View Full Version : Faith and Martial arts - conflicts?

John Hill
17th February 2002, 15:37

I have a question that I would like to pose to the forum. Since it involves faith, Christianity, and the practice of the ryuha, I bet Iím going to tork off somebody. :)

When I began to study Kashima Shinryu under Karl Friday, there were two individuals in the group who were devout Christians; myself and a gentleman named Jeff. He had great skill and understanding. Moreover, he was a lot of fun to work with; the kind of guy you like to see in any group. Well, one day, he walked into class in his street clothes, and on the verge of tears, announce to us all that he was going to quit practicing because of because of religious conflicts between Christianity and Kashima Shinryu.

As the other devout Christian in the group, I let forth a resounding and well thought out ĖHuh? Not only do I feel that there is no conflict between KSR and Christianity, my own personal drive to continue within KSR is fueled by the belief that God wants me to do this and I would be going against His will if I donít. So, you can safely say that I am as far from conflicted about Christianity and KSR as you can get.

In fact, my Christianity has been changed by the physical, mental and spiritual discipline of KSR. And changed for the better, I might add. My Christianity is more vibrant, alive and functional than before.

It would be logical to ask if my KSR had been changed by my Christianity. The short answer is no. Kashima Shinryu has been refined in an unbroken line for over five hundred years; my Christianity has been around for, at best, fifteen. I still believe that KSR has a lot more to teach me about my Christianity. I have noticed that since my elevation to Okuden, I have become somewhat dogmatic in my adherence to KSR as it comes down to me. Let me hasten to add that KSR doctrine is not static, far from it. The change and growth that is the hallmark of a living art is occurring under the guidance of the Headmaster.

In this way there is a direct parallel between my practice of KSR and my ideas of Christianity. I donít always understand every detail of why I am being told something, but in both cases, I trust (have faith) that I will, with diligence and persistance, understand. The cool thing about KSR is that you can interact with people who got it, whatever ďitĒ is, and there is an arbitrary standard to prove that they have ďit.Ē Modern Christians have lost this.

I donít want this to degenerate into an apology for Christians or as a diatribe against Christianity. Far from it, Christianity has been very, very good to me. However, I do feel that there is much more wrong with modern Christians than is wrong in KSR specifically and in martial arts in general. And that is nobodyís fault but us Christians.

By engaging in a somewhat personal account of my faith and my practice, I hope I have defined enough that I may pose this question Ė has anyone else had, or is having, a conflict between their beliefs and their martial practice? How is this conflict being resolved?

Best Wishes


17th February 2002, 19:30
Mr. Hill et al.,

Interesting question you've brought up.

Personally, I never felt there was a conflict between my martial arts practice and my religion, not during my Catholic upbringing and especially not now as a Zen Buddhist (sidebar -- I don't regard my Zen practice as any sort of repudiation or denunciation of my Catholic background -- to Zen practice is just where my Catholic background and the events of my life have *led* me, no disrespect to Catholicism and no regrets either, but that's a different discussion for a different venue).

But to the point of my post -- I'm curious: Did your colleague feel he needed to leave his KSR practice because of his own reflection, his own reasoned analysis of the relationship between martial arts and Christianity? Or did he leave KSR because he had been *told* by someone *else* that there existed a conflict?

Many thanks.

Sean M. Breheney
Pacific Grove, CA

18th February 2002, 07:44
well I can't speak for myself because I'm an atheist...

But I have trained with lots of persons of about every religion possible and have never found that any of them has ever had problems with the combination of their religion and martial arts.

David T Anderson
18th February 2002, 18:08
I am non-religious, and my aikido sensei is an Anglican priest. Neither of us has any doubts about whether we can both follow our Way and maintain our point-of-view regarding religion.

I can imagine that some martial artists may perceive a conflict between Christianity and Budo, but I think they are making a serious mistake that reflects more on their intellectual capacity than their adherence to religious doctrine.

26th February 2002, 22:13
I teach a large martial arts program for my fundamental Christian church. We incorporate a good deal of Scripture in our training syllibus and maintain a high standard in grading. The program is non-profit and tuition is by donation only.

My pastor has been a steadfast supporter of the program and has seen good results from both children and adults who are in the classes. We find that the wisdom that one will find in Proverbs and Psalms, ties in very closely to the goals of bushido.

For more detail, feel free to email me. You may also wish to visit www.vistaprimo.com and www.gmau.org for more background info. THere is also a good discussion group at Yahoo Groups: ChristianDojo

I hope you find this information useful. I have encountered a number of well-meaning Christians who feel that martial arts training is sinful :( Unfortunately, this is largely based upon ignorance. I've also found that many Christians seem to forget the admonishment to "Not point out the sliver in a brother's eye, when there is a plank in your own" :rolleyes:

What ever you do, "Walk the talk".


Michael Plank
28th February 2002, 18:08
I don't mean this as any disrespect to anyone who is religious and a martial artist, this is just a funny story that I heard. Apparently in the Bible Belt there is at least one "Christian Karate" dojo where they shout out praise of Jesus in the midst of their kata. I am not a Christian and I am hesitant to declare myself for any religion right now, but I have never seen a conflict between faith (of any kind) and the martial arts. Actually, I rarely seen conflict between different religions (can the martial arts qualify as a religion? Whatever, that's not the question and I'm in danger of losing coherence). I respect people of faith who train in the martial arts (so long as they're willing to bow to the shomen and their fellows...) and I'm always happy to hear about their adventures. This case of the "Christian Karate" made me laugh, though. It could well be good training, and I don't think that there's necessarily anything wrong with it, I just find it amusing. So, yeah, I don't have any good point to make, I guess I'm just rambling...

Michael Plank

28th February 2002, 21:33
Turning the other cheek drills could really build up those neck muscles!

28th February 2002, 22:28
Not to be anal or anything, but the "cheek" lesson was about forgiveness, not abuse.

I'm not sure I can get my arms around "Praise Kiai" either. If you're enunciating a word, aren't you essentially defeating the purpose of the Kiai?

Personally I like doing the "Healing Touch" like some of the faith healers do. I make sure I activate a couple points first then add a bit more focus on GB 20 followed by a palm to the forehead :D

While I am a practicing Christian, I cringe at a number of activities surrounding the faith. I often feel that being a Christian gets me lumped-in with all the others, just as martial artists all get lumped together by the ignorant masses.

"Oh you're a black belt in Aikido, yeah my 12 year old son just got his 2nd degree black belt. Is Aikido like the TaeKwonDo Karate Ninja that his school teaches?"

See what I mean?

1st March 2002, 04:25
A good friend of mine, that studied in Japan under my same Sensei that I did, is a devout Christian. He is also a devout Karateka.

He has his own Dojo and he also teaches Karate to a church group of adults and children. He told me that at first it bothered him a little but then he found that the more he practiced and taught that it made it easier to make a connection to his belief.

Some of the things that he told me were that his belief and Budo training taught respect towards others, a good balance in daily life, taking responsibility for you actions and a host of other things. I think he has made some great points for Budo training and his faith coinciding together.

As for turning the other cheek ..........:idea: that may be the same as a block.

Shitoryu Dude
6th March 2002, 22:17
As an atheist I've never had the slightest problem with any "religious" aspects of MA. Yeah, there is a small Shinto shrine in the dojo, but to me it's just part of the MA culture and a reflection of Shihan's sense of propriety. We have a rather large selection of faiths at my dojo, ranging from Muslims, Shintoists, Catholics, atheists, Jewish, and Zen - and those are just the ones I know about. Nobody I've ever personally met has ever had a problem with the Shinto roots of a traditional dojo.

Now there are a few extreme fundamentalist Christians in town who can't quite pull their head out and think things through - I'm sure everyone is aware of the Judo family that refused to bow and took it to court (and LOST!!). But, they actually didn't have a problem with MA itself, just the bowing. Personally, I thought they were a bit nuts.


7th March 2002, 06:41
Mr. Moul -

I remember hearing about that and I could not believe it. I thought that maybe I heard it incorrectly. I know one man who heard about the same thing who solved thae that problem and he, at the beginning and end of class, said" Shomen ni rei" (Bow to the front). Basically I agree that it was a bit silly of those folks.

It is so sad that in the States that is the kind of world that we live in now a days, if we don"t like something ..... go to court!

I think if there is that big of a problem and you can not change your feeling then change your mind and find another Dojo that does not practice things that could go against your beliefs. Just my opinion though.

Charlie Kondek
12th March 2002, 15:33
John, you wrote:

"In fact, my Christianity has been changed by the physical, mental and spiritual discipline of KSR. And changed for the better, I might add. My Christianity is more vibrant, alive and functional than before."

Amen, brother. I feel the same way. In fact, I feel kendo softened my views of spirituality and encouraged me toward Christianity again (after a long walk with agnosticism).

I used to get really upset with my fellow Christians that shut out the secular or non-religious in their lives. I feel that, as horrible a place as it can be, the world is still God's creation and all of the things in it are still beautiful or potentially beautiful and meant to be enjoyed. So I would get very annoyed with the anti-rock n' roll crowd, anti-Harry Potter faction, whatever. Then a friend reminded me that I might be okay with rock, but maybe my fellow Christian is not; that what works for me to keep the faith may not work for him/her. So I've lightened up on that. Only you can decide what's best for your faith.

That said, I still get very angry at Christians who want to make that decision for others. Okay, so Jethro Tul albums impede your walk - that doesn't give you license to break your son's or your neighbors Jethro Tul albums. I have a friend who is a music minister that is particularly passionate about this. People who put down Christian rock or Christian pop or whatnot because it has "sinful secular elements" really honk him off.

Sometimes when we are confused about issues in our lives it helps to look at precedents. Was there a Christian role model that enjoyed secular things but kept his faith firmly rooted on the ground? I'd say there was - Jesus.

Is there a precedent for a godly martial artist? Heck, yeah - one of the figures that I have been meditating on a lot lately has been David, a godly martial arts-type if there ever was one. In my training I meditate on the psalms, especially some of the psalms that address military or "warrior" issues, and the proverbs. And prayer is an important part of my training, too. (That "praise kiai" sounds a little weird to me, though. But, hey, to each his own.)

I dunno, man. I think twenty years ago this wouldn't even be an issue. In this modern age, more and more people are interested in widening the gulf between the sacred and secular, and it just seems like that wasn't a problem for our predecessors, and shouldn't be for us.

Oh, and hey, search through some of the archived threads here, this has come up again and again. Some good advice had been dispensed.

15th March 2002, 20:49
What up JHH,

I fully understand what you mean. I started a martial arts when I was 15 by the time I was 18 I was fully into it. Now the problem that I had LET the martial arts take over my life, I don't know that this was the case with your friend but it was with me. Plus I was so young I looked up to my instructor and I picked up his ways of thinkning. I always felt in my heart that he was mad at the Lord and believe in things that my sould did not agree with. He believe in Mormonsim. That would do not know that is the belief that devil and Jesus were brothers.

Now years went passed and God took me out of that art for about two years He had me studying the word, going to church and showing me that he can be number one in my life and he can be that missing link in my life that NO MAN can replace. When I recongize that he LET me get back in martial arts after since I had the most beautiful times of life. But you have to remember that I thought who trained this man that he must have the vaules like him, At this point I was training but not under this man, I was do it by myself but we all know that we need guidence any martail art, so I finally got some information through a friend of mine that my old instructor's teacher was hold a seminar. This man I heard a GREAT SKILL, he was one of the best if not the best. So I went up there to train, deep in my heart I worried that everybody was going to be new age or something like. So anyway the seminar started and we started to work out and was getting hot. HE took his gi. He turned around and I saw something on the back his shirt that made very happy it was the scripture John 14:6. So let other poeple had other shrits to and had scripture on the back.

Now I start think about it I was happy that the Lord took through those things becuase the main instructor was a believer like me.

I hope my story was to long and I am sorry that bored anybody, but I wanted point that God can use anybody and any sitution to save souls.
It say in Ephesians 4:4 " I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called" John maybe your friend postion was not to be there and God pulled him out and put him a better place that he can serve the master.

Jesus Lives

25th March 2002, 21:14
I think we may have missed a fact here that may help your friend. Maybe he should examine the martial history/heritage of Christianity.
Perhaps if he feels he must break from his training he should consider why he feels that way. He obviously feels strongly about continuing to train if his leaving was announced as you said it was.

Keith Lutz
Divine Winds Budo