SHOULD A CHRISTIAN PARTICIPATE IN MARTIAL ARTS
By Dr. Dennis E. McCain, Sr., 7th Degree Black Belt
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 article 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 chose 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 Word, His character or His 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:
**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.
The following reasons seem to teach that fighting is wrong:
**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
“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
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.
**Truly, the heroes of the Old Testament lived in a different dispensation (time period) and, therefore, acted in obedience to God's commands. Their actions often reflected the culture of their time. 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.
**Over the past 29 years, we have been privileged to see well over 100 people come to know the Lord while attending Taekwondo classes. Taekwondo is just a 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 Tae Kwon Do 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."