked spiritual beings, and as a result he is under the influence of these spiritual beings. According to the Holy Scripture, Christians must not give place to the devil (cf. Ephesians 4:27), therefore they must avoid all practices that are rooted in occult philosophies – which have been created by the devil – lest they fall under the influence of the devil or become demon-possessed. Christians must have nothing to do with such things for their good. Christians are a holy nation, and they are called to desire the powers of the world to come, that is, the spiritual gifts, which are given by the Holy Spirit, who is the third Person of the Godhead. These powers are holy for they come from a holy person, that is, the Holy Spirit. To these powers Christians can resort for they are manifestations of the power of the Holy Spirit. By the power of the Holy Spirit signs and wonders can be performed in the name of Jesus Christ, which are useful and wonderful things through which the name of God is praised and the Gospel is confirmed.
● The martial arts encourage the individual to practice a form of meditation whose purpose is to lead to a non-dualistic state of mind in which the distinction between subject and object disappears and the practitioner becomes one with ‘god’ or ‘the absolute’, and so when the individual reaches such state of mind he believes that he is God and that all is God, and therefore this form of meditation advocates a form of self-salvation. That’s why those who practice Eastern meditation think that they do not need to accept Jesus Christ as their personal saviour, because they think that they are able to save themselves. All this contradicts the teaching of the Holy Scripture, according to which there is a clear distinction between God and His creation, and man cannot save himself through his deeds. It is evident, therefore, that Christians must not participate in such forms of meditation, lest they be deceived into believing the above mentioned lies. In addition to this, these forms of Eastern meditation can lead to demon oppression or demon-possession, for through them the individual reaches an altered state of consciousness during which demons can appear to him, talk with him, guide him, give him spiritual powers, and oppress him or even possess him. So, brothers and sisters, flee this kind of meditation. Of course you are called to meditate, but the meditation you are called to practice is not at all like the Eastern meditation, for you are called to meditate on God, on His works, and on His Word, and this meditation will never lead you to think that you are God or that you are one with the universe, nor will it lead you to be oppressed or possessed by evil spirits.
I have proved that the oriental martial arts are harmful, therefore Christians must flee them lest they come under the influence of the demonic powers which are behind the martial arts.