Q: #288. Should a Christian practice the Martial Arts?
By: Steve Shirley
A: The martial arts are hugely popular in the U.S. today. There are 1000's of of schools teaching the various forms and it is estimated that several million Americans are participating (almost half being children). Several famous actors have built careers using martial arts in movies and on t.v. shows such as: Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, and Jean-Claude Van Damme. A recent popular children's cartoon is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There are dozens of martial arts video games as well.
Should a Christian have anything to do with the martial arts? First, I think it is important for people to understand that most of the martial arts have their roots in Eastern mysticism and religion. The man who most credit as the father of martial arts was a man named Bodhidharma (5th-6th century A.D.) who was an Indian Buddhist Monk. His teaching wedded mental (Eastern religion) and physical exercises and techniques together. From this sprang the various offshoots of the martial arts.
I am not going to go into all of the problems with Buddhism in this article, but let's just say it has many aspects that are contrary to the Bible and Christian beliefs. However, from what I have read, not all of the martial arts being taught in the U.S. have this "mental" aspect associated with them. There are some martial arts more focused more on the "mental" and some more focused on the "physical." The ones more focused on the "physical" can, and often are, separated from the evil and dangerous Buddhist teachings.
Apparently, martial arts such as Karate, Judo, and Tae Kwon Do can be separated. Martial arts such as Aikido, Ninjutsu, and Tai Chi cannot be separated. Here are a few terms that a Christian should be wary of: yoga, clearing the mind, focused breathing, meditation, inner peace, chi, and yin and yang. These are all dangerous and unbiblical things for a Christian. There are also wide variations between those who are teachers of the martial arts. Some (supposedly about 20%) claim to be Christian. When considering a place to be taught, finding out what a teacher believes should be of utmost importance.
So, if a Christian wants to practice the martial arts, and finds a place where they have a Christian viewpoint and do not practice the Buddhist "mental" aspects, is it ok to participate? Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself.
Why am I doing it? (As far as the martial arts, it could be asked, are you doing it to protect yourself, your loved ones, or the weak, or are you doing it so you can beat someone up, start a fight, cause intentional harm, or show off?)
Can I see Jesus doing this? Did He have anything negative to say about it (or does the Bible)?
The Bible says to "Do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31)(Col 3:17,23). Does God get the glory in it?
Will my participation cause a fellow Christian to "stumble" in his walk? Could they think "it is wrong" but decide to do it anyway because they see me doing it (this is a "sin against Christ" 1 Cor 8:12)? Could they decide to do it because they see me, and then end up in an ungodly form of the martial arts. Could I ruin my witness with those who think it is wrong? (Go here for more on this.)
When I pray about it, do I have a peace about it?
Your answer to these questions would be a good starting point for determining what to do.