Saturday, February 16, 2008

Martial Art as Way

Judo is not merely a martial art but rather the basic principle of human behavior. When that basic principle is applied to defense against attack or applied as physical education in randori at the dojo, these are applications of that principle in judo, but are only one aspect of judo—it is wrong to assume judo ends in the dojo.
Judo is not what many people believe it to be; that is to say, judo is more than a fighting art practiced at the dojo. The basic meaning of judo is quite different, and is universal and profound. —Jigoro Kano

I am the Way, the Truth and Life, no man cometh unto the Father but by Me. -- Jesus

For the Christian Martialist, there can be only one Way, one order of life. Jesus Christ is not only the template for that order of life, but He is also the entry into it. In Him we find the path TO life as well as the path OF life. This reality so gripped believers of the First Century that they referred to Christianity as the way (Acts 9:2; 18:25-26; 19:9; etc.)

The various Eastern martial arts, for the most part, came about as a result of their founders' intention to teach a way of life. The do suffix on the names of several of these arts means way. Thus we have ju-do (yielding way), karate-do (way of the open hand or way of the Chinese fist), etc. All of these ways of life arose out of either a Buddhist or a Taoist religious and ethical context.

Although the ethics of the way of the East and the way of Christ may have some superficial similarities, profound differences lie beneath the surface. Let's take as an example the ethical objective of teaching your child not to get into fights. This is an objective that a Buddhist and a Christian might share in common.

The rationale and approach of Christianity differs markedly from that of Buddhism. Of course the Buddhist as well as the Christian recognize that the urge to fight marks an individual without self control, and that lack of control makes him vulnerable
(Prov. 25:28). But the similarity ends there.

The Christian recognizes that the roots of human conflict flourish in the soil of our sinful natures (James 4:1). It is the violation of God's eternal & abiding law which God will one day judge and remove. The Buddhist sees conflict in terms of yin and yang, the universal balance of light and darkness, positive and negative. Thus conflict is an expression of the very fabric of reality and is eternal.

The consistent Christian teaches his child when fighting is necessary and when it's not in terms of God's Law. The believer can walk away from a fight knowing that if he is right, God will vindicate him either in time or eternity. The Buddhist seeks for his child to avoid fighting through self discipline and self confidence.

In practice, the martial arts instructor explains it to a parent like this: Johnny gets into fights because he has a low opinion of himself. But through a rigorous and challenging course of training, he will prove himself through discipline, hard work and achievement. Then, when someone tries to pick a fight with him, he will walk away because he will have nothing to prove.

Be aware of the difference. From what source does your ethics come: God's Word or yourself? Of what is your character a fruit: the working of God's Spirit or your own self-based works?

This is not to say that Christian children should not be taught to discipline themselves or that hard work and achievement are anathema to the Biblical way of life. In fact, Christian Martialism offers these things to a family willing to practice them. The issue of how a Christian interprets these practices, however, and relates them to his faith boils down to a matter of worldview and context.

It is my hope that WARSKYL will provide Christians the inspiration and instruction to learn martial skills in the worldview and context of Holy Scripture, and to the glory of the triune God.

4 comments:

Theresa said...

I vote for this going in the favorite posts section.

Gravelbelly said...

I'm glad you said that. I thought the message of this post was an important one.

Rebecca said...

You made some excellent points, but I fear you over-generalized.

"
In practice, the martial arts instructor explains it to a parent like this: Johnny gets into fights because he has a low opinion of himself. But through a rigorous and challenging course of training, he will prove himself through discipline, hard work and achievement. Then, when someone tries to pick a fight with him, he will walk away because he will have nothing to prove."

I've never said anything remotely like this to a parent. Nor have any of my instructors.

But then, we're not Buddhists.

In fact, surprisingly enough, we're Christians. And, the Way we totally devote ourselves to is Jesus Christ. Even while we practice martial arts.

Gravelbelly said...

Thanks for pointing this out, Rebecca. I should have said, "The instructor of an Eastern martial art. . . ." You have obviously modified your art & hopefully brought it into harmony with Biblical faith.