SHOULD A CHRISTIAN PARTICIPATE IN MARTIAL ARTS
Questions whether Christians should participate in martial arts need addressing. Should Bible believers learn to fight or to defend themselves? Will this possibly instill a wrong attitude in life? The answers are not simple ones; but I believe that answers can be found in the Bible to reconcile this seeming dilemma. I trust that this thesis will set some things straight in the Christian community regarding martial arts, and provide a sense of direction as you make important decisions for your family.
Each believer must define his/her life's decisions based upon truth from Scripture. Each person must choose what is the will of God for their own life and the lives of those in their family. The martial arts are not for everyone. Time constraints, personality issues, physical status, focus on ministry and many other concerns, may outweigh the decision to chose martial arts as a form of exercise or method of training. Each of us must make choices for life, based on the Lord's leadership. The Lord never acts out of harmony with His character or attributes. God is God. His character and qualities never change, because He is the unchanging God.
The following reasons lead me to believe that studying martial arts is not unbiblical:
1. The Lord is the LORD of HOSTS
He is the Warrior God who leads and directs His people into battle. "Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD'S, and he will give you into our hands." I Samuel 17:45-47
Mighty men of the Old Testament were warriors and honored God with their expertise in fighting. Furthermore, they did the will of the Lord in destroying the enemies of God, defending their homeland and their families (Genesis 14:9-24).
The mighty men of David assassinated the enemies of the king and were held in high esteem. - I Kings 2:22-25
The Lord had men from each of the tribes of Israel selected as men who would go to war or individually fight. Numbers 1:19-44
The time of the Judges produced God-called men to fight and rescue Israel from the oppressors in the land. - Samson, Gideon, Ehud. etc.
Some prophets of God slew those who opposed the God of Israel. - Elijah after Mount Carmel in I Kings 18:1-40.
Jesus told Peter to put away his sword and then healed the servant of the high priest, in the garden. Matthew 18
Jesus taught a higher law, telling his followers to turn the other cheek.
"And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. Luke 6:29-31
Jesus taught love and compassion, rather than fighting.
“For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” Luke 6:32-35
It seems that the general tenor of the New Testament is different than the way things were done in the Old Testament. We may not demonstrate faith in God's protection if we fight. The Lord is our Defender and Shield.
Answers and thoughts on the questions:
As a pastor I have thought seriously about these questions. I want to be in the will of God, follow the teachings of Christ, and never do anything that would hinder someone from coming to Jesus as Savior. I have met martial artists whose attitudes did not exemplify these qualities. Their demeanor was mean, aggressive, obtuse, and fleshly. It is impossible not to convey this attitude to any students they teach.
Theologically, the primary concern should not be the activity of the martial art itself, but the spiritual condition of the teacher and the student. Without Christ being the center of our activity, the activity becomes a waste of time. The bottom line is that the believer must honor Christ in every area of life. Golf, tennis, NFL and NBA games on television can also be a big problem in our lives, unless we choose to honor Christ in honestly evaluating our priorities in each activity in which we are involved.
Truly, the heroes of the Old Testament lived in a different dispensation (time period) and, therefore, acted culturally. However, they were still at the command of God. David was a man after God's own heart, yet he fought bravely and protected his life and, also, the lives of the people of Israel and his own family. Many of these warriors of old acted, not on impulse, but by direct order of God. This may be difficult for us to understand, but it is none-the-less true.
It appears that this warrior attitude is not to be carried over into the New Testament age of grace. How may I justify learning to fight with living in the age of grace? That is a good question. We are to be servants, turn the other cheek, and live at a higher standard in this age. Does the Lord want us to protect ourselves? Does He want us to protect our family or fight for our nation? I believe the answer to these questions is quite obvious! What would you do if you and your family were attacked? Would you defend yourself or family? Again, the answer is obviously, yes.
I do not want to fight! I do not want to fight! I repeat this because I hope this statement sinks deep into your mind and heart. I do not want to fight! Even though my attitude is not to be a "striker" or quarrelsome person, there may be a time to fight. I hope that I never have a spirit of anger that controls my life, or that I would demonstrate a tendency to fight, but I know how to fight.
In the Garden of Gethsemene Jesus prayed to do the Father's will, as He approached the Cross of Calvary. Peter wanted to protect Christ, his Messiah and friend. Jesus rebuked Peter and healed the servant of the high priest. Why? Was Peter to stand idle and let it all happen? The answer here is, yes! It was decreed for Jesus to die. No government, army or person could change the destiny of the Son of God. It would be wrong to fight, if the reason for fighting was out of the will of the Father. That Peter took up arms was a demonstration that he did not fully comprehend God’s will in that specific situation.
Jesus taught His followers to "turn the other cheek." When you study this passage, you will find that the context explains what Jesus meant. When we are persecuted for His sake and reviled for righteousness, we are to love and not fight. This principle is clearly taught and should never be questioned. An example of this happened to me in New England in 1982 and I chose not to fight. I was preaching on the street and was punched in the face and knocked down. I stood up and preached again. The man said, “I will knock you down again.” I said that I would get up and preach again. Another man, watching the events unfold, told the man to back off, and “leave the priest alone.” The situation did not warrant a fight, as it would not have been biblical.
However, the context of this passage does not teach us to turn the other cheek at all times such as being attacked on the street or in our home. The context clearly indicates that while preaching or being tested in our faith, or being treated maliciously by the world, we are to suffer persecution without fighting. Again, the spiritual attitude of the believer is to win the lost to Christ and honor the Father. If I were walking down the street with my wife and grandchildren, and someone chose to attempt a robbery and injure my family, this would be a random act of violence, not an attack on me as a Christian. Consequently, I would protect my myself and family, doing whatever was necessary to defeat an enemy and lawbreaker.
Again, I do not want to fight! I am to have compassion on everyone. I am to go preach the Gospel to everyone. I am to love the lost, and I do not want to fight! I just want to live a godly life, honoring Christ. The Lord does protect His children, but He also wants us to be wise and responsible. I also believe that meekness is one the greatest qualities of a man. Meekness is power under spiritual control. To experience of the meekness of Christ, yet enjoy His power in our lives, is a powerful combination.
Over the past 13 years, we have been privileged to see some 85 people come to know the Lord while attending Taekwondo classes. Taekwondo is an important tool to be used to honor Christ. Why not use all the tools available and then proclaim the only truth that will provide eternal life.
Postscript: I chose Taekwondo as a martial art to study because it is a military art. Its origin is not in temple worship, is not based upon ancestor worship. KIYUP: The question has also been asked regarding the sound of the "Kiyup" during or at the end of the patterns. What does it mean? Is there some mystical meaning to this type of breathing? One Christian master martial artist said, "Deep breathing and shouting (forcing air out of the lungs using the diaphragm) is common in many sports to derive extra power. When weight lifters raise heavy weights, they often take a deep breath then shout or yell when lifting. Martial artists do the same, first to derive extra power but also to startle an opponent. Shouting is not mystical, but natural."
Dr. Charles Owens makes the following statement regarding the Kiyup: “'Ki-hap' is the expressive side of "Hap-Ki" (as in "hapkido"). Dr. Owens is the founder KiDoKyo Mu Kwan, and a 10th Degree Black Belt. See resume http://www.kidokyo.org/owens.html
Hap = "together" Ki = "spirit/energy" Hap-Ki = "meeting of the spirit" Ki-Hap - "the spirit of the meeting" The Japanese terminology is "ai-ki" (as in "aikido") and ki-ai." Hap-Ki (Ai-Ki) is the passive side. Ki-Hap (Ki-Ai) is the expressive side. The shout of the martial artist is seen in history as far back as the arts go. On the theological side, I read an interesting article once regarding the "shout of God" in Psalm 46:6. This article was written by a creationist apologist (with whose theology I totally agree). He was writing about the occurrence of the flood and was theorizing regarding the breakup of the firmament. He referred to Ps. 46:6 and believes that sound waves were used by God to split the earth's surface (a scar on the earth's surface seen as the gigantic sub-oceanic mountain range in the Atlantic) thus shooting hot gases upward to blow holes in the firmament above, causing it to break up and collapse. Even God could use sound to express His Spirit…! Blessings, Charles Owens"
The loud sound also pushes extra oxygen into the body and provides energy. This principle of physiology has nothing to do with any mystical expressions, strange philosophy or demons. The sound expressed in this thoracic grunt (Kiyup) causes the student to tighten their stomach muscles, focus at a fixed point, and allows the body to work at its maximum level. For the Christian, please understand the sound as only an anatomical and physiological means of achieving a higher level of oxygen in the blood.
Additional Site: http://www.orlandokuntao.com/turning_the_other_cheek.html