Christianity and the Martial Arts, pt2

Click here to get this post in PDF

Aren’t the martial arts an Eastern religion?

Is the practice of Karate, Kung Fu, judo or the like a religion?

This is a question that causes a lot of distress. For parents and children wanting to study the Martial Arts. And for those who are already studying the martial arts.

As we look at the history of most martial arts we can easily see strong links to eastern religions. The study of Kung Fu at Shao-lin Temple, the practice of Shinto, Chan Buddhism and Zen (Japanese Chan) in many different styles.

Today when you enter a kwoon, dojo or dojang in the US you may very well be assaulted by eastern religious ideas and philosophies. This is usually found in the form a Yin/Yang or alter us with Buddha and other Chinese immortals standing on its. Zen banners and sayings hanging on the walls.

Most of the time the school owner is clueless about their meanings and definitely about the religious connotations. They’re usually trying to market the “Look” and “Feel” of a martial arts school. Much like local retailers to sell crystals and dragons. The only thing they see is the profit. If Christian emblems sold as well or as quickly, you can bet they would be selling them instead.

But back to the martial arts being a religion. NO they are not. They can be practiced religiously, and in many instances they have been so closely associated that they have become intertwined, but the martial arts are not a religion anymore than boxing its for football (that one may be a bad choice).

In Chinese history many kung fu styles came to the associated with Buddhism only after the style was introduced to the Shao-lin Temple by outsiders. Monkey style, Tam and Ba Ji styles (considered a Muslim systems).

You will notice if you study and search, that there are no “Christian martial arts” our ultimate weapon is to be spiritual, through prayer and intercession. For the tearing down of strongholds.

Most of the time what happens is that a follower of the religious sect has been introduced to a martial arts style and then blends the martial art and their religion beliefs. Much as we do by trying to find the blend or balance between following Christ and studying the martial arts.

Or the other way, a martial artist enters a religion and then mixes his art with his religion.

An example of this is the practice of the Shao-lin Kung Fu, said to be a Chan (Zen) Buddhist system. The early exercises were designed to get the monks moving and in some semblance of shape or condition. As time went on what was developed was used to instruct disciples in the way of Chan as well as teach self-defense. (China was not a nice place at the time.) As would be expected, the combat style took on characteristics of the Chan teachings. (I would also hope martial arts practiced by Christians would do the same-but more on that later).

The martial arts in general are NOT a religion, eastern or otherwise. This can be seen in the fact that within the Shao-lin Temple you have both “martial monks” and “religious monks”. Were it in fact a religious practice there would be no distinction But as with anything else, the martial arts can take on the teachings and trappings of religious practice.

In and of it’s self the martial arts are not a religion.

The real question is this: Can the martial arts be practiced separate from the religion it is associated with? Yes.

As a Christian, can the practice of the martial arts become a religious act? Sadly yes. Should it? No!


Let me close this out with a note on the difference between “religion” in “relationship”.

The followers of Christ have been asked to enter into a relationship (1) with the  Sovereign Lord of the Universe. (2) As can be seen in John 14:23 Jesus replied, “if anyone loves me, he will obey my teachings. My father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

When we accept Jesus as our Lord (3) we are entering into a relationship. Our personal relationship with God can be seen in how we live our lives.

As followers of Christ Jesus when we take communion(4) we are taking a moment for reflection and going before the Lord (commune) in Repentance (5) and Thanksgiving (6)

Our times in prayer are to be a “dialogue” with God. Not a “monologue”.

A relationship requires relating. That means that we are to relate with Jesus in some way and likewise he will relate (7)to us in some way.

In the Scripture I quoted above Jesus tells us that our part of the relating used to love Jesus and obey his teachings. God’s part is that He will make His home with that person.

Literally, to dwell in the one who loves him. This indwelling is fulfilled by the third person of the Trinity, (8) the Holy Spirit. (9)

John 14:26 ” but the counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”



Now “religion” is a horse of an entirely different color. Religion is how man lives out his belief about his God (or gods or what ever) in his daily life.

Example — if you believe that your god is a judgmental nasty guy with a big stick waiting to smack you when you do wrong, you’d probably be afraid to do anything wrong in the most likely create a large list of do’s and don’ts to protect yourself from making mistakes. Living out that list would be your religion. Chances are the you would spend your time trying to the appease him for all your wrong-doings as well. I don’t imagine he’d been much fun to be around either. (You might even be throwing virgins into volcanoes.)

If you’re god was a partier, you would most likely be one too, don’t you think?  That would be your religion. (Orgy cults and fertility cults are still around today)

If you have been merciful, loving God who is willing to sacrifice on your behalf. You would try to live that way as well. Loving the unloved, forgiving the un-forgiven and showing mercy and grace to those who wouldn’t do the same for you.

WOW!!! That sounds like Christianity!!

So you might say that religion is the outward expression of the inward relationship. If you have no relationship then your religion is dead and ultimately useless.

May the Lord bless you and your house hold.

John Roche


Foot Notes:

(1)    “John 14:7 If ye had known me, ye would have known also my Father, and henceforth ye know him and have seen him.”

(2)    “Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

(3)    “Mark16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.”

(4)    “Mark 14:22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and when he had blessed, he brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take ye: this is my body. 23And he

took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave to them: and they all drank of it. 24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”

(5)    “1 Corinthians 10:27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.”

(6)    “Colossian 1:12 giving thanks unto the Father, who made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; 13 who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love; 14 in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins:”

(7)    “John 14:20 In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. 21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him.”

(8)    “Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:”

(9)    ” John 14:26 But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

seven + two =

%d bloggers like this: